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UСA participated in the European Сluster Сonference for the first time

On September 26-27, UСA delegation took part in the European cluster conference in Prague. UСA delegated 6 female participants from APPAU clusters: Vinnytsia Instrumentation and Industrial Automation Cluster, Ivano-Frankivsk Business Association, Rivne Medical Cluster, Khmelnytskyi Garment Cluster (Podillia Fashion Cluster), Ukrainian Automotive and Mobility Cluster.

More than 600 delegates from all EU member states took part in the conference. The main topics of discussion were quite traditional exchanges on development of cluster policies and practices, cooperation of clusters in innovative development, dual digital and green transitions. But the main focus was on the topic of sustainability of economies and value added chains, which have undergone significant upheavals due to the war in Ukraine. Accordingly, the topic of Ukraine was mentioned quite often in the speeches.

Moreover, it is encouraging that Ukrainian delegation was represented in person and by a high-quality team. Actually, this is the first such visit of UCA to the Euroconference of clusters, and it was able to take place thanks to support of GIZ. It is still the only international donor that systematically and regularly supports Ukrainian clusters in their development.

Ukrainian delegation was headed by Olha Trofymova, director of the Alliance’s export and internationalization programs and head of the Ukrainian Automotive and Mobility Cluster. Olha has already presented UCA several times at various European meetings, as well as at the forum in Istanbul. Her 2 performances in Prague were brilliant and will definitely be remembered by many conference participants. The main message is that the world (including EU clusters) should move away from the policies of “healthy pragmatism”, since these “pragmatic” approaches have completely collapsed today.

Multibillion-dollar investments of European companies in Russian market, and against the background of years of disregard for Russia’s aggressive actions against neighboring countries, are wasted! And today, when another escalation is taking place in Ukraine, it is time to change and transform. First of all, the key business paradigms must change. Now it is not so much about another declaration of sustainable development, as about a real focus on the values ​​of humanity, free choice and freedom of each country’s citizens.

Olha urged the conference participants to demonstrate unity with Ukraine by direct communication with clusters of Ukraine and specific projects in development of our economy.

Ukrainian delegation held a number of B2B meetings, more than 30 in total. Ukrainian stand had a lot of attention and support from other clusters, as well as DG Grow, the leading department of the European Commission responsible for cluster development. The stand was visited by the head of the department, Ula Engelman, as well as a number of leading DG Grow managers. Ukrainian delegation gladly welcomed partners previously known only online. Among them are Antonio de Novo, head of the European Clusters Alliance, Loic Marin (French CIMES cluster) and many others.

On September 26, a separate meeting of DG Grow with UCA delegation was also held, where it was decided to hold UCA conference in Slovakia at the beginning of 2023. The second success of our delegation is acceptance of UCA into the TCI Network, the world’s leading cluster community.

On September 27, Ukrainian issue was discussed at a separate session, and this is how the ECCP designers wrote down its main theses:

It is gratifying that, in addition to general information about Ukraine, we see here mentions of our joint efforts, in particular, the “UCA Roadmap for 2022-23”.

This is how other members of Ukrainian delegation comment on their impressions:

Olena Sadoma, head of export programs at APPAU: “We felt great attention and support from our European partners, and from our side demonstrated readiness for cooperation. Ukrainian business is ready to work with European companies. On the other hand, Europeans have their precautions about working with Ukraine. First, it is war and the corresponding risks. Secondly, history of cooperation with Ukraine in the past leaves impression of opacity and instability of Ukrainian legislation for cross-border cooperation. Thirdly, we still have to learn and learn to interact according to the established rules of business communication and with language knowledge. But participation in such events is an integral part of working with these precautions. Each live meeting with real Ukrainians here and now, with whom you can talk, learn about the real side of events from a person, and not from media, brings us closer to interaction at the level of companies and communities. Now we urgently need to pass a law on clusters in order to meet EU legislation standards and to signal to our potential partners that we are ready to cooperate at legal level”.

Svitlana Kropelnytska, representative of the Ivano-Frankivsk business association, director of the Project and Education Center for Development of Innovations and Investments in the region “Agents of Change”:

“It was a great honor and at the same time a great responsibility for us to represent Ukraine on the world stage. Currently, for Ukraine clusters are not only a tool for regional development, they are a tool for revival and recovery after the war of various sectors of our country’s economy, including thanks to integration and internationalization of the cluster community. I gained an important insight into development of creative clusters – the main driver of development in this area is close cross-cluster cooperation of participants in creative industries and tourism, and digital tourism will play a key role here.”

Olha Khomin, PFC cluster manager: “From the point of view of revaluation of values, this trip was, to a certain extent, a turning point in my professional career. Maybe, even in my life. First of all, it concerns the price of European support, which does not really exist, because it is priceless. Therefore, I want to thank all European partners. And even more – thank each of the Ukrainian delegation members for their support, openness, unsurpassed emotions and constructiveness. I am absolutely convinced that we are on the right track!”

Nadiya Karpluk, manager of the Vinnytsia Instrumentation and Industrial Automation Cluster:

“The main messages I heard at the conference were consolidation of efforts around overcoming the Covid 19 crises, Russian-Ukrainian war, energy crisis and climate change. We have to go through changes through transformation, not only digital and green, but also transformation of consciousness, transformation of strategy, if you like. A new strategy that will lead to stability and sustainability, to humanity and unification. Transformations that are possible due to development of innovations, involvement of women’s potential, training, improvement of skills and retraining.

We feel incredible interest in Ukraine, Ukrainian clusters, Ukrainian enterprises, and Ukrainian people. We feel the desire for partnership and we hear warnings about this partnership. Our task is to be responsible and not stop on the path of transformation, especially during reconstruction after the war. I would like to express my gratitude to UCA and all members of the Ukrainian delegation for their incredible efficiency during the conference and worthy representation of Ukrainian cluster community.”

Tetyana Vorontsova, coordinator of the Rivne medical cluster: “Ukraine has become the most mentioned country in speeches. At B2B meetings, everyone I met expressed support for Ukraine in the war against the Russian Federation, and it was nice to hear the words:

  • “You are a great nation. We are proud of you” from the Estonian defense cluster;
  • “We support Ukraine and understand its significant role for the whole of Europe” from International Affairs at Life Science Nord Management from Germany;
  • “When, but not now, to support Ukraine?” by Mantas Vilys, Coordinator of Enterprise Europe Network and European Digital Innovation Hub in Lithuania, author of the Supply Chain Resilience Platform.

Clusters are, of course, wary of working with Ukraine due to established stereotypes about high level of corruption and bureaucracy, but at the same time they understand that this is an important time to support Ukraine not only in words, but also in deed. It was nice to hear feedback from Mantas about his meeting with the Minister of Digital Transformation, who talked about significant innovations in the country. In some places, they are ahead of the rest of Europe. Therefore, it is important to convey our successes to European colleagues so that they trust Ukraine more and are ready for collaboration.

In turn, representing the Rivne interregional medical cluster and meeting with representatives of a dozen other European clusters in the field of medicine and health, we outlined joint projects in which work will be interesting and beneficial for both parties.”

Ukrainian delegation and DG GROW management (European Commission)

The head of the delegation, Olha Trofymova, summarizes her impressions:

“Preparing and leading the team of the Ukrainian delegation is always responsibility and honor for me. But I want to report not only about how many new contacts, open doors and business opportunities I have for Ukraine… not only about the fact that there is now open access to ALL European clusters and cluster alliances.

I want to share my thoughts about evolution that is happening right now all over the world, about a new paradigm and new challenges for all of us. After all, it is Ukraine that today pays a very high price for evolution of all mankind, which is measured not in millions of dollars, but in thousands of lives. Evolution that is now moving the world from the paradigm of money to the paradigm of humanism. At the level of human interaction, evolution is already taking place. Ukraine and the whole world are showing unprecedented care for each other and a common future. We also felt it at the level of communities and openness to cooperation between clusters of different countries, cluster associations and the European Commission.

But the challenge that was voiced and that I already feel is the evolutionary movements at the level of business to business, state institution to state institution. Ukrainians have been extended a hand several times to move in the direction of common values, but then everything stopped at distribution of money…

I believe in evolution. I believe in our understanding that right now is our chance.

Together we will win!”

On Twitter and Linkedin, UCA mentions many colleagues from Eurostructures: ECCP platform, heads of DG Grow, Association of Polish Clusters, Polish Metalworking Cluster, European Clusters Alliance, AVAESEN cluster, CIMES, etc.

Favorable reviews and mentions in social networks were received thanks to another UCA representative, SMM manager Yulia Lunkova, who constantly tweeted and retweeted news about the conference in three social networks. Thanks to this, we received a multiple increase on our pages and secured a high-quality visibility of UCA in the international arena.

Participation of the Ukrainian delegation can certainly be considered a success for the entire UCA. The main result is strengthening of trust to UCA from European Commission and European partners, and the conference in Slovakia, joining the TSI are only the first consequences of this influence. Equally important are motivation, new contacts and new knowledge, all of which our girls will bring back to our clusters.

UCA thanks our German partners, GIZ-Ukraine, for their support, which made this trip possible.

Next week, the second UCA delegation will visit the Czech Republic, this time Brno. There will be a large mechanical engineering exhibition and a special Czech-Ukraine forum on smart technologies. We wish success to our clusters!

UCA Coordination Center

UCA team participation in the European Cluster Conference 2022 in the city of Prague (Czech Republic) was possible thanks to funding from the European Union and the German Government in the framework of the international technical support programme “EU4 business: SME Competitiveness and Internationalisation” which is implemented by the German Federal Company “Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH”.

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