Clusters (according to Porter) are geographically adjacent groups of interconnected companies and associated institutions in a particular field, linked by commonalities and complementarities. ELAt’s most distinctive activities in R&D, innovation and industry are based on engineering.
Distinctive key capabilities and capacities within the ELAt network are multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary engineering. Clusters that stand out are High Tech Systems & Materials (including Automotive) and LifeTec (Life Sciences & Medical Technology). These clusters represent an added value of approximately 30 billion euros and 330,000 employees. A potential cluster or application area for the near future is Energy/Cleantech.
Different functionalities and product features may require different areas of expertise and highly specialist technologies. Therefore, it becomes more and more difficult for an individual company to manage internally all the required skills, competencies and technologies. Moreover, time-to-market pressure makes it almost impossible to develop all technologies in-house. Hence, it is vital to find the most suitable partners to develop new products in a spirit of cooperation and open innovation. Networks and platforms are essential for gaining competitive strength in and between value chains and clusters.
The Clusters line focuses on these areas of expertise and excellence. ELAt offers the conditions for cluster growth and enhancement of the maturity of the clusters by focusing on: cluster size (critical mass), platforms for collaboration, linkages, networks & interactions, environmental conditions, educated workforce and knowledge workers, involvement of financial institutions. We need to study and analyse the clusters, provide services, improve awareness of available clusters. Recent research results show there is a need for ongoing improvement of competencies and capabilities in the areas of innovation, process and product development, organisation and planning. A solution is strategic collaboration in clusters in ‘open supply chains’.
The cluster development strategy aims at strengthening and expanding the existing clusters in three areas:
- Collaboration: improvement of the supply chains, development of knowledge and capabilities and venturing potential
- Entrepreneurship, start-ups and growth development
The latter two areas are separate strategic lines and supportive to the cluster development
Companies need new, innovative products to be competitive. Within the ELAt network a huge amount of knowledge, competence, facilities and resources are available, but they are not all connected or used optimally. More and stronger links between organisations in the network will lead to more critical mass, new combinations of knowledge and more knowledge valorisation. Stakeholders in the region invest effort and funding in co-specialised and complementary assets.
- Connecting regional networks within clusters and between clusters
Open innovation plays an important role. In open innovation the incentive for companies to collaborate lies in the possibility to maximise the joint value for each partner, which could not have been realised outside the constellation of the collaboration partnership.
Several network and platform organisations (e.g., DSP Valley, LifeTec Network, DPI and DPI Value Centre, LifeTec Aachen-Jülich) will develop cross-border activities, link up and exchange information with partner organisations across the border and support this with various ‘infostructure’ services:
- Networking and matchmaking
- Increased level of participation of technolgy community members in European programmes
- Stronger cross-border cooperation (companies and knowledge institutes)
- Strengthening the international cluster reputation and the region as the preferred partner for new initiatives
- A state-of-the-art database for purchase activities in the high-tech supply chain
- An open database in the field of life sciences and medical technology
Use critical mass of ELAt to identify a Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC) within the framework of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). KICs are highly integrated public-private networks of universities, research organisations and businesses. They will strengthen the cluster and may tap into substantial future financial resources. To date industry, universities and research centres have joined forces to investigate the opportunity and feasibility of an ELAt centred and ELAt based KIC. Activities are geared towards KIC development in the first or second KIC tender.