The First International Conference "Days of Clusters"
Clusters – New Way of Business Thinking
Connecting, networking, experience sharing and introduction to examples of good practices are of key importance for the successful process of Serbian clusters development.
Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the representatives of 15 Serbian clusters and the LEDIB Cluster House.
Sustainable local economic development, more efficient networking of institutions with the sector of small and medium enterprises and better positioning of Nis and the region as enabling business environment represent the basic platform of the First International Conference "Days of Clusters" that took part at the “Regent Club”, BC Gorca in Nis on October 27 – 28, 2011. More than one hundred representatives of institutions supporting small and medium enterprises, business organizations and clusters attended this Conference. Representatives of business organizations from Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, FYROM and Bulgaria participated to the Conference, along with representatives of international organizations LEDIB, SECEP, LEADER, PROGRESS, F&B, USAID and HELP.
During the "Days of Clusters", 43 examples of good practices from the country and abroad were presented together with useful advice on how to efficiently establish and develop clusters, and what is the role of business organizations, public sector, universities and other educational and research-development institutions. More than 20 Serbian clusters, out of 35 in total, were also presented, whereas 15 clusters presented their experience and knowledge, and 23 clusters and associations participated in a special exhibition available to all the residents of Nis.
A cluster is, most of all, the new way of thinking and economic organizing in order to promote development of innovative business operations, higher export and strategic networking – said Danka Milojkovic, MSc, Project Director of "Days of Clusters" during her opening remarks at the First International Conference dedicated to clusters. The main objective of entrepreneurs is to be heard by the public and educational and research – development sectors in order to adjust their actions to the needs of businesses. The main objective of the public sector is the improved business community, because government can be of influence only if it has strong business people, and the main objective of educational-research-development institutions is developing of innovations in order to meet the market needs, which can be achieved only through cooperation with business people.
On the behalf of LEDIB Programme, that supported the Conference, its Director, Carsten Lund, welcomed the participants and awarded certificates of appreciation to the most deserving ones in the area of cluster operations promotion.
This Conference is very important, as at a certain point of time, we need to take a break and look at what has been done on the improving of small and medium enterprises operations in the past three years, as they represent the base of the economic development –said Director Carsten Lund. When we first arrived to Serbia, we faced a large number of small enterprises that, in order to progress, needed to establish mutual cooperation. From the experience of industrially developed countries, clusters are the most appropriate and most functional organizational model for that. I am personally very satisfied with the results achieved in the development of SME sector so far, and actually their preparation for joining EU. I am very pleased to see that people here are open for cooperation and ready to listen to experience of others, and I believe that we will accomplish much more than we have so far.
Shield from the Dominance of Large Companies
Clusters are an excellent method, tool and model for enhancing the competitiveness of small and medium enterprises through application of knowledge and practices from EU and standards and recommendations of European Commission – thinks Professor Aleksandar Gracanac, PhD, Coordinator of the Board for Small and Medium Business Entities and Entrepreneurship of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce. That is why the Serbian Chamber of Commerce formed the Cluster Council as an umbrella organization for affirmation, assistance and support to SME sector in order to prepare it for tough competition in EU.
Clusters represent a kind of shield against multinational companies and globalization, and are the only way in which the sector of small and medium enterprises can fight the competitors that are stronger when it comes to technology and marketing –said Gracanac. Through networking and connecting, SMEs improve competitiveness, and therefore profitability, number of employees and investment scope. The number of enterprises that are already cluster members in our country is not a small one, as there are 35 clusters with between 15 and 35 members each. We are not satisfied with the fact that small and medium enterprises represent 88.9 % of the total number of economic entities, but participate in the creation of gross national product with only 30%. In European countries, participation of SME sector in creation of GNP is much higher – in Germany, for example, it is between 70 and 80 %. That is why we should apply good practices in organizing clusters from European countries. Also, European Union expects us to apply European standards in setting up clusters – stated Gracanac.
President of Regional Chamber of Commerce Nis, Aleksandar Mitic, emphasized an excellent partnership and cooperation with LEDIB Programme and Cluster House, stressing that RCC as a founder of numerous clusters in the region, recognizes and supports this type of business connecting.
Clusters are among the most advanced world trends in networking of business entities, scientific-research institutions and decision-makers at different levels, says President Mitic, as they enable consistent advocating for members’ needs, joint applications at tenders of various funds, and they make training and presentations at international markets easier, offering numerous other benefits as well. Clusters are not competitors to the chamber system, but they are inevitable partners with clear objectives of essence for the local economic development.
The First International Conference "Days of Clusters" officially started with the national anthem and theme from Verdi’s “Sicilian Vespers” sang by the brilliant Draga Dzinic.
Manage a Cluster Means Manage Changes
During the second day of the First International Conference "Days of Clusters" 15 clusters – drivers of the sustainable economic development in Serbia signed MoU with LEDIB Cluster House. This set the foundation for future connecting of all the clusters and their networking in order to achieve mutual interests.
Today 15 Serbian clusters signed a document on cooperation by which they agree to be technically supported by the LEDIB Cluster House – said Danka Milojkovic, MSc, Project Director of "Days of Clusters" and President of the Cluster Council of Serbian Chamber of Commerce. The support consists of Serbian clusters mapping, updating the clusters database, cluster initiatives, information sharing with clusters and contribution to promotion of Serbian clusters in the Infocluster Magazine, use of LEDIB Cluster House web page and other means for better visibility and promotion of project and other cluster activities. Expected result of this agreement on cooperation is that LEDIB Cluster House will, at any moment, have updated database of clusters in Serbia available, and it will also carry out the transparent and unique promotion of Serbian clusters in the country and abroad, contribute to business connections of clusters with similar business organizations, institutional networking and creating enabling environment for development of clusters in Serbia.
During the two days of the “Days of Clusters” Conference there were four sessions in which about forty of domestic and international delegations participated along with representatives of public, private and scientific institutions and organizations and representatives of EU programmes implemented in Serbia. The first topic of the Conference was Role of Local and International Organizations in Cluster Development in Serbia. Then there was an estimate on how much institutional networking contributes to the development of Serbian clusters, with presentations of good practices in Serbia and abroad. Representatives of clusters from Denmark, Slovenia, Hungary, Bulgaria and FYROM presented their activities and experience related to cluster development through the topic "To Manage a Cluster Means to Manage Changes" therefore initiating the idea on information sharing and opening options on connecting and cooperating. This was continued through the topic related to management of changes that requires good information sharing and networking, which are of key importance for development of Serbian clusters.
Estimates of the expected results, according to which Nis and Nisava District should be positioned as enabling environment for cluster development, were presented at the end of Conference. National and international support to LEDIB Cluster house in implementation of local economic development strategy through development of clusters in South-East Serbia is also expected.
During the First International Conference “Days of Clusters”, participants had a chance to join the sightseeing tour of Nis, and see the most significant cultural and historical monuments like the Skull Tower and the Fortress.