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The roadmap of UCA clusters internationalization – the first steps

The internationalization processes of UCA (Ukrainian Cluster Alliance) clusters began in April. It was then that inter-cluster (C2C – Cluster2Cluster) and B2B meetings with European clusters and their participants were initiated. In May and June, these meetings became more frequent and more diversified – they also took place in the formats of management meetings with leading associations, statements at forums and conferences, and selected UCA presentations at European clusters meetings. In parallel, the “Ambassadors of Industry4Ukraine” initiative was being developed, gradually forming its agenda. As a result of this, UCA coordination center forms 2 tools – a methodological framework and a roadmap, which guide how to move from the first and one-off meetings to joint projects with foreign partners. In this publication we present a report of the key meetings in May and June according to the already defined categories of our roadmap and which demonstrate the first steps of UKA clusters on the way to internationalization.

Key meetings in May and June

C2C and B2B meetings

The meeting of agro-clusters on May 18 was already the third one organized by UCA with the European Cluster Alliance support. It involved 5 UCA agro-food clusters and the same number from the side of the EU clusters. The first results are the contacts and further negotiations of our clusters with those from Romania and Lithuania, as well as the beginning of the negotiations process of the “Poultry-feed” cluster with the related European association in this field. To the asset of this event, we can also add a recent decision to hold a Lithuanian-Ukrainian B2B matchmaking event, which is planned for July 26.

Our IAM and automotive industry clusters meeting with the PGM automotive industry cluster from Poland was the 2nd large B2B matchmaking event (the first one was held at the end of April), matching 15 Ukrainian and 9 Polish companies. Olha Trofymova, UCA export/internationalization director, demonstrated the techniques of group and individual matching, which are already included in UCA arsenal of tools.

Address to European clusters

On June 8, UCA together with government officials and EEN-Ukraine presented our clusters for the first time at the ”EU cluster talks”, European clusters prestigious event, which is regularly organized by the ECCP platform and the European Commission. This time it was dedicated to the situation in Ukraine, our challenges and approaches to their acceptance. The presentation was successful, and we immediately had the next iteration – the European Commission invited UCA management to a larger narrow event on June 15, where UCA head Oleksandr Yurchak presented the work of the alliance to the expert group of EU cluster policy-makers. This meeting, in turn, generated new proposals, in particular, for cosmetics industry representatives.

Meetings with pan-European associations should be highlighted separately. 2 of them were held In May – with the Orgalim association, which unites the leading national associations of industrial hi-tech sectors of the EU, and CECIMO – which similarly unites associations of manufacturers in the field of machine tools. At these meetings UCA was represented by the APPAU association members. These meetings are important from the point of view of organizing the establishment of a systemic industrial dialogue, which “Ukrlegprom” has already started. This leading light industry association of ours has already reached the next stage of such a dialogue with “EuraTex” – the leading European association of the EU in this field. On June 16, “Ukrlegprom” delegation visited Brussels, where a dialogue on cooperation was held both at “EuraTex” level and at the European Commission level. It is important to note that all these meetings resulted from the previous C2C meetings, organized by UCA together with European Cluster Alliance in April.

Dialogue with international organizations

Equally important are the establishment of contacts and direct relations of UCA with leading international organizations. On June 6, our expert and ambassador of the Industry4Ukraine platform, Volodymyr Matyushko, visited the UNIDO headquarters in Vienna, with the agreement of UСA. Mr. Matyushko presented a number of projects of the platform and UСA and agreed on the details of the next meeting in an expanded composition. It was held online on June 21 and attended by UNIDO’s leading managers responsible for Ukraine, and from our side – UCA management and Industry4Ukraine working committees. The meeting resulted in an agreement to develop a joint action plan in the areas of digital and sustainable development. Volodymyr Matyushko also presented our projects at the FFF conference, held in Vienna on the same day.

Another important event in June was Olga Trofimova’s speech at the EIT Manufacturing Day in Vienna on June 1. The European Institute of Innovation and Technology is a leading European institution in the field of innovative development, which has not been represented in Ukraine until now. Olha Trofymova brilliantly fulfilled the task of direct contacts with EIT – during June, a Memorandum on cooperation between UСA and EIT was prepared, and the services of this organization are now available to Ukrainian clusters. EIT info-day is planned for July.

Preparation of UCA clusters for internationalization

The results of the above meetings are convincing in demonstrating the new opportunities available today for our clusters and their participants in the European arena. But are we ready to realize these possibilities? In particular, in the field of integration into the EU innovation space, are our industrial SMEs ready to participate in dozens of grant proposals provided annually by the EU and are also available for Ukraine? APPAU has been systematically dealing with this issue for 5+ years and says that “no – our SMEs need much better preparation for such participation in order to successfully compete, but also to cooperate in these opportunities with other EU countries.” For this purpose, since 2018, APPAU has been taking efforts to develop SME support tools, such as Expertise Centers on the basis of the country’s technical universities. Since 2021, the EIF program has been in effect, in which these Centers (now DIH – Digital Innovation Hubs) regularly communicate with industrial SMEs. On June 1, another meeting of DIH experts of KPI (Kyiv Polytechnic Institute) showed this innovation center experts’ readiness to support the UCA participants. And in June, the program showed a record result – we immediately applied to 5 EU innovation projects.

“Industry4Ukraine Ambassadors” initiative

This initiative, launched by UCA in April, aims to develop a network of experts in the industrial and high-tech sectors, able and ready to support our clusters and their members on the European and global arena. During May, we formed a Ukrainian group of ambassadors, which included about 12 experts, including those who are currently abroad (Belgium, France, Germany, Austria). In June, the first foreign partners joined the program. Currently, they include professionals and managers of various institutions and companies from Italy, France, Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Lithuania.

In June, 2 meetings of ambassadors were held, the latest, on June 24, actually formed the roadmap “From the first contacts to joint projects”.

“Internationalization Roadmap” Framework

Thus, we see a lot of UCA activities in the previous months. The above list is not all of our events on the international arena over the past 2 months. There was also a C2C exchange on the furniture industry, we held speech at the prestigious “Run the World”, that resulted in invitation for us to be co-organizers of the Istanbul Global Impact Forum on Ukraine, we took part in the Hannover Messe online activities and several other B2B exchanges, intensive preparation to the CSIA forum in the USA continued (there will be a separate report on this).

Together, all these events and their results made it possible to structure our approaches to internationalization in the road map “From meetups to joint projects”. As a planning and coordination tool, this framework helps our coordinators better navigate and plan the sequence of meetings.

1) Meetings of UCA management and clusters: first contacts, acquaintances and agreements on the next steps.

2) Meetings with a wide range of members, including leading experts and clusters’ participants, heads of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences Analytical Center, committees of the Industry4Ukraine platform.

3) Large C2C (Cluster-2-Cluster) and B2B matchmaking events – there shall be high-quality presentations of individual clusters and their participants according to industry characteristics, as well as matching with European partners.

4) Forums-conferences: here participation is necessary for a high-quality presentation of UCA and our clusters, image formation and networking.

5) Joint international projects: their formation is the final chord in the launch of long-term relations. And it is unnecessary to argue how much we now need such projects supported by funding.

UCA management strongly recommends all the alliance clusters to plan their actions on internationalization in a similar format and on a medium-term basis. One-time promotions, of any format, without a reliable follow-up will not meet your expectations, and on the contrary, may disappoint your members in the possibilities of internationalization.

First results and lessons

In fact, May and June were the months when this roadmap was actually put into action. We are now actively taking the abovementioned steps 1 and 2 with partners from the USA, France, Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Germany. It is also planned to include Romania, Poland and Turkey. Negotiations continue with large institutions such as the Steinbeis network from Germany, the CIMES Industry 4.0 cluster (France), and a large B2B matchmaking event with Lithuania is being prepared.

UCA has become visible in European clusters arena and in the European Commission, we have good reviews and jointly form our main message “Business in Ukraine works despite all the war challenges”.

It is very important that all our developments and proposals are now formulated in the strategic document “Export and Internationalization of Industrial and Hi-Tech Sectors. Proposals to the Government of Ukraine”.

Our first lessons and conclusions

  1. The windows of opportunity in internationalization are really big. European partners are fully open to cooperation. At the same time, it is necessary to respond quickly to these opportunities. Ukrainian industrial SMEs, clusters, startups, agencies are little known to a wide range of European partners. The proposals of our business associations are also poorly represented among European cluster or industrial policies. Not mentioned in this publication, but in fact we also have lost opportunities – simply because there was no response from the UСA clusters, or response was inadequate (low quality, untimely, with false messages, little or no system suggestions, etc.).
  2. Activating leading experts from both sides is the best method for profiling offers and opportunities. In this context, we have high hopes for the initiative of the ambassadors –truly the best of the best gather here.
  3. You need to prepare for meetings carefully – both at the level of proposals and at the level of preparing presentations or pitches themselves. These things are obvious, but in practice, many clusters and their members lack the necessary skills. In some cases, we also have to improve preparation of events at the level of the organization.
  4. Activity is rewarded – we got these opportunities thanks to hard work and activity of about 10 cluster coordinators and their participants. It is necessary to continue this style, and involve more experts, more clusters and their participants in our activities.
  5. Thus, matching of opportunities with our resources and capabilities is currently a key challenge for UCA management. Many UCA clusters are young and/or weakened as a result of the war. Therefore, mobilization of clusters in the RRC (Rapid Response Centers) in 4 categories is now seen as the main response to this challenge. Currently, 3 similar centers were launched – for municipal utilities of cities and cooperation with united territorial communities, Food Industry and Engineering-Machine Building.

The Ukrainian Academy of Sciences Coordination Center calls on all our clusters to strengthen their activities towards internationalization. Taking this opportunity, we invite other clusters and cluster-type business associations to cooperate. These results prove how much more powerful we become when we act together.

This publication has been prepared with the support of the European Union. The material reflects the Ukrainian Cluster Alliance position, and does not necessarily reflect that of the European Union.

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