European Cluster Panorama 2021

4 February 2022

Clusters are responsible for a significant share of European jobs, SME growth and specialisation within regions.
The European Cluster Panorama 2021 presents the state of play of clusters in Europe and the roles they play in fostering resilient, green and digital industrial ecosystems in regional economies.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on the roles that clusters are playing in fostering regional resilience. In the immediate response to the pandemic, they have provided a vital collaborative bridge between business and policy makers in regions across Europe. This has helped cope with supply chain disruptions and develop new production capacities such as in the manufacturing of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Moreover, regional cluster dynamics have been amplified at EU level by leveraging the European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP) and European Cluster Alliance (ECA), for example organising matchmaking events on vaccine production and regular meetings to share strategic intelligence for example on microelectronics, raw materials or wood.

Building a robust recovery from the crisis will require sophisticated collaboration across the triple helix of business, research and government, both within and between clusters. The focus of this European Cluster Panorama report is the presence of clusters in Europe and the roles they play in fostering resilient, green and digital industrial ecosystems.
It is based on comprehensive new data that can be navigated through the ECCP’s mapping tool. A key novelty is that it brings together statistical data on the regional clustering of economic activity in 88 standard sectors from Eurostat and 14 industrial ecosystems as indicated in the updating of EU industrial strategy, with detailed data on the presence and key characteristics of cluster organisations.

European Cluster Panorama 2021

Clustering is a key feature of the European economy

Across 201 EU-27 regions, there are 1501 sector specialisation nodes with a share of at least 1% of regional employment, and these account for almost 25% of total EU-27 employment.
There are also over 1000 cluster organisations in the EU-27, whose membership on average is made up of 70% SMEs, 10% large firms and 8% research organisations.
They provide a wide range of services, above all related to the core transversal function of facilitating collaboration between members.
They support research, development and innovation, matchmaking, access to funding, internationalisation, communication, access to the European internal market, location branding and IPR management.

Clusters are supporting resilience, green and digital transition

The presence of clusters in regions is correlated with stronger innovation behaviour, economic performance and employment outcomes. This is consistent with the rationale for cluster policy – and with the primary focus of cluster organisations – to enhance firm-level innovation and competitiveness, boosting resilience.
Over 80% of EU-27 cluster organisations support companies in digital transition and over 60% in green transition, highlighting the transversal nature of greening and digitalisation across all sectors and industrial ecosystems. This is reflected in the services provided by cluster organisations, their collaboration interests and the S3 priority areas and technology fields in which they are working.
A new typology of regions based on their specialisation in industrial ecosystems provides further evidence of the transversal role of cluster organisations in digital transition. Cluster organisations that associate themselves with the Digital ecosystem are strongly present in almost all types of regions, emphasising strong awareness of the opportunities from digital transition across the full spectrum of regions and ecosystems.
Regarding green transition, while analysis reveals challenges in achieving both strong economic outcomes and environmental performance, it also highlights awareness of the roles that cluster organisations can play in achieving green transition by driving forward learning and change among their members.

Learn more about clusters and their impact in Europe in the following EU Industry days sessions

How Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs, the Enterprise Europe Network and the Clusters network can support SMEs in their growth ambitions

Creating shared value through clusters

Industrial clusters contributions to the EU transition pathways

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