Romanian IT&C companies are starting to understand that strength lies in numbers. When organization is imperative, joining a cluster may prove to be a faster path towards spawning innovation and getting some of the proposals of the industry through to the authorities. At the moment, IT&C clusters can be seen continuously popping up across the main Romanian cities and regions.
“At the moment, there are more than 2,000 clusters in the European space, and over 60 clusters in Romania,” Mihai Iancu, operations coordinator Different Angle cluster & CEO of Rezolv IT.
Different Angle, the first IT&C cluster in Bucharest was launched in March 2015 with the mission to promote innovation, education and development among Bucharest SMEs.
“The cluster aims to promote transfer of know-how between the academic and the private environment, to grow the number of software specialists in a market where the demand is very high, and to create collaboration opportunities between the cluster and its partners,” said Marius Hanganu, president of Different Angle.
The main activities of the cluster are centered around software solutions, through the expertise of member companies such as eSolutions Grup, Gemini Solutions, Greentree Applications, Power Net Consulting, Qualitance and Tremend, as well as consultancy solutions, training and IT equipment via companies such as Lasper Human Development, RezolvIT, Evolva Trend Consultant and Econo-heat.
This association is meant to bring benefits to the members of the cluster, such as various networking opportunities, partnerships to create innovative solutions and better international visibility for the country and region. Benefits also include special access to the experts trained by the cluster, as well as the know-how accumulated from the network of partners, according to the Different Angle press release.
By associating with international partners, the clusters develop a much clearer picture of the regional and international markets as well as the know-how to approach certain business situations, depending on the context. Clusters enable companies to fight together for a common cause that can benefit the whole industry in the long run. “In the case of the IT&C industry, one of the main issues is the insufficient number of qualified people, since the best university graduates choose to leave the country. This is a situation in which clusters can intervene and help reduce the problem,” Iancu tells BR.
But Bucharest is not the only city where IT&C companies have decided to join forces in this form of association. In fact, other cities started long before the capital. Cluj, for instance, started the Cluj IT Cluster in 2012, while Iasi, Brasov and Miercurea-Ciuc started the Euronest IT&C Hub, the Cluster for Innovation and Technology and the IT Plus Cluster, all of them, in 2013.
At the end of September, another cluster, the Smart Alliance Innovation Technology cluster, set up by IT&C medium and small enterprises (SMEs,) had its soft launch . The organizational functions include covering business process optimization, IT infrastructure services, integrated hardware services, digital marketing, software, industrial automation, IT consultancy and training.
The member-companies are rolling out projects in 20 international locations. These companies include Arworks, Ascendia Design, Digi-Soft, Esolutions, Essensys Software Solutions, Entex Logic (NTX), Geomant, Global Systems Communications (GSC), HyperCubic, InChange Solutions, Infrasoft, Integrisoft Solutions, ITL and mWare, New Business Dimensions, Smart ID Dynamics, SafeTech, Spearhead Systems, Tremend Software Consulting and Omega Trust. The cluster also includes members from Hub Tehnologic, universities as well as other catalyst organizations.
The main medium and long-term targets of the cluster are to attract EU funds, both for its members as well as end-customers, launch of the Smart Alliance Academy, the first dual-learning concept in Romanian IT and ultimately, to promote the cluster and its members through innovation. Other declared goals of the cluster members include the participation in legal initiatives for the organic development of the IT industry in Romania, the participation in tenders and large-span projects in collaboration with other EU clusters as well as the creation of an ethical and innovative environment for the employees of all the cluster members.
The official inauguration of the Smart Alliance cluster will take place on November 3.
The (ECO) has a developed and implemented management standard for clusters. This standard triggered visible progress in developing and organizing these clusters, as well as in the impact they have on the markets where they are active, Iancu tells BR.
Romania has a dedicated European cluster program called Operational Programme “Competitiveness” – OPC– that will be active from 2015 until 2020.
The program has a budget of EUR 620 million and offers non-reimbursable grants in areas such as bio-economy, IT&C, space and security, energy, environment and climate changes, eco-nano-technologies and advanced materials, and Health – a priority field for the nation.
The maximum amount of funding the applicant can apply for is EUR 7.5 million and the activities eligible for financing are: investment in common RD facilities for the use of the cluster, innovation activities within the cluster, operating activities for the cluster, information exchange and providing or directing specialized and personalized services for businesses, according to the European Cluster Observatory report.
“Between 2014-2020, approximately 30 percent of the European funds allocated for increasing competitiveness can be accessed only through “joint” projects, targeting clusters, supplier chains and other forms of associations. Such an approach, which is already practiced in the EU, could take the Romanian business environment by surprise at the moment, due to the lack of sufficiently strong clusters,” says Iancu, quoting the representatives of the North-East Agency for Regional Development (ADR Nord-Est).
“The European Commission set a clear direction for supporting the creation of clusters, which has implicitly helped in the crystallization and development of various groups of companies into various clusters. We believe that without this opportunity offered by the EC, the groups of companies would have associated in a legal entity (cluster) only if they needed more weight in front of certain challenges, such as the legislation, or would have come across certain problems,” Iancu explains.