NCE Smart Energy Markets acknowledged as GOLD cluster:

“Confirmation that the cluster is of a high standard”

Right before Christmas, Smart Innovation Norway received the happy news that our business cluster NCE Smart Energy Markets has been awarded with excellence label GOLD by the European Secretariat for Cluster Analysis (ESCA) – after a thorough evaluation process.

By Mari Kristine Buckholm, 11. desember 2019

“The strategy building process can be considered a standard of excellence, engaging local players, external consultants, related strategies, and a global perspective. The result is a clear identification of a segment of bright future and high potential, leveraging local smart specialisation, in line with national policy orientations and global trends.”

The quote above is from the recent evaluation of NCE Smart Energy Markets, done by the European Secretariat for Cluster Analysis (ESCA) mandated by the European Cluster Excellence Initiative (ECEI), initiated by the European Commission.

Thorough audit

Alongside cluster management team Marianne Bjerkman, Victoria Næss Jensen and Kjell Reidar Mydske, two representatives from ESCA worked themselves through every aspect of the cluster to investigate whether NCE Smart Energy Markets deserves the “Cluster Organisation Management Excellence Label (Quality Label) GOLD”, which would have a considerable impact on future financing.

Today, the results are in: NCE Smart Energy Markets can hereby call itself a GOLD-labelled cluster!

“To us, this is a confirmation that the methodology we utilize in our work with developing the cluster is of a high standard, and that the cluster is set up well. It also means that we will be given new tools for continuous improvement, which is something we wish to include our partners in, comments Bjerkman.

Signal to the world

She explains that the GOLD label serves for an effective way to communicate NCE Smart Energy Markets’ ambitions, both nationally and internationally.

“It provides a great signal to the world that we are a cluster organization that works strategically and systematically. In addition, it is important for us to find new ways to improve ourselves by being evaluated by someone outside the cluster, which will happen with each GOLD audit,” says Bjerkman.

The newly appointed GOLD label is a result of high-quality, systematic work with cluster development over several years. A well-functioning cluster network with a high number of engaged partners is proof of this.

“In Smart Innovation Norway, we have a highly competent cluster team with expertise within different areas relevant to ensure a successful administration NCE Smart Energy Markets, but it is the cluster members who deserve most of the credit for the cluster’s overall success. They are forward-looking and assertive, and contributes to developing the business by thinking outside of the box, notes Head of the cluster, Kjell Reidar Mydske.

Advantage for new AI Cluster

The next evaluation and re-labelling of the cluster will happen again in two years, at which point the ESCA representatives will check if the cluster management team has worked systematically with the feedback given, and how the cluster has developed in general.

“The systematic work already done with NCE Smart Energy Markets, in addition to the work connected to the GOLD labelling process, is something we will take with us in the development of our new Cluster for Applied AI. It will ensure a solid foundation and a clear methodology from the very beginning, and this will provide the best preconditions for success, concludes Mydske.

You can read the overall ESCA appreciation below:

NCE Smart Energy Markets, managed by the private company Smart Innovation Norway, is a well-matured cluster initiative with a clear thematic focus. A business-oriented management approach is implemented with all relevant aspects in place.

The cluster management being embedded in a larger organisation offers clear advantages regarding stability, resilience against temporary down-turns, and flexibly available resources for activity peaks. However, currently the distinction between the two brands “NCE Smart Energy Markets” and “Smart Innovation Norway” at least for an outsider is not clear; this should be an issue to be addressed.

The strategy building process can be considered a standard of excellence, engaging local players, external consultants, related strategies, and a global perspective. The result is a clear identification of a segment of bright future and high potential, leveraging local smart specialisation, in line with national policy orientations and global trends.

The preparation of materials necessary for the assessment was perfectly suited for the job to be done and allowed a smooth process and a very fruitful interaction with the cluster representatives.

ABOUT

  • Since 2009, the European Cluster Excellence Initiative (ECEI), initiated by the European Commission, DG Enterprise and Industry, is aiming for the development of methodologies and tools in order to support cluster organisations to improve their capabilities in the management of networks and clusters.
  • Within this context, 13 project partners from 9 countries – all well experienced in the field of cluster management and support – created a uniform set of cluster management quality indicators and developed a quality labelling system for professional cluster management with the aim to have this methodology and proof of evidence accepted and recognized all over Europe.
  • The overall approach of  “Cluster Organisation Management Excellence Label (Quality Label) GOLD” is the creation of an independent, voluntary proof of cluster management excellence which is accepted and recognised all over Europe, or even beyond. It is not only aimed at the distinction between “good” and “bad”, but to motivate cluster managers to take part in an improvement process, to become better by comparing with others and learning from the best. Thus, the elements of “mutual learning” and “mutual benchmarking” play an important role.