- The first strategic session of the Ukrainian Cluster Alliance in 2023 was held on January 10. The main goals of the event related to harmonization of goals of the Alliance and individual resource centers for the current year, information alignment and coordination on key development areas, as well as consolidation of UCA clusters’ heads in common goals and development projects. The event was held in hybrid mode, 15 people took part in it offline and about 30 online.
The results of 2022, goals for 2023 and the main directions of development are presented in the presentation of UCA head Oleksandr Yurchak.
In 2022, UСA established itself as a union of Ukrainian clusters and achieved certain successes in the fields of export-internationalization, innovative fundraising, as well as in growth of cluster organizations. These indicators and all areas of UCA activity are disclosed in detail in the annual report for 2022. The strategic session added separate and new evidence regarding these indicators. For example, in the presentations of Yury Klymenko, Anatoliy Dolynny, Andriy Karpenko, it is shown how their clusters (Vinnytsia, Kyiv and Zaporizhzhya clusters, respectively) grew. The most revealing is the growth of Zaporizhia EAM cluster, which, being actually in the front-line zone, increased the number of its members by 25% (from 20 to 25) in 2022.
According to cluster coordinator Andriy Karpenko, the main factors of growth are the following:
- Regular networking – every month the cluster holds 2-3 offline meetings of its members, as well as numerous online meetings.
- Focus on common needs and projects – the cluster regularly held campaigns to support its members in the armed forces, and also cooperated in other development tasks.
- Extensive exchanges with other UCA clusters – the cluster conducted active exchanges regarding production and innovation cooperation with Kharkiv and Vinnytsia clusters.
- Donor support – GIZ’s support for cluster management was one of the most important factors in the cluster’s survival and growth during the war.
Andrii Karpenko’s presentation (and all presentations of the session) can be viewed at the link. Oleksandr Yurchak, UCA head, noted these indicators as another example of Ukrainian clusters’ stability in the conditions of war. He also emphasized that Zaporizhia cluster indicators are better than other clusters in a similar situation, not only due to donor support, but also due to the correct use of cluster techniques and approaches – in particular, regular networking of its members. Use of basic cluster techniques such as regular networking, matchmaking, setting goals for increasing the number of participants and developing joint initiatives are the main criteria for the basic qualification of clusters for 2023. Justification of these criteria was made in December 2021, in the results of the ClusteRISE project.
In 2023, UCA offers clusters transition from extensive to intensive growth. The focus will be on clusters that demonstrate systemic cluster management and are ready for cooperation within UCA framework. Financial indicators should double in three key areas: provision of activities at the level of UCA, provision of UCA clusters, as well as international activities.
Group discussion, which took place before lunch, emphasized the readiness and ability to cooperate, both at the level of SMEs within a separate cluster, and at the level of intercluster cooperation. Overall, this remains a problem in many UCA clusters. On the other hand, the number of vivid examples of such cooperation is constantly growing. UCA head recalled as the best examples for 2022 cooperation of many EAM clusters both in matters of relocation and in production cooperation and innovative developments; agro-food – in development of joint agritourism projects, as well as cross-regional and cross-sectoral “hemp” initiatives; consolidation of joint views on regional development within UCA framework; creation and dissemination of project initiatives in medical clusters and in Prykarpattia region, etc. Actually, why it is necessary to fix these best practices – not only for accounting, but also for motivation, involvement and professional growth of a larger number of leaders and participants of the cluster movement. UCA made this first commitment on its separate forum in December 2022.
Group work of the participants of the event after lunch related to generation of project initiatives and produced the following results:
- RC “Medical Clusters”: more than 10 project ideas and initiatives.
- RC “EAM Clusters”: 3 categories of initiatives.
- RC “Agro-food clusters”: 9 initiatives.
- Dual-purpose technology initiative: proposal to create development roadmaps for 9 sectors.
Thus, the specified working groups conducted the first collective generation and selection of joint initiatives for development in their sectors. Of course, this is only the first step, but it is very important from the point of view of understanding the level of proposals, the participants in the process and the challenges of further development of these initiatives to the level of concrete project proposals. Common growth areas of working groups in this strategy remain:
- better adjustments to specific and priority challenges of their sectors: in the presentation of several groups, the sectoral challenges did not always correspond to the proposed initiatives.
- detailing and transition from project ideas to more comprehensive justification and argumentation.
UСA project office meeting, held after the strategic session, identified lack of experts and high-level project managers as one of the key challenges UCA is facing in the current period.
Offline presence of other cluster movement stakeholders was important at the event. In particular, we would like to note participation of Taras Holub, adviser to the Vice-Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine, and Serhiy Opri, a well-known public figure, who is currently leading projects on cluster movement development in Odesa region.
Conclusions and results of UCA first strategic session in 2023 are as follows:
- The Alliance agreed on the first program documents – goals and work plans for the year. Of course, some plans and project ideas are still drafts, but it is important that this iterative process of detailing began at the very beginning of the year.
- Awareness that clusters should produce quality project initiatives and projects is overwhelming, and this was confirmed by the vote at the session. This is a good marker of qualitative growth in UCA and understanding that without it it will be difficult to enter the European arena. And this is a guarantee of success for those who are going to Kosice.
- The best rates and high-quality project initiatives are generated by the “Medical Clusters” RC. Currently, at UCA, this is a good example of a systematic approach to cluster cooperation, and it is a consequence of regular weekly meetings to develop joint project initiatives.
- However, the most productive discussions took place offline – we had a series of fruitful conversations with existing and new partners. UCA head O. Yurchak urged cluster coordinators not to spare time for such sessions and to join offline – this format is many times more effective from the point of view of consolidation and development of partnership relations.
- Structuring and detailing of UCA plans is gaining momentum. We are talking about detailed action plans not only for Resource Centers, but also for UCA Analytical Center, Project Office and committees (Export, GR, Innovation and Digitalization). In January-February, these UCA units should fully detail their KPIs and annual plans, we plan to enter the first 10 projects secured by funding, start large-scale intercluster and regional forums (Kyiv and Kovel), and also reach concrete agreements with the government regarding a conference in Slovakia.
UCA Coordination Center thanks all the participants of the strategic session, as well as the APPAU association, which acted as the main sponsor of the event.