The benefits of developing clusters and supporting their activities has been known to Europe for a long time. Therefore they constitute an essential part of business policy. The assumption that business, science and authorities of different levels may collaborate on a common ground has resulted in creating a cluster based policy (CBP). Special tools and activities has been evolved to amplify competitiveness of economy and to encourage expanding the existing and organizing new clusters.
One of the cluster based policy instruments is benchmarking. It allows searching for the most effective operation methods through comparing those used in a cluster to the one considered to be a model. The concept came up in 2008 as an idea of a group of benchmarking and cluster theory specialists.
The analysis consists of two integral parts:
- cluster characteristics (region of formation, field of operation, management structure, development models and phases, external projects and objectives);
- cluster benchmarking – concentrated on comparing the development stage in diverse operation fields, and in result, on strengthening its position on the market, recognizing the best-functioning ones and presenting good solutions and examples of their implementation.
Cluster benchmarking covers the following areas:
- resources (HR, financing and infrastructure);
- processes (market activity, communication within the cluster, knowledge gathering and innovativeness, marketing and PR activities)
- performance (HR development, amplified competitiveness of the cluster and its members, enhanced innovation and international cooperation);
- development potential (regional and institutional environment influencing the cluster growth, impact of the cluster support policy, as well as strength, status and effectiveness of the cluster coordinator/leader and its members);
- strategy (economy of scale, creating knowledge and innovation networks, impact on business and natural environment).
The key objectives of cluster benchmarking include:
- promoting the idea of clusters;
- gathering knowledge on the most up-to-date stage of clusters’ development and their internal processes;
- showing the best solutions and practices applied in clusters;
- providing clusters with information on how to improve their performance, gain knowledge and learn;
- recommending activities concerning cluster support policy to be implemented both on the country and regional level;
- suggesting recommendations for other supporting entities that cooperate with clusters (especially for R&D institutions as well as innovation and entrepreneurship support centres).