Business Planet speaks to an award winning Czech cluster to find out how it is helping high-tech SMEs maximise their potential.
Nanotechnologies are starting to touch every aspect of our lives from electronics to medicine. Recognised as a Key Enabling Technology by the EU, it is hoped research in this scientific field will lead to new products and services capable of enhancing human health while conserving resources and protecting the environment.
Nanoprogress is a Czech cluster that aims to maximise the country's nanotechnology talent by boosting innovation, collaboration and job creation among high-tech SMEs. Business Planet spoke to the award winning cluster's Chairman, Luboš Komárek, to find out more about what the organisation does for its members.
What activities and services do you provide for the firms within your cluster?
"The main activity of our cluster is the support of research and development. Together with our members we are executing joint research projects and we take the administrative burden from the projects, so essentially, we are managing all the projects and the members can do their job, the companies can do their product development and the researchers can do their research, so this is one of the activities. Another activity is that we are creating open innovation centres....within the centres we include new technology for the production of nanofibers and some equipment for analysis and these centres are open for our members to develop their research and their project activities. Furthermore, we also use the cluster organisation and our international partners to support the internationalisation of our members."
How are you helping the firms within your cluster go international?
"We are using our partnership network with other cluster organisations in Europe. Furthermore, we are using the support of the European Commission and currently we are preparing three missions, to three markets – Canada, the USA and China. On these missions we are finding the best counterparts of these markets for our members and we will bring 18 companies to each market....our aim is to create open collaboration in Canada, the USA and China and bring products and services to these markets from Europe."
What support have you had from Europe?
"We are using many European funds. For instance, we use the European Regional Development Fund for supporting the joint research, development and the creation of the centres. We are using COSME and Horizon 2020 for supporting the innovation of the SMEs...basically, with this support they get financial means to develop new products to improve new technology, so this really is very important and due to the Commission we have the opportunity to provide added value to our members, because without these programmes and without this support, none of this would be possible."
If you're a small or medium sized business and are interested in becoming part of a cluster, where can you go to find out more information?
"In the European space there are more than 1000 very active cluster organisations, from many many industrial fields. So it's not just nanotechnology, it's also technologies, IT clusters, furniture clusters, many, many sectors. And the easiest way on how to get information about these clusters is to go to the cluster collaboration portal, which is essentially the most important platform at EU level...you can find specific clusters in a specific sector in a specific country and you can check the profiles of the clusters and you can contact the local cluster managers and they will guide you on how to join the cluster and how to use all the possibilities that this eco-system brings."