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Cluster Exellence Programme

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Call for Proposals
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    EUROPEAN COMMISSION Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises   CALL FOR PROPOSALS  –   COS  –  WP 2014-3-04 CLUSTER EXCELLENCE PROGRAMME  2 CALL FOR PROPOSALS  –   COS  –  WP 2014-3-04 CLUSTER EXCELLENCE PROGRAMME 1.   I NTRODUCTION    –    B ACKGROUND   Small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) play a crucial role in reaching the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy 1 . Whereas they are considered as crucial engines for growth and job creation, their competitiveness is affected by a limited exploitation of international opportunities and innovation prospects in the Single Market and beyond. In this context, the Programme for the competitiveness of enterprises and small and medium-sized enterprises (2014-2020) 2 , hereinafter referred to as “ COSME ” , aims to  promote growth and to strengthen the competitiveness and sustainability of enterprises in the European Union. The contracting authority is the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises 3  (hereinafter referred to as EASME ). EASME is, inter alia , entrusted by the European Commission with the implementation of parts of the COSME programme and the Horizon 2020 programme. 2.   S PECIFIC O BJECTIVES ,   A CTIVITIES AND E XPECTED O UTPUTS   2.1.   Background High quality cluster management is today recognised as a key element of a successful world-class cluster. Strong management is crucial for cluster organisations for providing top professional services to cluster firms, for assisting companies to access global markets successfully, and for raising the innovation capacity and competitiveness of cluster firms in the large sense. The growing number of cluster organisations in the EU today represents various quality levels with respect to their organisation, experience and ambition. Some cluster organisations are well advanced on cluster excellence issues while others are clearly lagging behind. As part of the EU efforts to create more world-class clusters across the EU by strengthening cluster excellence, the Commission launched in 2009, under the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme, the European Cluster Excellence Initiative 4  (ECEI). ECEI's main aim was, first, to design, test and validate a benchmarking methodological tool to be used by cluster organisations to identify and improve their internal 1  COM (2010) 2020 final of 3 March 2010 2  Regulation (EU) No 1287/2013 of 11 December 2013 (Official Journal of the European Union 2013/L 347/33) 3  EASME was set up by Commission implementing decision 2013/771/EU of 17.12.2013 establishing the Executive Agency for Small and Medium Size Enterprises and repealing decisions 2004/20/EC and 2007/372/EC (Official Journal of the European Union L 341 of 18.12.2013). 4  http://www.cluster-excellence.eu/   3 management process and the way they offer services to cluster firms, and, second, to develop training materials with the ultimate goal to help cluster managers improving their own managerial capability. To validate and apply the benchmarking tool and the training materials developed within the EU initiative, two Calls for proposals have been launched at EU level in this area and eight projects have been funded under CIP over the past 3 years. It is important to mention that these two previous calls intended to implement a train-the-trainers scheme and therefore the direct beneficiaries in these projects were officials working in regional or national public organisations managing cluster activities. The present Call for  proposals is directly addressed to consortia of cluster organisations or business networks. The action will be implemented by consortia of cluster organisations or business networks operating in COSME participating countries 5 , and already engaged (or plan to engage) into a strategic industry-driven collaboration. The partners in each selected  project will participate in specific benchmarking and training activities dedicated to cluster management to be provided by competent trainers in this area that may use (or be inspired by) the training materials developed in the framework of the European Cluster Excellence Initiative 6  co-funded under CIP during the period 2009-2012. 2.2.   Objectives of the action The overall objective of this Call for proposals is to pursue the EU efforts aimed to strengthen cluster management excellence in the EU as a way to provide more  professional business services to European SMEs through clusters and therefore contribute to the development of more world-class clusters in the EU. This Call for proposals is the first action in the framework of the Cluster Excellence Programme to be supported under COSME, and aimed to promote cluster excellence across the EU for the benefit of European SMEs involved in clusters. The present action will assist cluster organisations, business networks and their managers to provide high quality services to SMEs in different areas, including access to foreign markets. The interested cluster organisations and business networks should be engaged into a strategic industry-driven collaboration (or are planning to work together) along a common value chain or on a transnational project in any manufacturing or service sector, and are facing some common challenges, and willing to:    Improve their management practices as well as their market/competitive advantages or value-chain analytical capacities and;    Provide top quality services to their SMEs, especially on integrating creativity into their business, facilitating SMEs internationalisation, better exploiting and diffusing Key Enabling Technologies (KETs), assisting SMEs on IPRs protection and further addressing resource-efficiency issues within their cluster. 5  http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32013R1287  6  http://www.cluster-excellence.eu/   4 2.3.   Description of the activities The eligible activities to be supported under this action are provided below: A. Participation in the benchmarking activities All cluster organisations and business networks of the consortium should participate in the benchmarking exercise aimed to assess their management performance according to the benchmarking methodology developed by the European Cluster Excellence Initiative and currently provided by the European Secretariat of Cluster Analysis (ESCA) 7 . Feedback from the benchmarking experts to cluster managers should include concrete recommendations on how to improve the management of the evaluated cluster organisations and business networks. Expected results and deliverables:    Benchmarking of all cluster organisations and business networks involved;    Report including concrete, clear, feasible recommendations on how to improve their management process. Eligible costs include: participation in the benchmarking exercise including eventually some travelling costs for the cluster manager. Applicants will have to negotiate a cost-effective price for the services provided by the ESCA experts. Eligible costs include also the costs for obtaining any of the labels provided by the ESCA. B. Participation in the trainings This action will support training activities addressed to consortia of cluster organisations and business networks. As part of their activities, each selected consortium should  prepare and launch an open Call at EU level for recruiting the most competent experts  providing trainings for cluster managers on issues relevant to cluster excellence. These experts should come from COSME participating countries, and should be selected at a  best value for money basis. The official procedure to be followed should be in line with the general financial rules for subcontracting as provided in the project contract. These trainings for cluster managers may use (or be inspired by) the training materials  prepared in the framework of the European Cluster Excellence Initiative. Each project should identify on the basis of the specific needs of the participating cluster organisations which training modules (and case studies) should be followed as part of their training activities. To have a significant impact, it is strongly recommended that each project select at least 5 modules from the training package as developed by the European Cluster Excellence Initiative 8 .   Moreover, if necessary, additional training case studies (on top of those currently managed by the European Foundation for Cluster Excellence 9 ) could be developed and supported by the project to cover themes that better correspond to the specific needs of 7  http://www.cluster-analysis.org/  8  http://www.clusterexcellence.org/what-we-do-program-content/ 9  http://www.clusterexcellence.org/ 
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