Why Business Clusters are Important
A cluster is a "coalition of the willing"and if you invest time and commitment your company can benefit greatly by a membership.
A business cluster creates an innovation ecosystem where small and large companies have an arena to meet and collaborate.
Moreover, a cluster fosters collaboration between public institutions, academia and industry and links capital with ideas, projects and growth companies to mention a few.
This, in turn, helps unleash great potential for value creation among the companies and players in the business ecosystem - a system that is otherwise imperfect.
The large companies need the small and innovative suppliers and the small suppliers need the large companies as customers. In other words, this is a mutually "positive addiction". However, you also need a strong facilitator to make sure that such an ecosystem works. The organised clusters are the "oil in this machinery".
Such a strong facilitator, in the form of a cluster management, must have the trust of the actors to make "things happen". It is about trust and strength to engage and get people involved.
The Strength in "weak ties"
Business clusters also work as hotbeds for competence and technology transfer. This is exemplefied through our project Oil and Gas Meets Aquaculture, where we invited 15 - 20 companies from the subsea supplier industry to a fish farm in Nordhordland where:
- The fish farmers explained about the seafood industry. How it works, and the challenges they are faced with (salmon lice, feed, etc.)
- GCE Ocean Technology and our collaborators arranged workshops where the technocrats in the supplier industry together with the fish farmers discussed how technology can contribute to solving the challenges in the seafood industry.
This way, needs and solutions were matched and budsiness deals were made.
The project would not have existed without a creative, driving cluster and a strong ecosystem for innovation.
The "Strength in weak ties" is an important concept in this context. In a 1973 milestone study called The Strength of Weak Ties by Mark Granovetter of John Hopkins University, it was found that the best leads for job opportunities most likely comes from your more distant acquaintances and relationships (weak ties) instead of your close friends and strong relationships (strong ties).
It is precisely a multitude of such weak ties that characterize a well functioning cluster. The example above shows that the weak networking ties that were established in this project between the supplier industry and the fish farmers created new weak (and strong) ties across different competencies. This stimulated innovation followed by contracts and deliveries, which in turn provided jobs and value creation.
How Clusters Progress
Certain prerequisites must be present to establish an organised cluster. This means that a certain minimum of players as shown in the model below must be present.
There is also a great advantage of a certain closeness between the actors, but this does not mean that all actors must be within a limited radius.
The most important thing for a business cluster is that the actors know their roles and that the partners and members take their roles.
A Coalition of the Willing
An organised cluster is as such a "coalition of the willing". As with anything else that succeeds, one must invest time and commitment to get the most out of a business cluster.
GCE Ocean Technology welcomed 27 new members last year and if you would like to learn more about what we do, or consider a membership, please do not hesitate to contact us or you could apply to become a member.
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