Creation of Ukrainian Cluster Alliance (UCA) in March 2022 and further rapid development would not have been possible without strong international assistance. We felt it constantly, and not just in the financial dimension! The attention, concrete proposals and the common framing of the future development projects were as well important.
So, who made the biggest contribution to UCA development in 2022? In this publication, we provide an overview of our 13 ambassadors from the EU and the USA, who get the Award Professionals4Ukraine.
Almost at the same time, we get proposals from 3 structures
Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) was the first among APPAU's business partners to respond to our call for help literally in the first days of the war. The main initiator was Luigi de Bernardini, CEO of the Autoware from Italy, a member of CSIA. He engaged into exchanges the CEO Jose Riviera, and since then meetings and discussions with APPAU management have been held almost monthly.
The European Cluster Alliance (ECA) together with the DG GROW Directorate of the European Commission found us independently and also offered help at the end of February. A proposal was received to create EU Clusters Support Ukraine Forum established by the ECCP platform. At the end of March, another decision was initiated to start regular C2C (Cluster-2-Cluster) meetings between Ukrainian and European clusters.
Separately, APPAU seeks help from the European DIH (Digital Innovation Hubs) community. The most effective feedback comes from the Czech Republic, the CzechInno agency CEO Teresa Shamanova tries to join APPAU into a large consortium of one of the Horizon projects. We did not win this project, but it was only the beginning of close exchanges with CzechInno, see more details further.
May-June: First results
In May and June, APPAU, which chairs UCA, received its first financial assistance of $20,000 from CSIA members, and APPAU members attended the CSIA conference in Denver. APPAU directed these funds to improve communications, strengthen the team that serves all the Alliance clusters, as well it develops new services within the EIF and Land4Developers programs.
In May, Olga Trofymova, UCA director of export-internationalization, initiates UCA's speech at the online forum of the International Trade Council (ITC), and this becomes the beginning of fruitful cooperation with a new powerful partner, and who is a leading policy-maker in world trade.
In June, the Ambassadors of Industry4Ukraine program begins, where we try to attract a larger circle of foreign partners, as well as Ukrainians abroad. In particular, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the French CIMES cluster, Loic Marin, and since then there has been regular communication.
July-November: Deployment of collaboration activities
In July, ITC invited UCA as co-organizer to the 1st international forum dedicated to Ukraine in Istanbul. UCA had the honor to promote involvement of Ukrainian participants together with such respectable bodis as the Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, CEO Club, American Business Council, Canadian Trade Council, and others.
In July, the circle of partners expanded – we signed a memorandum of cooperation with EIT Manufacturing, the leading EU institution in the development of digital innovations in Manifacturing. Since then, regular meetings and exchanges with them have started.
In August, as part of the EIC startup Ukraine grant, we created a consortium that includes 6 Ukrainian and 6 European partners. Among them are CzechInno, CIMES and ECA, which we already know well, and which include new partners such as FPPP from Poland, F6S (Ireland) and DMEC (Finland). The results are not yet known at the time of this publication, but the intensive work in preparation of the project statement has brought all partners very close, strengthened relations, and this is the basis for cooperation on future projects.
In September, a webinar with CIMES was held, attended by members of both associations and representatives of the Rhône-Alpes region, as well as the Ukrainian consulate in France. Decision to support the Ukrainian delegation's visit to Lyon in March 2023 was announced here.
But the biggest event of September was the conference of European clusters in Prague - where DG Grow and UCA delegation meeting took place and it was decided to hold a Ukrainian-Slovak conference in 2023.
In October, the delegation of 5 Ukrainian clusters in Brno, Czech Republic, achieved great success. There we signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with 4 Czech partners – Industry 4.0 cluster, Cyber Security Hub, Smart Cities cluster and CzechInno. Representatives of 3 ministries of the Czech central government were present at the forum. This forum and the subsequent work of CzechInno gave excellent results – in November, they took the decision about support of 3 large Ukrainian-Czech forums for 2023. Ukrainian delegations will also be supported financially.
In October, the 2nd forum with ITC took place – this time in Estonia. UCA was represented by Olga Trofymova and received a prize in the "Best export support" nomination. And at the beginning of December, ITC organized a "Buy from Ukraine" online forum, with 400 foreign participants.
Another line of cooperation was being deployed in September-December with Alex Chausovsky, CSIA partner, who became our real ambassador and helped launch regular APPAU webinars for a wider international community. In November, the 1st webinar dedicated to Restoration projects in Ukraine was held. And in December, we held a webinar with another long-standing partner – the Belgian BEMAS association. The topic of supporting critical infrastructure is a hot top topic in joint European initiatives to support Ukraine, and it is precisely this theme that sounded at this event. After the webinar, there were several active connections between actors from the Czech Republic, Belgium and Ukraine.
The first results of cooperation with EIT Manufacturing should be considered the nominations of 3 Ukrainian startups as winners of the artificial intelligence competition, the total prize amount is 35 thousand euros.
Therefore, we see that these lines of cooperation developed over a certain period with the same organizations, which we can now safely call our closest foreign partners – this is DG Grow of the European Commission, ITC (USA), European Cluster Alliance (EU-Spain), EIT Manufacturing (EU-Germany), СSIA (USA), CzechInno (Czech Republic), CIMES (France), BEMAS (Belgium).
Luigi de BERNARDINI, CEO at Autoware, Italy
Luigi de Bernardini was the first to respond to our call for help at the end of February, and he was the first to formulate several effective mechanisms of the aid, as the free membership of business associations, donations through through a mechanism called 1H4U (1 hour of overtime work for Ukraine) and orders for Ukrainian integrators. Luigi strongly promoted the last 2 tools at the CSIA level and one of them already worked (donation).
Antonio NOVO GUERRERO, President at the European Cluster Alliance, President at the Spanish Federation of Clusters, EU-Spain
Antonio found us himself at the end of February and offered help with his pan-European cluster structure. After the creation of UCA, Antonio opened ECA doors for UCA, we became a member, and since then we have received numerous types of help – this is support in creating ECCP marketplace, inviting Euro-clusters to special meetings with ours (4 Cluster-2-Cluster events held), assistance in personal contacts with national cluster associations from Romania, Lithuania, Poland, Spain and others.
Titus CRABB, CEO at Vertech, CSIA member, US
Titus is the largest financial sponsor of APPAU (and, accordingly, UCA). He transferred 17 thousand US dollars to the APPAU fund, and this is a larger contribution than from international donors we worked with in 2022! But no less important, this confirmed effectiveness of the mechanism proposed by Luigi de Bernardini (1H4U), and, of course, it is a demonstration of human and professional solidarity – because before the war we did not know each other at all.
Tristan EVANS, GR director at International Trade Council (ITC), US
In July 2022, Tristan Evans has organized the 1st big business forum in support of Ukraine in Istanbul, Turkey. The forum, to a certain extent, became a trigger to consolidate Ukrainian business associations. Since then, Tristan organized 2 more similar events with a total number of attendees of 2000+. Tristan twice personally visited Kyiv with delegations of potential investors! For us, these are simply incredible examples and demonstrations of solidarity, as well as professional effectiveness!
Marek PRZEOR, director of cluster development at DG GROW, European commission
Marek became the best "political ambassador" of our cluster development at the level of the European Commission. Marek participated in all meetings with ECA, including the initial launch of the ECCP marketplace for Ukraine. Thanks to Marek, 3 important ‘EU Cluster talks’ were organized, where UCA was presented to key people of European clusters. And Marek's main achievement is DG GROW's decision to support the 1st major matchmaking event dedicated to Ukrainian integration into European value added chains, which will take place in 2023.
Krzyshtof KRYSTOWSKI, head of the Polish Clusters Association, Vice president at European Cluster Alliance, Poland
Krzyshtof was also among those who first offered assistance to the UCA in March 2022. Krzyshtof and his team supported the launch of the ECCP marketplace, he facilitated several C2C meetings between Ukrainian and Polish clusters, and organized a separate Ukrainian section at the congress of Polish clusters in November 2022. Unfortunately, due to travel restrictions, we could not be there physically, but we are sure that in 2023 we will reach a more intensive level of exchanges.
Jose RIVERA, CEO at CSIA, US
Jose Rivera opened his association’s doors to APPAU members in April 2022. Our members received free membership until the end of 2023 and, de facto, this is the first business association in the US that offered Ukrainian engineering companies wide opportunities of entering into US / Canada markets. Jose personally participated in several meetings dedicated to Ukraine and gave valuable recommendations on entering the US market. CSIA ensured a warm welcome for our delegation at its conference in Denver in June 2022.
Alex CHAUSOVSKY, Miller Group, CSIA partner, US
Alex became a real ambassador for APPAU and our members in the process of finding the most effective ways to enter into North American markets, as well as setting up assistance and collaboration mechanisms. With Alex, we held a dozen working meetings-discussions, he was the moderator of the 1st APPAU international webinar in November and the speaker of the 2nd in December – with BEMAS.
Tomash KUBALA, head of the Brno Chamber of Commerce and Czech Industry 4.0 cluster, Czech Republic.
Tomash has been our partner since 2021. Thanks to Tomas and his team, a visit of the Ukrainian delegation to the largest Eastern European MSV mechanical engineering exhibition in Brno was organized in October. Powerful cooperation with several Czech partners took place there, and our relations became even closer. The entire Ukrainian delegation felt the warmth, sympathy and support of the Czech partners, primarily thanks to excellent organization of the event by Tomas Kubala.
Tereza SHAMANOVA, CEO at CzechInno, Czech Republic
In our eyes, Tereza is the most effective coordinator and networker among our Eastern European partners. In the frame of the Ukrainian delegation’s visit to Brno, Tereza organized the Ukrainian-Czech forum ‘Smart Industry’, with the participation of 3 Czech deputy ministers and where we signed a MoU with 4 Czech partners. A month later, Tereza confirmed that the Czech government will support 3 Ukrainian missions to the Czech Republic in 2023. Therefore, our 1st bi-lateral agreement starts to work. Excellent results!
Christian BOELLING, director at EIT Manufacturing, Germany
EIT Manufacturing is the leading European institution in support of digital innovation in Manufacturing. Before 2022, they were not present in Ukraine. So, Christian Boelling firstly presented EIT Manufacturing to UCA members in July 2022. In autumn, EIT Manufacturing organized several promotions for Ukrainian innovators – innovation competition of the best solutions in Artificial Intelligence, a pre-accelerator and a workshop in Warsaw. The results are inspiring. We have got 6 winners (SMEs/startups) and new opportunities in 2023.
Loic MARIN, responsible for international cooperation at CIMES, France
CIMES is the leading cluster of Industry 4.0 from France which first opened the door of the French cluster community for us. Partnership with Loïk began at one of the first support events organized by ECA, and on March 1st, Loïk wrote a letter with proposals of support. In May, APPAU signed a MoU with CIMES, in July we held exchanges with the French Consulate in Kyiv, in September – a webinar for French-Ukrainian audience. Now we move by "Czech scenario" and we are preparing a business mission to Lyon in March 2023.
Wim VANCAUWENBERG, CEO at Belgian Maintenance Association (BEMAS), Belgium
Relationship development with BEMAS is an example of approach to sustainable collaboration between business associations. In 2020 BEMAS became our guide to the world of Asset Performance 4.0, this is an annual conference of the Benelux countries on the topic of Industrial Maintenance. In 2021-22 Win repeated proposals of free participation for Ukrainian members and more and more attendees from Ukraine are involved. In Dec-22 we organized with BEMAS the webinar "How to help Ukraine build a more robust Infrastructure ＆ Industry".
Thanks to our partners from all UCA participants and we apologize to others who were not mentioned in this publication – the list of all our partners can reach several dozen.
We are united
The first and most important thing is that Ukrainian clusters have been united for the first time. This is now the main development catalyst for each of our clusters. And this consolidation would not have been possible, or rather, it would not have been stable and long-lasting without the international support that we felt from the first days of the war.
Sustainable partnership relations have been formed between UCA and a number of EU and US partners. The list of European countries includes Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Germany, Austria, France, Spain, Belgium, Finland and the United Kingdom. This means that any Ukrainian cluster and its members can easily find a partner in their field among the specified countries. And if a cluster can not find some partners, we always have the European Cluster Alliance on our side )
As already seen from the said above, relationships are of primary importance. It is relationships that shape further results. In this context, it is difficult to overestimate the development of relations with the European Commission. We believe that the forum in Slovakia in February 2023 is only the first of many results, and that together we will be able to change the attitude of the Ukrainian government towards clusters.
UCA already has a number of activities secured by funding. These are forums in Germany and Slovakia (February), France (March), Czech Republic (April, October and November). This is a huge progress compared to 2022, because we are talking about big business missions and projects in UCA's agenda at sectoral and industry levels. Separately, it is worth considering several exchanges and internships that will be offered by our strategic partner GIZ.
Brokerage and fundraising in innovations
We include the results of UCA innovative fundraising project office as achievements in internationalization. In 2022, it brought more than 600,000 euros to three dozen of our SMEs, and we are now adding EIT Manufacturing channels to the main channel – the I4MS / Horizon program. We are also glad that the European Union (EIC) is giving Ukraine a grant to support startups for 20 million euros – UСA will definitely contribute to its success.
Professional exchanges with a number of EU and US professional associations laid the foundation for further rapid deployment of cooperation in specific projects. After all, we have a program for Restoration of Ukraine ahead of us. Working groups for project preparation are already working in a number of directions, first of all, we point out partners from the Czech Republic and Spain.
Development of clusters
Rapid internationalization significantly accelerated internal development processes in UCA clusters. First of all, it clearly showed very low readiness of many Ukrainian clusters for internationalization. Lack of English-speaking managers, low quality or lack of offers to partners, lagging behind in top trends (where innovations, digitalization and the green course are always ahead) - these things have become so obvious that it is no longer possible not to react to them, as before. Accordingly, a number of our clusters are already included in deep processes of change, which actually means growth and development! We cannot accept these difficulties differently when our Armed Forces demonstrate such prowess and resilience.
Let us hold our economic front. And together we will win!
So, “keep working, stay in touch, be united and resilient'' are our clusters’ responses to the challenges of war, and we are very glad that this resilience is supported by our international partners. The war did not break us and did not scatter us, but on the contrary, it united and made us stronger.
We were also helped by our donor partners in Ukraine to face the new challenges, we would like to note the significant assistance of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH projects, the EaP Civic Society Facility project and UNDP.
Ukrainian Cluster Alliance sincerely thanks all our international partners, all the joined clusters of the UCA, their members, SMEs and APPAU team, which was the main resource contributor to UCA joint activities in 2022.