BELGRADE/NIŠ – The director of the Niš-based Cluster House, and the president of the Clusters Council of the Chamber of Commerce of Serbia, Danka Milojković, has been selected as a member of the Board of Directors of the Global Practitioners Network for Competitiveness, Clusters and Innovation TCI.
Milojković was elected a director at the general assembly of the TCI, held in Monterrey, Mexico. She is the first and so far the only member of the board of directors from Serbia, but also from the entire Balkans region.
TCI is an organization which brings together around 9,000 companies, cluster organizations and institutions from the whole world, and its board of directors has considerable influence on the creation of European and world economic policy and the availability of development-oriented funds.
In an interview to the House of Good News, this great but also modest woman who does not expose herself in the public eye sufficiently, spoke about work on the development of clusters, problems faced by entrepreneurs in Serbia and her engagement in the board of directors where she will be engaged on support to the business community, establishment of cross-border links between companies and the creation of a better environment for business in the Balkans.
What is the Cluster House currently engaged in the most?
The Cluster House, a non-profit business development organization for supporting the development of clusters, commercial associations and the small and medium-sized company sector in the Balkans and the Balkan and Black Sea region, continues its business information, cross-border linkage, projecting and promoting economic development.
The Cluster House continues cooperation with European and world organizations: the Barcelona-based TCI global network of experts, the ECCP/EC (European Collaboration Platform), the developmental agency TMG on the Danube Strategy, the Danube Cluster Club, the developmental agency TRAKYAKA in Turkey, the Austrian Clusterland. The aim is efficiently linking up, developing joint projects and the promotion of the economy of the Balkans and Black Sea region in Europe and world-wide.
In 2015, the Cluster House will be engaged in the following activities:
- building up the capacities or cluster organizations in the Balkans and Black Sea region – training for cluster management and small and medium-sized enterprises,
- cross-border linkages through the organization B2B and C2C meetings and visits to fairs,
- support to the formation of clusters in the region,
- publication of the magazine INFOCLUSTER,
- development of the Balkan Network of Clusters,
- lobbying for better conditions for the operation of small and medium-sized enterprises and clusters,
- access to available developmental funds
The culmination of the Cluster House’s activities in 2015 will be the organization of the sixth Balkans and Black Sea conference “Days of Clusters 2015” on 29 and 30 October 2015, to be held under the slogan Clusters Act Locally – Think Globally.
What does you election as a member of the board of directors of TCI mean for Serbia?
The global TCI network has over 9,000 members – professionals and organizations who contribute to economic development in 110 countries.
At the TCI general assembly in Mexico, I was unanimously voted as one of the 15 directors of ТCI’s Board of Directors. The board is made up of representatives from all continents. I am the first and so far only representative on ТCI’s global network board from the region of the Balkans and Black Sea. This indicates that our region, hence also our country, will be better observed from the aspect of the European policy of economic development and more visible on the world economic scene. The ТCI leadership has already launched an initiative for lobbying for better conditions of development and operation of clusters in Europe by working in the coming period on the compilation of a white paper of documents to contain suggestions and proposals of experts in the area of the development of clusters and cluster organizations from Europe, through the Cluster House also from the Balkans and Black Sea regions. The White Paper will be sent to the European Commission, the DG Enterprise by mid-January 2015 to ensure that the European cluster development policy is more adapted to the real needs in the region. In this way both the Balkans and the Black Sea regions will “have the floor” and advance proposals and suggestions which should relate to support to the specific activities of cluster organizations (inter-cluster collaboration/growing industries, internationalization), cluster specificity (comparing and categorizing cluster organizations, training cluster managers), data in connection with infrastructure (map of clusters in the region) and the coordination of the strategy (synergy between cluster support at various levels – the EU, member states, regions, etc, synergy of different EU strategies – DG Enterprise, DG Regio, DG Research, etc).
Are small and medium-sized enterprises in Serbian informed about the advantages of networking in clusters?
In the previous period, until 2012, measures of support to small and medium-sized enterprises from the Government of the Republic of Serbia and the presence of a considerable number of international organizations and programs in the country contributed to better information and networking of small and medium-sized firms into clusters and business associations. Hence, small and medium-sized enterprises had until 2012 an opportunity to be informed about the advantages of networking in clusters, but also to feel them.
The Cluster House has published a magazine entitled INFOCLUSTER in Serbian with a summary in English which was distributed free of charge throughout Serbia and further, with the support of the Danish program LEDIB we had an opportunity to broadcast monthly shows named Cluster House in south-eastern Serbia and Clusters in Serbia on cable TV. For businessmen in the Niš region we organized monthly Business Cluster Clubs. In this way small and medium-sized enterprises in Serbia could be informed about the advantages of networking. With the suspension of the financial support from LEDIB, our possibility also ended to continue informing and motivating businessmen in Serbia in the aforementioned manner. At this moment the Cluster House only provides information via its website, the е-magazine INFLOCLUSTER, a Newsletter and e-mail communications.
It can be read in some newspapers that entrepreneurs exhibit mutual distrust and no desire to share information with other enterprises. How can these barriers be eliminated and enterprises brought together?
The key challenge to the networking of small and medium-sized enterprises comes from the years of inadequate functioning of commercial organizations – chambers, unions, associations, cooperatives, trade unions. Building up trust is a long-term procedure, as is economic development itself. For the economic recovery and development of the country we need a national development strategy attended by action plans, a budget and professionals who will ensure its application and control. Besides strategic planning at national level, it is necessary to develop cross-border economic relations and create an ambiance in the country for attracting investors, as well as regulations which will stimulate exports. In that manner the numerous developmental institutions/agencies in the country formed under EU and other projects would begin to perform the missions for which they were founded and contribute to the removal of barriers by building up confidence among businessmen.
What are the advantages of joining in clusters and which cluster functions best nowadays?
Clusters, forms of association of companies which sets in motion innovations, productivity and competitiveness through collaboration between the business community, institutions of learning and research and the public sector, contribute to its members in the following:
- provision of timely and transparent information
- more efficient links with partners in the country and abroad
- availability of commercial services according to the needs of the company (business consulting and training)
- possibility of using logistical-professional support of the cluster organization (office, equipment, translation services, organization of meetings, business communication)
- cheaper promotion of operations (joint catalogs, web presentations, exhibitions, appearance at fairs, conferences, etc.)
- joint procurement and distribution (exports/imports)
- establishment of links with major companies
- access to tenders
- more favorable conditions of using financial services in the environment (insurance, credits, etc.)
The functioning of clusters in Serbia is directly linked to the state of the economic branch of the concrete cluster. Given that the Serbian economy is in a deep crisis, the only sector which does not depend on internal conditions of business operations is the IT sector, so that clusters in this area have no significant challenges in their operation. The essence of the concept of development of clusters is that it contributes to economic development, rather than the economic development contributing to the development of clusters. I would like to praise the work of cluster managers who by their efforts and enthusiasm, irrespective of all the obstacles in development and the chronic lack of funds contribute to the development of Serbian clusters in the textiles and building industries, agriculture, wood and automotive sectors, health tourism, real estate, old and artistic crafts and creative industries.
It is therefore easy to be successful in a successful sector, the challenge lies in working in sectors that need help.
On this occasion I appeal to international and domestic organizations to redirect their support to economic sectors and clusters which need assistance.
The Days of Clusters 2014 were held recently in Turkey. What were the results of that event? In your articles you wrote that our wine manufacturers were interested in establishing links. What sort of commercial contacts took place, what effects did the event have for the Serbian economy?
One of the results of the conference, in the area of cross-border linkages between wine producers, is an initiative of the URLA Winery from Izmir in Turkey, a presenter at the conference in Turkey, to link up the Cluster House with the Izmir-based Association of Producers of Wine, Food and Tourism to develop a program for a study visit by producers, distributors, tour operators from the Balkans to the URLA region in Izmir.
Interest in this study visit was shown by representatives from Slovenia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Croatia and Serbia. Wine producers from Serbia did not take part in the conference, thereby also not in the wine tour of Thrace that was organized on the third day of the conference. On that occasion participants had an opportunity to visit two important Turkish wine producers, their vineyards and production facilities, and to try out premium wines. An exclusive wine tour in the Mediterranean Izmir region will be organized in 2015 and more information will be available via the Cluster House. The organization of the study visit will contribute to better cross-border linkage between wine producers, and the development of a cluster of wineries in the Balkans, the creation of joint projects and possible participation in world fairs, exhibitions and competitions.
Source: House of Good News