NEU e.V.: A Case Study of the Cluster Organization in Germany
The Development of Cluster Policy in Germany
Germany is a precursor of cluster policy and the development of COs in Europe, which has resulted in numerous programs implemented at various levels, starting from the local level, through the national and federal level, up to the international (EU) level.5 Germany gathered cluster-based experiences since the eighties in particular Bundeslands. The systemic support of clusters in Germany was initiated in the midnineties. In 1996, the creation of clusters was included in the instruments of innovative policy, with a view to promoting innovation (in the form of interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral projects), strengthening the location of production in the territory of Germany, creating a network between science and industry, the quick and broad proliferation and common use of new knowledge. The largest influence on the development of clusters in Germany was exerted primarily by two programs, initiated in 1995 by the German federal government: BioRegio Competition, supporting the development of innovations in the field of biotechnology, and InnoRegio, focusing on the development and economic growth of new lands from the territory of the former East Germany.6 This program promoted innovations based on networks of relationships and cooperation in the triple helix paradigm. The subprogram Regional Innovative Key Areas of Growth supported the development of regional clusters of competences and production.
In Germany, several models of supporting clusters function parallel to one another. Cluster policy is held on an ongoing basis, which raises its efficiency. The system of supporting clusters is based both on central and regional programs. At the central level, within the programs go-cluster and Leading-Edge Cluster, Germany supports world-class clusters with the highest potential, which may become leading centers of growth in Europe and worldwide, as well as clusters in rising industries, which are still in their early stages of development. Beside national cluster programs, the majority of the Bundeslands create their own regional programs. The Enterprises Region plays a crucial role in supporting regional clusters in the territory of former East Germany.
The shape of cluster policy in Germany is the consequence of the German federal structure and its membership in the EU. The German political system is based on the model of cooperative federalism. Political interference at the federal level is usually limited to the bare minimum, as its main goal is to strike a balance between economic, regional, and social aspects. Federal policy is intended to guarantee the maintenance of conditions which allow for the efficient continuation of the so-called social market economy of the country. The main contribution of the federal government to the development of clusters is the creation and influence of political processes and economic conditions from a general perspective. The creation and implementation of cluster policy at the federal level is in the hands of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Both ministries support efficient COs in their further development with the “Internationalization of the Leading Edge Clusters, Future Projects and
Comparable Networks” measure. German cluster policy promotes intensive cooperation and knowledge transfer between science and industry. The priorities of such-understood cluster policy are the reconstruction of the cluster structure, raising the quality of organizations managing clusters, promoting innovative services, supporting R&D initiatives, and accelerating commercialization processes. Public funds are mostly used to finance actions tied to supporting cluster management, promoting innovative projects, educating and developing competences among cluster coordinators and cluster members, and joint public relations activities. In recent years, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research has intensified actions targeted at the internationalization of clusters, with a view to developing their international cooperation and therefore strengthening their global competitiveness. To this end, priority is given to supporting clusters with the potential to become visible in the international sphere as centers of growth, regardless of their technological affiliation.
However, in Germany, the most important initiatives regarding the development of clusters are in the hand of the Bundeslands and lower- tier governmental bodies, which leads to differences in cluster policy between Bundeslands. Nevertheless, the general approach of the lands to cluster development centers on consensus, that is, the integration of the viewpoints of different stakeholders. This is the greatest strength of cluster policy in Germany, as it requires broad social support for the developmental strategies proposed therein. Cluster policy is realized at the level of all 16 Bundeslands, with view to promoting innovation and accelerating regional growth. In this way, there is a large number of cluster structures in Germany. At the regional level, multiple supporting measures are launched with a view to professionalizing cluster management organizations, including in Baden-Wiirttemberg, Hamburg, Hessen, or Schleswig-Holstein.