EaP PLUS Project Stimulates Establishment of New Cluster Management Organization in Georgia

A EAP PLUS success Story: How the EaP PLUS Project has helped the establishment of a new cluster management organization in Georgia, the Georgian Clusters National Platform.

By Dr. Givi Kochoradze, Member of the EaP PLUS project Consortium and EC ICT NCP

Αt the Prague Summit of May 2009, the Eastern Partnership (EaP) with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine was inaugurated with the aim of fostering political and economic cooperation, and tightening the relationship between the EU and its Eastern Partners. After starting collaboration with EaP countries, the European Commission proceeded with the preparation and signing of DCFTAs (Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements) with EaP countries, promoting the main European values such as democracy and good governance, strengthening energy security, carrying out sector reforms and strengthening environmental protection, encouraging people to people contacts, supporting economic and social development, offering additional funding to reduce socio-economic imbalances, increasing stability, etc.

Some recent achievements of Georgia, which reflect the progress of cooperation of the country with the EU during the last years, include: DCFTA and Association Agreement, visa liberalization agreement; Association Agreement with the H2020 program signed between the Georgian government and the EU. Additionally, two Georgian organizations were united under the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN), and negotiations to join the COSME programme are underway. In 2017, the European Investment Fund (EIF) and ProCredit Bank Georgia signed an InnovFin agreement in Luxembourg, that will benefit Georgian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and small mid-caps. The InnovFin agreement, the first of its kind in Georgia, will enable ProCredit Bank Georgia to provide loans to innovative companies over the next two years, with the support of a guarantee provided by the EIF and backed by Horizon 2020 program.

Having that said, it is clear that, at the current stage, while cooperation between the EU and Georgia is actively developing, transfer and inculcation of European new economic models, technologies and innovations to Georgian scientific community is quite expedient.

It is very positive that the EU-funded “EaP PLUS” project started in September 2016. One of the reasons to underline the importance of the project is that it is enhancing the EU-EaP research and innovation partnership through boosting clusters in EaP countries. Initiating the clusters mapping process in EaP countries in this project, we (ICARTI in Georgia) encountered the following problem. We tracked down a lot of amalgamations, associations and unifications, but found only a few clusters among them. The reason for this is that many of the mentioned associations have structures close to clusters, but they are not aware of it. Consequently I, with my team, decided to undertake practical steps, and create a new organization in Georgia for the promotion of EU standards and for working with clusters in our country.

After consultations with the EaP PLUS Work Package leader, inno TSD (France), we established a non-profit, non-governmental legal entity: the “Georgian Clusters National Platform” (GCNP), which consists of 4 independent organizations (founders) - the International Center for Advancement of Research, Technology and Innovation (ICARTI), the Agency of Strategic Initiatives, the Golden Fleece Capital, and the City Institute Georgia. It should be mentioned that a quite large advisory board was created in the framework of the GCNP platform, which include specialists from private and governmental organizations (about 20 experts) which we intend to involve in our future activities.

In general, GCNP has two main goals: on the one hand, we are planning to collaborate with the local governmental structures, in order to work with the existing clusters (providing them with information about EC clusters; conducting local trainings, making internationalization, etc.) and create new ones.

On the other hand, we intend to use the opportunities provided by the European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP) and its partner search system for the participation in ECCP Calls, in H2020 forthcoming Calls, etc. This implies an initiation of international activities. We hope that in this case assistance and support of the EaP PLUS project consortium partners will be very valuable. At present, we are working with the Georgian cluster of microbiology and virology to register them on the websites of ECCP.

At the same time, it is important to note that during the short period of existence of GCNP, we have already signed a Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) for future cooperation with the Shota Rustaveli National Science Foundation (SRNSF), with the Georgian Innovation and Technology Agency (GITA), and with the International Cooperation program (GIZ), working in Georgia on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and development (BMZ). We already contacted the representatives of foreign agencies, foundations and important projects in Georgia such as EU4Business, USAID, G4G, East Envest2, etc. The main goal of the listed structures is to support small and medium business, make SMEs more competitive, support the economy, etc.

We wish to work towards developing and supporting the concept of clusters, but also that of technological platforms (which is also one of the tasks of the EaP PLUS project), of Smart Specialization Strategies (S3), of country foresights in technologies and innovations, etc.

Finally, we want to underline that all the listed activities concerning clusters’ formation and the endeavor for economic development in Georgia started in a large part with the EaP PLUS project. In my opinion, this is a good example of mutual cooperation activities between the project and civil society organizations, and can be considered as a success story for the development of the country’s economy.

For more information on the GNCP, please contact Dr Givi Kochoradze at gcp[at]ip.osgf.ge

For more information on the EAP PLUS website, please visit the website.