Green Energy Cluster: A Case Study of the Cluster Organization in Romania

The Development of Cluster Policy in Romania

Romanian cluster policy only began developing since 2009 and since its inception was treated as part of the industrial policy.3 The first cluster initiatives in Romania have appeared in western and northwestern regions, mostly thanks to the inflow of foreign direct investments from Italian clusters. In 2010, the Ministry of Economy - Directorate for Industrial Policies launched the Research Program for Industry - INOVCLUSTER (I + II) in order to proliferate the idea of clusters. The aim of this program was to develop a systematic approach to cluster development, promote and develop cluster policy, gain experience by exchanging best practices with other countries, as well as develop cooperation between the industry, the R&D sector, and public authorities. Although clusters were not a formal and direct priority of the reforms and political plans in that period, economic growth and integration with the European market were a priority area in several domestic strategic documents formulated within EU regional policy, such as: National Development Plan, National Industrial Strategy, National Research, Development, and Innovation Plan, National Strategy for SMEs, or the Regional Operational Program. In the 2010-2012 period, the Romanian Cluster Mapping initiative was launched to identify crucial industrial concentrations in eight developing regions of Romania and to focus the re-industrialization process on clusters. The year 2011 saw the creation of CLUSTERO - the Romanian Clusters Association - the aim of which is to support the development of clusters, their internationalization and focus on cluster excellence, Open Innovation and regional development (Clustero, n.d.).

Clusters in Romania mostly emerged in an organic fashion, in accordance with the bottom-up approach, from the regional level, being mainly industry driven. Romanian clusters are also initiated on a top-down basis: by national or local public administrations. COs in Romania operate in the form of nongovernmental organizations or business organizations/consultancy companies. Their role is to support the development of cooperation by offering specialized and customized business support services. They adapted the triple helix paradigm to a “Four Clover Model”, the fourth actor being represented by catalyst institutions, that is, business environment institutions such as technology parks, technology transfer centers, chambers of commerce, and consultancy companies. The members of COs are mostly SMEs, while large enterprises play a catalytic role in the supplier value chains. At present, in Romania there are over 90 regional clusters and poles of competitiveness, the majority' being in embryonic and established stages, with few being mature. In 2019, 59 clusters were in operation which were labeled by European Secretariat for Cluster Analysis (including 3 gold, 11 silver, and the remaining 45 bronze), not counting five regional consortia and two sectoral networks. Clusters are developing in all eight regions of Romania, although there are significant differences between regions with respect to the pace of development and the level of cluster maturity - the North West, West, Center, and Bucharest-Ilfov regions have the most developed cluster structure. Romanian clusters develop in different sectors of the economy (including high-tech sectors) and at present increasingly often take a cross- sectoral approach. This is harmonious with the current domestic and international trends, which promote the development of cross-sectoral cooperation and the creation of “cross innovations”. Clusters in Romania play an important role in driving competitiveness, innovation and the creation of jobs. The main challenges set before them at present are integration in global value chain, the development of innovations, internationalization, and the development of relationships based on trust. There are also attempts to develop world-class clusters in strategic economic sectors, which would contribute to the support of the competitiveness of the Romanian economy, as well as promote cluster cooperation at the national and EU levels.

The Ministry of Research and Innovation is in charge of financing innovative clusters at the domestic level, while the Ministry of Economy is responsible for the cluster policy as part of the industrial policy. An essential role in the development of clusters in Romania is filled by RDAs, created in a top-down manner on the basis of national decisions of the parliament and/or ministers and the Economic Development Agencies, which emerged on a bottom-up basis at the initiative of each regional council. The fields of interest of both agencies overlap to a degree; each also includes in their programs the development of clusters. Some RDAs consider clusters to be a priority area for financing, primarily in term of actions pertaining to the creation of companies, business incubators, business centers, re-development of industrial areas and the support of the SME sector. RDAs are engaged in elaborating the regional 3S (Smart Specialisation Strategy), establishing the regional smart priorities, developing new tools with a view to supporting clusters, primarily in the scope of internationalization.

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