Business success in globalising markets increasingly depends on reliable strategic partnerships. Intensifying global competition, accelerating product life cycles, increasing complexity of converging technologies, growing demand for customized products and service: These are all drivers of an interconnected knowledge-based economy and society. Thus, businesses have to build their strategic capacities, capitalise on competitive advantages within business clusters and benefit from collaboration with partners in order to achieve sustainable competitiveness. The Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum supports business clusters by developing and organising strategic capacity-building workshops.
In an ever-changing global environment, businesses only survive if they are able to meet new challenges in due time. With respect to sustainable regional development, economic as well as academic and political actors have to join their forces to think, debate and shape their future. The regional stakeholders contribute to a sustainable development of the regional economy if they use their individual core competences and align their strategies to jointly target promising international technological and market developments. In this respect, innovative business clusters as “local nodes of global knowledge flows” are an important source of new insight and technological development. They enhance the innovativeness and competitiveness of businesses, and thus have an significant impact on regional growth and social welfare. Hence, the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Economics has installed its own department on business cluster policy and set up a cluster dialogue with regional stakeholders. In 2009, the Ministry presented its comprehensive business cluster strategy. It detailed a three-pronged approach: promote regional business clusters; build on state-wide networks in key strategic “target areas”; support the internationalisation of clusters. In fact, a German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology study revealed that regional competence networks have plenty of work to do to become more accessible to the international community. Baden-Württemberg in particular – Europe’s number one “innovation region” – greatly benefits from joint international research and innovation ventures with other creative and highly innovative regions. Against this backdrop, the Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum developed for the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Economics a series of workshops titled “Technology and Business Cluster Trends in Europe”. The workshops address ten interdisciplinary target areas of the Baden- Württemberg business cluster strategy, all of them promising seedbeds for emerging technologies:
BiotechnologyDigital media & animationFilament-based materialsLogisticsMechatronicsMicrosystem technologyPhotonicsSecurity technologiesEnvironmental technologies
The business cluster workshops are organized in association with regional and European partners supported by the Enterprise Europe Network. They are also moderated by the Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum, one of more than 550 partners in the same network. The workshops aim to make participants more aware of the strategic importance of future developments in their field while providing a platform for innovation and technology partnerships that will stand the test of time. Together companies will identify global technology trends and emerging markets and turn these into regional opportunities. As the backbone of the Baden-Württemberg economy, SMEs will also receive the support they need to take an active role to join forces toshape the future.
To date, four business cluster events have taken place, involving nearly 300 businesspeople, managing directors and senior executives from development, research and technology and also attracting representatives from universities, associations, chambers of industry and commerce and communities. The events have explored miniaturization, smart systems, applied satellite navigation, photonics, and mechatronics. The 2010 business cluster workshops will address filament- based materials, digital audio-visual media, industrial biotechnology, environmental technologies, and logistics. Participants have estimated the open dialogue and the future oriented, sustainable approach of the Ministry of Economics. This understanding has prompted the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Economics to extend the workshops beyond 2010.
The workshops start with representatives of major companies (such as Carl Zeiss, Daimler, Robert Bosch and European Technology Platforms) and other participants discussing what the future holds for technology applications in their field. Lina Albers, branch manager at Enterprise Rhône-Alpes International, also helped the group look beyond national borders in three of the workshops. Rhône-Alpes – one of Baden-Württemberg’s partners in the “Four Motors for Europe” alliance – resembles Baden-Württemberg in terms of business cluster activity, making the French region a feasible partner for a number of initiatives. As a next stage, various opportunities and risks have been discussed, as well as tangible actions that can be taken to broaden Baden-Württemberg’s competitive edge over the long term. For example, Peter Kersten, a director at Telemotive, gave a speech on a new strategic initiative designed to set standards in e-mobility; the initiative emerged directly from the mechatronics experts network. The workshops also witness the launch of many regional and international collaborations. To coincide with the launch of the Micro-TEC Südwest business excellence cluster, Mikrosystemtechnik Baden-Württemberg announced it is to partner with the European Technology Platform (EPOSS ) on Smart Systems Integration as well as Minalogic, a French business cluster.