The AEIs Programme final evaluation 2007-2011: New insights on cluster and cluster policy contribution to competitiveness
Clusters and cluster policy has become a widespread phenomena. The general thought shows that, somehow, clusters are directly related to business competitiveness and regional growth. In this context, the Spanish Ministry of Industry has implemented a cluster policy since 2007 known as the AEIs Programme. The aim of this paper is to present the main results of the Spanish cluster policy case as well as an innovative evaluation methodology for clusters and cluster policy. After five years, 165 clusters have become AEIs. These AEIs represent 3,934 firms and 529 institutions (universities, R&D centres, public bodies etc.). These organizations account for a total of 750,797 jobs, making up 4.3% of the total Spanish employment. This total raises to 11.8% (2.1 million jobs) considering the knock-on effect over their value chains (direct and indirect employment). The Programe itself has financed the AEIs with more than 23.5 million Euros distributed across four different action lines focused on strategic plans definition, cluster operational structure, R&D and innovation collaborative projects and interclusters collaboration at national and international level. The knock-on effect of the Programme in increasing the return from other public support schemes raises to 44.7 million Euros for horizontal projects and 1,132 million Euros for R&D and innovation collaborative projects. But one of the innovative features in this final evaluation was the exercise on the identification of clusters and cluster policy impacts on business competitiveness. The survey shows that apparently, the competitiveness factors addressed by clusters-AEIs and AEIs Programme can represent up to 32.77% of total cost reduction of a company annually. On the other side, the same factors can contribute up to 28.21% of the total sales increases of a company annually. But there are still some weaknesses that must be addressed. The interrelations between clusters are still in their first stage. Globalization is an imperative that Spanish economy must face and considering the scope and the scale of global competition this must necessarily rest on coordinated and systematic actions where clusters can play a central role. The challenge for the Spanish cluster policy will be base on how to support cluster consolidation; on how to reinvent the activities exploiting local and regional related variety; on how to manage it into a Global Value Chain through interclusters collaboration; and finally on how to evolve into knowledge and innovation intensive specialization patterns fueled by Spanish World-Class Clusters. Although it can seem quite ambitious, regarding 2020 period, the Smart Specialization Framework enhanced by the Commission can be an opportunity to rethinking the Spanish cluster model into these terms.
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