Level IV "Creation and Integration at the Organizational Level"
At level IV of cluster cooperation, Green Energy Cluster fulfills three roles defined therefor. It operates in the role of a “Mentor” by offering specialized consulting and coaching services in the area of the development of business operation. As a “Common resource creation platform”, the CO initiates, develops and oversees the execution of research, innovative and business projects, which are also undertaken by way of international cooperation. Green Energy Cluster ensures a framework to develop environmental, social, and economic benefits. It facilitates cooperation for innovative project ideas between different groups of entities (businesses, R&D institutions, universities, innovation service providers, etc.) - it makes decisions with respect to project concepts, initiates projects, obtains third-party funding, designates project members, sets prices and completion terms.
One of the working groups of the cluster, Research-development- innovation (WG1), is responsible for the development of cluster cooperation in the area of innovation. The members of this working group comprise representatives of research institutions, universities, and business. Its activities center around facilitating cooperation between business and the RScD sector with a view to generating innovative project ideas. Cooperation in this area should in principle bring about new innovative products and technological development, but also enable the exchange and transfer of knowledge among its participants. The research areas and innovation areas of the WG1 group are tied to the production and use of biomass, and particularly pertain to such areas of interest as energy willow crops, green wood-waste, industrial wood-waste, biomass heating systems, know-how of the logistics, best practices pertaining to the optimal structure, the organizational model at the community level for a bioenergy village, and the construction of successful public-private partnerships, as well as the development of a community work program for cleaning green areas by ensuring the availability of biofuel at the community level with the involvement of persons from vulnerable groups/the unemployed by generating new job opportunities. The most important achievements of the WG1 group include the coordination of four projects, including three funded by the Executive Unit for Financing of Higher Education, Research, Development and Innovation: Salix Viminalis, Ligsalchem, Biobuild, and Bioenergy Villages (project proposal for H2020). Green Energy Cluster has also initiated other collaborative projects among cluster members in the field of energy willow cultivation, wood-waste collection, wood fuel production, and biomass-based heating systems. Some of them were supported by funding programs, while others were financed by companies.
The last of the discussed forms of activities of Green Energy Cluster pertains to supporting cooperation in the value chain, an activity which falls within the third role assigned to this level - that of an “Organization integrator”. This is one of the most important areas of operation for Green Energy Cluster, which is reflected in the wording of this CO’s strategy. The strategic goals of Green Energy Cluster include stimulating innovation and innovative solutions in the field of solid biomass (by, e.g. intensifying cooperation between businesses and research and development institutions (RDI)s) and business development along the biomass value chain (by, e.g., consulting and coaching, support for the development of cooperation, attracting new businesses in the cluster and generating new start-ups). The value chain created within Green Energy Cluster encompasses energy willow cultivation, green waste management, industrial wood-waste management, and the development of the market for the sustainable use of biomass for energy purposes. This is tied to the necessity of obtaining know-how (e.g. in the area of logistics), the collection of best practices (in, e.g. organizing the collection of wood-waste), building successful public-private partnerships, as well as raising social awareness and the awareness of policymakers with respect to the diverse influence of biomass on different aspects of socio-economic life (the elimination of problems pertaining to pollution, energy production, the creation of new employment opportunities, the development of the local eco-business).
Green Energy Cluster integrates its actions around sustainable development. The value chain in the area of solid biomass functioning in the CO is a complex, albeit well-integrated system, which works thanks to cooperation between different groups of entities. The basic input in this value chain are as follows: energy willow, green waste, and wood waste (feedstock), biomass- based heating system, and boiler, while the end product of this chain takes the form of biomass-based thermal energy. The main functions of the value chain, which leads to the final product, are: energy willow cultivation, harvesting and processing green-waste collection and wood residue collection, machinery component production, integration, and market entering. All of the functions are accompanied by activities tied to promotion and raising awareness in the scope of the significance of renewable energy source. The main actors in the value chain are in the first link: energy willow cultivators; the second link is represented by entities collecting and processing wooden residues; while the third link - entities dealing with industrial wooden residues. They can be classified to five basic groups. The first (input logistics) comprise land and forest owners, seedling suppliers, producers of specialized agricultural machines, sawmills, furniture manufacturers, and heating system assemblymen. The second group (production, fabrication, implementation) comprises: energy willow cultivators, plant solutions (herbicides, fertilizers), wood chippings, heating system design and manufacturing, boiler manufacturing, thermal insulation, and energy efficiency. The third group (output logistics) consists of storage and transport of the biomass, as well as transport and installation of heating systems. The subsequent two groups consist of green energy promoters, biomass sellers for energy purposes and heating system sellers (the fourth group: marketing and sales), as well as maintenance services, technical advisory, services regarding energy efficiency and human resource training (the fifth group: after-sale service). The chain also includes catalyst organizations providing support services, such as business, technical consultancy, and training. The end users of the final products of the described chain are private individuals, industrial entities and public institutions.
The concept of the value chain is connected to the aforementioned projects executed by Green Energy Cluster - Salix Viminalis (the energy willow cultivators value chain), Ligsalchem (energy willow cultivators value chain), Biobuild as well as Biomass - the Green Business (the purpose of the project is to create a community-scale model for biomass utilization for sustainable local economic development and encourage the development of local eco- businesses along the biomass value chain). Another activity7 practiced by Green Energy Cluster in its capacity as an “Organization integrator” is the promotion of the concept of Bioenergy Villages within the project BioVill (Resource Efficient Bioenergy Value Chains for Rural Development). The overall objective of BioVill is to promote, develop and accompany regional/ communal bioenergy concepts up to the investment stage in Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Romania in order to create “bioenergy villages” and increase the market uptake in those EU and non-EU target country partners on the basis of cooperation with technology leaders from Europe, in particular Austria and Germany (project proposal for H2020).
The described area (cooperation in the value chain) is also connected to the activities of the working group Business development along the biomass value chain (WG2). The group supports business development within the CO, and particularly provides support in exploring business opportunities, consulting and coaching, strengthening cooperation and commercial relations among businesses, attracting new (missing) businesses to the cluster, or generating new start-ups to fulfill new market demands. The group also deals with advanced coaching (which also pertains to its role of a “Mentor”) and supporting the creation of startups, which is an example of the most mature activities within a cluster, undertaken at the highest level of cluster cooperation. The areas of interest pertaining to WG2 include energy willow crops, green wood- waste, industrial wood-waste, and biomass heating systems. The main accomplishments of WG2 include developing new business ideas in order to generate new eco-businesses along the biomass value chain (including informational activities, consultancy and training), develop an integrated model of a community-scale energy system based on a heating system fueled with biomass (wood chips) obtained from wood-waste and harvested energy crops, awareness-raising activities through training, events, as well as running the info-office, which keeps companies informed about business opportunities, funding opportunities, etc.