Innovative clusters “synchronised their clocks” and set transformation priorities

On 25-28 July the strategic session “Strategic Priorities and New Opportunities for Development of Innovation Clusters” was held in Moscow at the Higher School of Economics, to discuss digital transformation of the economy, ways to increasing labour productivity at Russian enterprises, and the development prospects for regional innovation ecosystems. The discussions were attended by representatives of government agencies, development institutions, R&D and educational organisations, and cluster representatives.

On the first day the debates were focused on digital transformation of the economy, and the prospects and opportunities it created for clusters.

Leonid Gokhberg, HSE First Vice Rector and ISSEK Director, Artem Shadrin, Director of Strategic Development and Innovation Department of the Russian Ministry of Economic Development,  and Mikhail Antonov, Deputy General Director, Director for Development of Innovation Infrastructure, and Board Member of RVC JSC, made welcoming addresses to the strategic session participants.

During the plenary session presentations were made by representatives of the Skolkovo Moscow School of Management, the Autonomous Non-Profit Organisation “Digital Economy”, the National Technology Initiative design bureau, and the Ural Federal University.

After the plenary meeting the cluster teams proceeded to work in groups to design roadmaps and development strategies for the innovative clusters, taking into account best international practices in the area of digital transformation of industries and territories.

How to increase labour productivity without reducing the denominator in the formula? It was one of the key questions for the second day of the strategic session. The role of cluster initiatives in improving production efficiency was discussed at the plenary meeting, and then in the scope of functional groups comprising representatives of cluster teams.

As most of the experts noted, productivity growth only partly depends on having streamlined internal processes in the company. The most vulnerable areas are logistics and warehouses, sales and market access, and open product chains. Without solving external problems, the company’s internal potential for multiple productivity growth will be quickly exhausted. This is where the cluster cooperation format has a role to play. The goal is to earn money together, not profit from each other.

The authorities are willing to help increase productivity at large and medium enterprises, among other things through the Federal and regional competency centres (the FCC and RCCs), and by offering specialised training programmes. How can clusters and their management companies integrate into this process? Establishing RCCs on the basis of cluster organisations; sharing experience of involving cluster members in relevant government initiatives; extending support measures to cover small and medium-sized businesses involved in joint projects; applying various intra- and inter-cluster interaction formats to smooth over the consequences of personnel optimisation; synchronising regional programmes for increasing productivity and advanced retraining – the participants shared these ideas and practices in response to the questions on the current strategic session agenda.

Also, a new joint report was presented by the Ministry of Economic Development, RVC JSC, and the Higher School of Economics during the second day of the strategic session: “Cluster Policy in Russia: From Local Advantages to Global Competitiveness”. This is the first English-language review of the Russian cluster policy results achieved over ten years from 2008 to 2018. It contains infographics, and a brief description of the key accomplishments of federal pilot innovative cluster programmes, leading clusters, and industrial clusters. The authors compared cluster selection procedures, key performance indicators, and support measures applied by federal authorities.

The third day was devoted to promoting technological leadership and development of innovation ecosystems. During the plenary meeting presentations were made by representatives of development institutions (Skolkovo, RVC) and R&D organisations which build innovation ecosystems around their educational institutions (such as the ITMO University, the Novosibirsk Akademgorodok Technopark, and the St. Petersburg Peter the Great Polytechnic University).

A representative of the Industry Development Fund also attended the strategic session, who spoke about the Fund’s current programmes which could help innovative clusters in their development. E.g. a new area for supporting joint projects of industrial cluster members was presented: export-oriented projects. 5.1 billion roubles are earmarked for this purpose for 2019-2021. Support for import substitution projects in various areas will also continue: 2.6 billion roubles are planned to be allocated for such projects in 2018-2020. Applications to take part in the 2018 joint projects tender will be accepted as of August.

The fourth day of the strategic session was devoted to leading clusters’ presentations of adjustments to their roadmaps developed during the previous three days, when cluster representatives discussed the results achieved during the day in groups.