This April, I joined the European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP) webinar, which works with approx. 1000 industrial European clusters.  It felt good to be at the core of industrial clusters and collaborative projects with European Clusters Alliance.  This webinar titled ‘The COVID-19 cluster response: Solutions for dealing with ecosystem supply chain disruptions’, was attended by cluster managers, SME intermediaries, policy makers, and the social economy featured strongly.  Dr. Ulla Engelmann, DG Grow set the frame on where we need to join forces in order to address the disruptions in the value chains, ‘This crisis has required rapid reaction from all of the stakeholders, and this demands coordination’.   The case studies demonstrated the strength and robustness of the European ecosystem to achieve major milestones in a short time frame.  The Covid-19 crisis discussion echoed the spirit of rapid action response found in Ireland.  Mainland Europe seems to be pushing the spirit of cooperation and collaboration a little further.  The agility, flexibility and speed where industry & society joined up to form rapid action responses was striking.

Case Studies
National Standards are demonstrating agility and a learning mindset.  Stéphan Vérin, EuraMaterials, shared their work with the French government, when they set up the terms of reference for two new types of masks, which had not yet previously existed.  The cluster and its members provided their expertise, technical and analytical support, in order to create a materials database to identify suitable materials. This initiative led to a change in legislation, and has inspired learning across borders, as the Spanish ministry of industry, accepted the new French standards in early April 2020.

Similar to the efforts of Coronavirusmakers in Spain, there have been efforts within the civil society in Belgium to design and produce masks, by using 3D printing and open source information.  Prof. Jouke Verlinden, University of Antwerp found the key challenge was to become familiar and comply with the required medical standards.  For the non-profit entities/bottom-up initiatives that tried to tackle the challenge, they found the existing (regulatory) procedures are designed for industry application.  Prof. Verlinden calls for reflection on existing procedures, and consider making them more flexible to consider ideas and solutions that civil society can develop.

Learning & Reflection
The presentations and discussions highlighted the importance of shared leadership and partnerships to go beyond the ‘usual suspects’. The requirement for all relevant key actors in the ecosystem to be included was apparent.   The structural connections to the social economy need to be stepped up.  In order to prepare for the recovery phase of the crisis, this learning needs to be built into new strategic thinking.

The Coordination and Shared Leadership across stakeholders is proving to be two key success factors.  The European Cluster Alliance has created links with other initiatives, and mapped relevant actors to create the European Alliance Against Coronavirus.  The forum brings together actors from civil society, the social economy and industrial clusters, the European Economic and Social Committee and representatives of numerous bodies of the European Commission.

As we join forces to get the economy back on track, we need to prepare in a new way for the recovery phase.  The pathway for enhanced cooperation is on our doorstep.

#shared leadership #collaboration #coordination #open innovation #social economy #learning #reflection @EU_Commission @EU_Growth