Several of my colleagues and I here at nowEurope spent the day together, yesterday, in Bratislava. The purpose of our meeting was to discuss various strategies for creating an ICT cluster in the CENTROPE region. This initiative is a major part of the CITT project, under which nowEurope is currently funded.
(In completely unrelated news, I had no idea that Slovakia adopted the Euro on January 1, 2009. The woman at the exchange counter laughed at me when I tried to exchange Euro for Slovak crowns!)
My colleagues and I discussed a number of possible strategies yesterday. I’ve invited them all to post their views here. I will offer my own thoughts after the page break.
To me, the term ‘cluster’ is a rather vague way of describing a consortium of private businesses and public institutions (universities, research institutions, government bodies) that ‘cooperate’ to create economic and commercial value (new businesses, products, jobs, etc).
The most obvious example would be Silicon Valley. In this case, location plays a key role in bringing people together. This is the logic behind real estate projects such as Budapest’s Infopark, located next to the Technical University. Shared proximity can be useful in catalyzing innovation and technical transfer. However, it’s also clear that the local business culture, as well as precedence, play an important (if somewhat elusive) part in this process.
The other model is to build a coalition of companies and institutions dedicated to particular business goal. Here I can offer an example from my own business life. My employer, Howdy Group, operates a number of social networking sites focusing on pop music, entertainment and celebrities. Over the last six months, we’ve brought together a circle of partners around our Hungarian site, Hali.hu. Our partners are music producers, musicians, celebrities and promotors. Each partner sees an opportunity to advance their own business interests by collaborating to grow and promote Hali.
The idea behind CITT is to build a cluster among companies and institutions in four neighboring countries. The distances are not vast. However, for historical, political and cultural reasons these regions have been isolated from each other. It makes sense on paper to create synergies and linkages between players in these four regions. In order to succeed, I believe we need to be very specific about the value proposition for each player. The devil is in the details!
Fortunately, I have the easiest job in the group. It’s my role to facilitate communication at nowEurope. I now invite my colleagues to present their own examples of cluster creation, and to propose a way forward.