Transnational clusters and the Danube macro-regional strategy

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Publication Date March 2019
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Briefing published by the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) in March 2019 on transnational clusters and the Danube macro-regional strategy.

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As geographical concentrations of enterprises, which work together in the same field to develop a high level of expertise, services and skills, clusters are hotbeds of innovation and play an important role in the EU economy. Known as transnational clusters when they involve actors from two or more countries in the same geographical area, clusters tend to generate higher employment growth than firms located outside clusters, and are estimated to account for a significant proportion of jobs in the European Union. Linking countries from across a wide geographical region, the EU's macro-regional strategies provide a useful framework to support transnational clusters.

Launched in December 2010, the EU strategy for the Danube region (EUDSR) covers 14 countries that differ both in terms of their development and their relationship with the EU, including nine EU Member States and five third countries. With one of the major challenges in the Danube region being the uneven levels of innovation performance between the highly developed western part of the region and the less-developed east, transnational clusters have the potential to help redress this balance and to increase regional competitiveness. The development of clusters is firmly supported by the EUSDR's action plan, which outlines a number of actions to foster clusters across the Danube region. This has led to several cluster projects, with a particular emphasis on the bio-based and agri-food sectors, building on the expertise of local enterprises in this field.

The European Commission and academic experts have welcomed the progress made in the development of clusters in the Danube region in recent years, yet challenges remain, with issues such as funding difficulties, the lack of visibility of macro-regional strategies and declining political commitment all causes for concern. Future discussions on the content of cohesion programmes post-2020 provide a golden opportunity to highlight the potential of macro-regional strategies for fostering regional development and how transnational clusters can contribute to this process.

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