Interview to Serbian Automotive Cluster
We interviewed Aleksandar Šaranac, Editor in Chief of the Connect and Supply magazine, published by the Serbian Automotive Cluster (AC Serbia).
1. What is your role in the EACN project?
The Serbian automotive cluster (AC Serbia) is mainly involved in the implementation phase of the project. More specifically, we are the leader of work package 4, which aims to:
- Enhance inter-cluster cooperation in the field of industrial modernisation.
- Identify financial aids for the implementation of SMEs projects.
- Collaborate with regional authorities on the framework conditions to facilitate the change processes towards industry 4.0.
2. One of your first tasks in the project was the identification of best practices in terms of industrial modernization support. What was the main objective?
If we want to promote joint cluster activities, the first step is knowing which industrial modernisation initiatives are being carried out in the different regions involved in the project. The idea behind this task was therefore, to gather all this information in the same document, in order to share good practices and identify collaboration opportunities.
In June 2019, project partners could contribute to this catalogue not only identifying success stories from SMEs but also introducing their own cluster support services, covering issues such as increased awareness, the competences development or even the promotion of pilot demonstrations and projects. As a result of this work, 18 cluster activities and 8 best practices from SMEs were finally identified.
3. And what activities are planned to foster cluster to cluster cooperation?
On the one hand, at SME level, the EACN initiative envisages the organization of matchmaking events to help them find potential partners for their projects. In early October 2019, we had already held one of these events in Barcelona and two others are planned for the first quarter of 2020 (one of them in Serbia). This way, clusters’ cooperation increases the collaboration opportunities among SMEs as well as providing them access to a wider range of technological solutions.
On the other hand, at the cluster level, we will be making study visits to those project partners which have presented the most interesting initiatives in the “Catalogue of Success Stories” mentioned before. As agreed in our last steering committee meeting held in Mulhouse last October 2019, two journeys will be organized next year: one to the Galician automotive cluster (CEAGA) and the other one to the Bulgarian automotive cluster (ACB).
4. Another activity you led was the identification of financial instruments to support the development of projects, wasn’t it?
That’s correct. The final goal of the EACN project is generate at least 5 joint innovation or investment projects and prepare them for implementation under the framework of regional, national or international programs. In this sense, having a comprehensive picture of the existing financial instruments (both grants and loans) is key to better evaluate the different funding alternatives and choose the most suitable one for each project.
So far, we have managed to identify 12 international and 25 national/regional instruments, which can provide a total sum of up to 1500 million Euros.
5. And as far as regional authorities are concerned, why is their involvement in the project so important?
If we really want to modify the way SMEs work and raise awareness about the importance of industrial modernisation, clusters cannot drive this change on their own. Instead, efforts should be made in collaboration with other stakeholders in the region or community. In this sense, we must be aligned with smart specialization strategies and that is where the involvement of regional authorities comes into play.
Under the EACN initiative, we plan to collaborate with public administrations to evaluate the current framework conditions and provide them with recommendations for improvement, facilitating the move towards digital transformation.
6. Finally, having finished the first year of the project, what are, in your opinion, the main advantages of participating in the EACN initiative?
For AC Serbia, the main advantage of belonging to this network is the ability to exchange ideas and information with clusters from other countries in a quicker and easier way.
Additionally, through the participation in the activities of the EACN initiative, our members have the chance to develop new real projects together with international partners.