Archenerg Cluster at the 9th European Cluster Conference on  May 7-8, 2024

Archenerg Cluster participated in the 9th European Cluster Conference, hosted by the European Commission in collaboration with the Belgian Regions and supported by the European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP). The conference took place on May 7-8, 2024, in Brussels. This event aligned with key EU policy actions and adopted a bottom-up approach to reflect the diverse voices of the cluster community.

Objectives and Themes

The primary objective of the European Cluster Conference 2024 was to underscore the crucial role of clusters in advancing EU industrial priorities. The conference engaged stakeholders in discussions on ongoing Commission initiatives, gathered feedback on 2024 priorities, and promoted bottom-up actions. It focused on the Green Transition, Digital Transition, and Resilience Building, addressing skills, funding, and technology. This conference provided an opportunity to share ideas, build new connections with clusters from across Europe, and meet with our current partners in the European cluster community.

Outcomes and Highlights

Key outcomes included showcasing EU cluster initiatives funded by programs like COSME/Single Market Programme and promoting cooperation through matchmaking and networking. These activities aimed to strengthen the cluster ecosystem across Europe.

We had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion about the advantages of cluster membership, such as easier access to finance, knowledge, and technology. A significant advantage of clusters is their ability to strengthen collaboration and link the business sector, making Europe stronger together. Cluster investments should come from both the public and private sectors.


The 9th European Cluster Conference highlighted the importance of clusters in the EU’s industrial strategy, fostering discussions on key transitions, and encouraging collaborative efforts to shape the future of the EU Single Market.


Panel Session: Being Fit for the Next EU Mandate: Clusters as Hotspots for Attracting Investments


  • Ole Janssen, Deputy Director General for Innovation and Technology Policy at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action

  • Pierre-Alexandre Balland, Professor at Utrecht University and Research Fellow at the Center for Complex Systems Studies

  • Verónique Willems, Secretary-General, SMEunited

  • Kristina Šermukšnytė-Alešiūnienė, Vice-President of the European Clusters Alliance

  • Isabelle Grippa, Chief Executive Officer,


  • Jakub Boratynski, Director for Networks and Governance, Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, European Commission

The panel discussion focused on the complexities SMEs face in accessing large subsidy plans, emphasizing the cumbersome application and reporting processes. The panelists highlighted the benefits of SMEs being part of clusters, which facilitate easier access to finance, reduce perceived risk for banks and investors, and provide access to expertise, knowledge, and technology. Clusters also support the development of entrepreneurial skills, enhancing SME investment attractiveness.

There was a consensus that leveraging public finance to stimulate private investment is crucial, especially for innovative and riskier projects. Public finance alone cannot meet the substantial investment needs for green and digital transitions. Hence, the strategic use of public funds to attract private investments was recommended.

The discussion also addressed the importance of increasing awareness and participation of SMEs in clusters, noting that not all SMEs benefit equally from cluster involvement. Strengthening connections between clusters and SME organizations can enhance participation and innovation.

The panelists emphasized that clusters play a vital role in creating industrial innovation ecosystems by connecting various stakeholders, including policymakers, large corporations, SMEs, and academia. Clusters facilitate trust and attract investments by providing access to talent and infrastructure, such as consultation services and laboratories.

In conclusion, the panelists discussed the need for continuous promotion of clusters' benefits to regional governments and the importance of strong cluster management. They also highlighted the pivotal role of women in successful cluster management and the ongoing efforts to ensure adequate representation and competence within cluster administrations.

Additional Key Points:

Complexity of Subsidy Plans: The panel noted that applying for large subsidy plans is often complex and burdensome for SMEs, involving intricate reporting requirements. This complexity often discourages SMEs from pursuing such subsidies.

Benefits of Clusters: Clusters, which are groups of interconnected companies and institutions in a particular field, offer significant advantages for SMEs. Being part of a cluster can provide SMEs with easier access to finance, as they are perceived as less risky by banks and investors due to the support from larger companies within the cluster and the broader ecosystem of expertise, knowledge, and technology.

Skill Development and Expertise: Clusters also facilitate the development of skills and expertise among entrepreneurs and their teams, which in turn makes them more attractive to investors.

Public and Private Investment Synergy: The panel discussed the need for both public and private investments, especially for the green and digital transitions. Public finance alone is insufficient, and leveraging public funding to attract private investment is crucial. This includes using financial instruments within programs like InvestEU to support riskier, innovative projects that might otherwise struggle to secure funding.

Awareness and Outreach: There is a need to increase awareness about clusters and their benefits among the broader SME community. While not all SMEs will benefit from cluster participation, enhancing connections between clusters and SME organizations can promote innovation and technological development.

Role of Clusters in Regional Development: Clusters play a vital role in regional development, especially in attracting investments to less developed areas. They act as orchestrators, connecting various stakeholders, including policymakers, corporations, SMEs, and academia.

Trust and Stability for Investors: Clusters provide a stable environment for investors by creating diverse industrial innovation ecosystems. This helps in attracting investments by reducing risks and offering support infrastructure like laboratories and consultation services.

Acceleration Programs and Success Stories: Clusters can act as accelerators for startups, providing mentorship and support that help new companies succeed. The panel shared a success story of an acceleration program that significantly improved startup survival rates.

Importance of Cluster Management: Effective cluster management is crucial for attracting investments and promoting cluster activities. Cluster managers need to develop their competences and ensure the cluster's core is strong to facilitate broader collaboration and support for SMEs.

Engagement with Regional Governments: To increase the impact of clusters, it's essential to engage with regional governments and raise awareness about the benefits of clusters. Demonstrating successful cluster management can convince regional authorities of the value of supporting cluster initiatives.

Future of Clusters and Funding: The discussion concluded with thoughts on the future, emphasizing the importance of maintaining strong, visible clusters and fostering collaboration and networking to maximize the benefits for SMEs and regional development. The panelists also highlighted the need for continued investment in clusters to ensure their ongoing success and impact.

In summary, while subsidies pose significant challenges for SMEs, clusters provide a viable alternative by offering a supportive ecosystem that facilitates access to finance, skills, and investment. Effective cluster management and strategic engagement with public and private sectors are essential for maximizing these benefits.

All PPTs of the event available here. For more information about the event find  here.