Clusters Partnership for Ukraine
We, the undersigned National clusters association from the Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine, and supported by the European Clusters Alliance hereby declare our shared commitment to promoting and supporting the national cluster movement in Ukraine. Our long-term goals consider faster integration of Ukrainian clusters and SMEs into European value chains and innovation space. Recognizing the importance of these goals for our countries and the broader international community during war times in Ukraine, we have come together to affirm our mutual intentions for advancing sustainable and inclusive cluster growth across our regions.
So far, this ‘Joint Statement’ targets creation of a new program of cluster support, centered on interregional collaboration of Eastern European countries with Ukraine and it is addressed for consideration to the European Commission. Such a program should significantly accelerate development of cluster movement in Ukraine with regard to current and future challenges & opportunities in the Ukrainian economy in the perspective of integration into the European Union.
The war in Ukraine caused drastic changes in the geopolitical arena in Europe and worldwide, provoking loss of eastern markets and worldwide turbulence. After COVID-19 the strategic issues of resilience of value chains and ecosystems have been raised again in Europe. But they rise today with an unprecedented amplitude of political, social and humanitarian crises that Europe has not known since the World War II.
Regarding economic aspects, It has been proved during COVID-19 that European clusters play a major role in resilience of industrial ecosystems targeted by the Industrial policy of the EU. Facing these new challenges of the Ukrainian crisis it becomes crucial to integrate as fast as possible Ukrainian value chains into European industrial ecosystems. In this context, importance of a strong and consolidated clusters movement in Ukraine becomes obvious.
Resuming results of 2022, we can state that Ukraine clusters did not get the necessary support from international or local State institutions. Being quite young and united into the Ukrainian Cluster Alliance (UCA) only in 2022, Ukrainian clusters lack many kinds of dedicated support policies and programs typically available for EU clusters, including the existing EU program of the Eastern neighborhood.
On the contrary, 2022 showed how productive and fruitful interregional collaboration can be between Ukraine and Eastern Europe / Baltic countries, when supported by the central EU institutions. Such initiatives as marketplace on ECCP, Supply chain resilience platform, Solidarity Lane and similar are just some of examples of such support in 2022. Special meetings and conferences, supported by the European Commission and by the European Clusters Alliance, dedicated to Ukraine, have been closely linked with the support from Eastern European countries. In 2022 the Ukrainian Cluster Alliance started its first productive collaboration with cluster associations and clusters from Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Lithuania. These countries are in the best position to develop new collaboration with Ukraine in cluster development and overall SMEs support programs. Coordination by the European Clusters Alliance can ensure involvement of other EU countries depending on direction or priority.
So, the necessity of a special program dedicated for cluster and SMEs support looks obvious for UCA and we, undersigned national clusters associations, kindly ask the European Commission to support this proposal.
Among others, UCA raises the issue of faster internationalization, creation of local State support and maximizing the potential of interregional cooperation. All these issues of cluster and SMEs growth are well known and, to a large extent, resolved by Eastern European and Baltic countries during the last 10+ years.
Therefore, we are looking for holistic, midterm (3-5 years) programs with a clear focus on Ukrainian cluster development and its integration into the European cluster family. Ukraine needs the right program of support, which can ensure true effectiveness, much faster reaction to cluster demands and clear impact on resilience of clusters and SMEs in Ukraine and Eastern Europe.
The proposed program (working name CP4U means ‘Cluster Partnership for Ukraine’) should be oriented to close interregional collaboration of Ukraine with all neighbors, mainly targeting Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Romania and Lithuania, as countries with the biggest potential in interregional economic cooperation. Limitation in the number of countries as ‘curators’ is obvious as UCA is not able to manage too many relationships. It was also an important lesson from multiple MoU and activities, UCA experienced in 2022 (see the annual report). It does not mean refusing to collaborate with other countries, but the right focus and well thought targeting is obvious in such a program.
The new CP4U program should be focused on 5 main broad goals facing the mentioned about challenges:
- Building a long term, effective strategy of SMEs development where clusters are the key instrument of SMEs internationalization.
- Support and growth of 6 UCA’s Common Resource Centers (CRC) with respect to clusters by target industries (Agri-food, EAM (Engineering-Automation-Machinery), Medical, Textile, Utilities, and Dual-Use).
- Growth of interregional cooperation with a clear focus on clusters / SMEs resilience and the future Recovery projects.
- Better alignment and integration of Ukrainian clusters into all major existing EU programs of clusters / SMEs development.
- Acceleration of Ukrainian clusters and their members in twin digital and green transition.
We propose the following supported mechanisms / measures for such a program:
- Development and support of bi- and multilateral programs with a focus on Resilience and Recovery of Ukraine.
- Set-up of regular clusters exchanges in the area of the best practices and improving skills in cluster management / governance.
- Alignment in policymaking and increasing the cluster’s role as important policy-makers of national levels.
- Fostering of Innovative ecosystems in Ukraine / increasing integration processes between all the 6 countries.
These methods have been proven as the most effective and recognized by their effectiveness in previous years. Other new mechanisms or adoptions of the existing ones are welcomed. The best practices and experience of the Visegrad program, as well as other existing programs of interregional collaboration should be as well analyzed and brought into Ukraine.
Such programs can bring many benefits to 5 target European countries and to overall cluster collaborations in EU:
- Being well familiar with EU norms and standards, 5 target cluster associations, coordinated at the level of European Clusters Alliance, will ensure much faster integration of Ukrainian clusters into EU industrial ecosystems.
- These countries will have access to all Recovery programs and projects and will be able to better involve their members.
- Regarding other European clusters, we can consider many aspects of better resilience, improving current programs and clarifying / profiling for all clusters future opportunities on Ukrainian markets, better connected to their neighbors.
This document should be considered as a pure Declaration, or Joint Statement of the national cluster associations, as representative of the local SMEs and their business communities, addressed to their local governments and to the European Commission. It has no legal impact or relationship with the mentioned countries’ and European legislation. However, this Joint Statement demonstrates the common positions of 6 countries with regard to economic integration of Ukraine into the European Union. They can be considered as well as act / declaration of solidarity of Eastern European business communities with Ukraine in war times.
From the Czech National Cluster Association________________________ / Jiří Herinek/
From the Lithuanian Clusters Network_____________________ / Giedrius Bagušinskas/
From the Polish Clusters Association_______________________ / Krzysztof Krystowski/
From the Romanian CLUSTERO national cluster association_________ / Daniel Cosnita/
From the Union of Slovak Clusters ________________________________ / Daniel Aks/
From the Ukrainian Cluster Alliance_________________________ / Oleksandr Yurchak/