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Mark

Mark Bell

Year of Award: 2013 Award State: South Australia Business > General
Business > Rural And Regional
The Australian Institute of Management Churchill Fellowship to study business cluster development and facilitation from European leaders - Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Italy, Spain
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As more and more larger businesses fold, consolidate or withdraw from high cost nations like Australia, small business will take up the employment mantle.

Government can help small business, in this transition, by establishing the right policy and funding conditions that support the development of a business cluster ecosystem as an important way to create long term, sustainable employment opportunities.

An investment approach by Government to support cluster and innovation policy is the answer. By establishing and leveraging cluster communities, Government can maximize the limited resources available and offer multiple benefits to all members of the cluster ecosystem.

Clusters are a natural group of businesses that are company and industry driven. Clusters have active facilitation, are innovation focused and supported by research and educational institutions and are often based geographically.

The key focus of clusters is to remove obstacles, so that small and medium enterprises can get on with the job of employment generation. More importantly, a cluster exists to remove internal gaps, namely the research, education, capital, government and firm to firm gaps that exist in communities.

Clusters address obstacles to interaction, such as a lack of trust or limited knowledge across boundaries. Obstacles that make it difficult to communicate with each other, to initiate collaboration and to diffuse knowledge.

The development of functional clusters must be supported by an organizing paradigm (or ‘commons’) for linking, leveraging and aligning all existing and new programs across a region. Currently, in Australia, a lack of coordination diffuses resources across too many disconnected activities and geographies, leaving a lot of potential synergies and economies of scale unrealized, despite the best efforts of Government.

An individual regional development agency is more likely to successfully coordinate cluster organisations due to its impartiality and ability to link regional members of the cluster ecosystem.

Advocates for a regional cluster system will need to adopt an hourglass approach to building cluster culture. That is, cluster culture will be supported by a top down (Government driven) competitiveness and innovation policy and a range of bottom up (regional business) initiatives.

Government will need to implement smart and integrated, regional innovation cluster programs that are at the centre of all Government planning and policy.

The Education sector will also need to be reformed so that at least 80% of their research output is applied rather than purist or academic research.

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