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Europe’s economic players have been engaged with clusters and cluster formation for decades, with regard to the economic potential in cooperation and in particular the role in this of SMEs and R&D and innovation cooperation agreements. Over the past few years the countries of Central Europe, among them Hungary, have taken important steps towards promoting effective cooperation between enterprises based on international experience.
This work constantly raises new challenges, to which every concerned expert would like to respond in the most professional way. This is precisely why we consider it so important to learn from one another’s experiences.
The significance of the subject is further highlighted by the forward-looking measures recently implemented by the European Union designed to make European clusters and cooperation ventures even more competitive, and to develop solidly based cluster strategies at governmental level.
Clusters can play an ever greater part in achieving the Lisbon objectives, which gives the subject particular significance especially taking into account the challenges of competitiveness in Europe.
Therefore, an international exchange of experiences by experts working on cluster development further strengthens the success of the pole programme in Hungary and similar efforts in the region. This is why we are organizing the conference Clusters in Europe – do clusters drive the Lisbon process?
We look forward to welcoming you on 26-27 January.
Dr. Zita ZOMBORI
Pole Programme Office Nonprofit Company
Pole Programme Office
Cluster policy and the Hungarian Pole Program
In Hungary, cluster policy is part of the so called Pole Program, which is a comprehensive economic development program. The overall aim of the Pole Program is to enhance the international competitiveness of the Hungarian economy by fostering clusters with strong innovation and export potential and by supporting development projects for an improved business environment in the main pole cities of Hungary. Therefore the Pole Program has two main pillars: cluster development and horizontal economic development.
- Cluster development aims at helping develop clusters that in the middle-long run can reach international competitiveness through high value-added, export-oriented and innovative activities. We consider clusters as economic entities and from the existence and operation of successful clusters we expect a remarkable contribution to the long-term sustainable growth of the Hungarian economy.
- The horizontal economic development makes the ground for successful clusters by creating favorable business environment with skilled and available labor, innovation centres, high-end R&D&I infrastructure, etc.
We apply active network brokers in the implementation of the Program. We have one network broker in each of the seven Hungarian regions. Their main task is bringing companies, universities, research institutes, municipalities together and helping the interested stakeholders build bottom-up initiatives.
The Hungarian Pole Program forms part of the National Strategic Reference Framework of Hungary called the New Hungary Development Plan funded mainly from EU structural funds. Owing to that close to EUR 1.7 billion is available for development projects mainly in the form of non-refundable grants in the Pole Program between 2007-2013.
The Pole Program Office is the main coordination body of the Pole Program and it is also responsible for the successful development of the Program. Since the measures of the Pole Program are in various operational programs a major challenge during the implementation of the Program is the coordination of the institutional actors (managing authorities, ministries, intermediary bodies, etc.), the coordination of the call for tenders, and the coordination of the processes of project selection and monitoring.
Economic and territorial development can only be successful if underlying policies are coherent. The European Cluster Memorandum1 claims that cluster policy is best looked at as a mechanism to apply existing policies in a more effective way. We can observe many examples how the emerging cluster policies have influenced the sectoral and horizontal focal points of national industry policies.
The section discusses the following questions:
- How can cluster policies best support industry policies and how can industry policies best support cluster policies?
- Is there need for a strong national sectoral policy or economic development policy shall appoint clusters as the main drivers for growth and jobs?
- What kind of role can play cross-border relations in sectoral policies?
II. Network development section
The European Cluster Memorandum states that ‘the more connections, relationships and interactions in a networked society, the higher the potential value added, especially in the development of intellectual assets.’ Though network development is crucial in cluster building national cluster policies differ in the nature, scope and financial backing of the tools that foster network development.
The section will try to answer the following questions:
- What kind of role – if any – should the state play in network development?
- What lessons can be learned from different country practices?
- What makes a cluster manager a good network broker?
- What kind of opportunities and risks lie in the co-operation between clusters from a network development aspect?
III. ‘Towards World Class Clusters’ section
According to the European Cluster Observatory 2 there are more than 2.000 statistically significant clusters in Europe but only few of them can be addressed as world-class clusters. The recently adopted EU Commission Communication3 stresses the importance of innovation driven world-class clusters for the strengthening of European competitiveness.
The section discusses among others the prerequisites for the emergence of world-class clusters, the role of the EU, the Member States and clusters.
- How can we make innovative SME’s stronger in world-class clusters?
- What tools can be used to help clusters become international in their activities?
- How can Member States contribute to the implementation of the EU objectives?
IV. Lisbon section
The Lisbon Agenda is the European Union’s Strategy for Growth and Jobs. The European Commission regards its Cohesion Policy as the major means to drive the implementation of that Strategy in the Member States. Within Cohesion Policy, clusters and growth poles seem to be a promising concept to promote a multi-polar and therefore territorially balanced development without jeopardising aggregate economic efficiency (“territorialisation of the Lisbon Agenda”).
The section will work on the following questions:
- What is the role of the NSRFs as an instrument for delivering the Lisbon Strategy? How is their contribution evaluated? How is consistency between the NSRFs and the NRPs ensured?
- Which are the best Cohesion Policy instruments to promote the Lisbon Strategy? Traditional grants or refundable, “JEREMIE” type instruments?
- How can cluster development policies and growth pole strategies best contribute to the Lisbon Agenda?