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Report from the forum in Košice on March 29-30

Updated: Jan 9

On March 29-30, 2023, the European cluster forum ‘Clusters meet regions’ took place in Košice (Slovakia). The forum’s main theme is the integration of Ukrainian clusters and SMEs into the industrial ecosystems of the EU. Organizers of the forum: European Cluster Cooperation Platform (ECCP) on behalf of the European Commission in partnership with the Slovak Innovation and Energy Agency, the Union of Slovak Clusters, the Ukrainian Clusters Alliance (UCA), and the Enterprise Europe Network. UCA’s participation in the forum was possible with the support of the EU4Business international cooperation program, funded by the European Union and the German government.

350 people participated in the forum, about 150 in an offline format. More than 100 people from Ukraine participated, including a delegation of 40 people in Košice. In preparation for the forum, UCA closely coordinated with the Office of European Integration and the Office of Reforms under the Ministry of Economy. This report presents an overview of UCA on the progress and first results of the forum.

Overview of the program, exchanges, and keynote speeches

The program of the forum was very rich. It included speeches by VIPs from governments of the countries and the European Commission, six-panel discussions, pitches of 16 clusters, and dozens of offline and online matchmaking exchanges. Some panels or speeches deserve separate reports; all information, including video recordings, presentations, and photos, is available on the ECCP website. In this review, we will highlight the most important speeches and messages.

Speeches of prime ministers of Slovakia and Ukraine

Mr. Eduard Heger, the Prime Minister of Slovakia, expressed his unwavering support for Ukraine and emphasized that the victory of Ukraine is important not only for Slovakia but also for the whole world; therefore, the reconstruction strategy should be the main plan of Europe. Ukraine is fighting for freedom, for European values, and basic human rights, and only it determines the conditions for peace. The world is now writing a new history, so unity is essential, and security is the #1 goal.

Economic integration is based on cooperation and strategy, and the strategy of rebuilding Ukraine should be Europe’s main plan. It is crucial that everyone is talking about it now at different levels and in different industries.

Mr. Heger believes that Europe should become a global leader in security and cooperation, and Ukraine plays a vital role in this process. It is not about short-term cooperation but the fact that Europe needs Ukraine permanently – forever. The Prime Minister said: “The bigger the EU is, the stronger we are.”

Mr. Denys Shmyhal, Prime Minister of Ukraine, thanked Slovakia and the EU for organizing this important conference and for readiness for partnership with Ukraine. He called the reconstruction project of Ukraine the most ambitious project of the 21st century because it opens up many opportunities and prospects, especially for business, which will become the engine of change.

Ukraine has many undeniable advantages for investors: logistics services, highly qualified specialists, and extensive infrastructure. Synchronization of Ukraine with Europe’s energy space, legalization of trade, abolition of transport restrictions, and joining digital Europe and single market programs are also important directions. Ukraine expects integration into the EU already this year.

Ukraine has 5 top-priority sectors for cooperation:

• Energy, hydrogen technology, and unique gas storage facilities are the largest in Europe.

• Defense-industrial complex.

• Agricultural industry.

• Natural resources.

• IT technologies.

We are building a new economy, adapting modern technologies to the legislation, and are interested in the collaboration of Ukrainian and EU clusters.

Main results for the Ukrainian delegation

The Ukrainian delegation carefully prepared for the forum, not only from the point of view of speeches. Individual agreements continue previous exchanges, of which there were dozens in 2022. The most significant results (at the time of writing this report) include the following:

1. Multilateral agreement on support of Ukraine’s cluster movement by 5 Eastern European and Baltic countries (Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Romania, and Latvia). The partners made a joint statement regarding the need for more powerful support for Ukraine’s clusters to accelerate integration into the European space. The text of the agreement can be found here.

2. Bilateral agreements and arrangements are fixed in the following areas:

  • Memorandum on cooperation between the UCA and the Lithuanian Network of Clusters.

  • Agreement on the start of work of the Ukrainian-Polish committee in the Industry 4.0.

  • Memorandum on cooperation between the Kyiv hi-tech cluster and the IT cluster of Slovakia from the city of Žilina.

  • Memorandum on cooperation in dual technologies with the Košice Technical University.

  • A cooperation agreement was signed between the Dnipro Space Cluster and the Košice Technical University Aviation Faculty.

3. As an institutional partner, UCA joined the large Ukrainian-Slovak agreement in the field of alternative energy, which was prepared for several years within the framework of the Ukrainian-Slovak commission with the participation of a number of associations and academic institutions of both countries.

4. In Košice, agreements were reached on the following activities between clusters of Ukraine and Eastern Europe, in particular:

  • About holding a forum at the beginning of June in the city of Lviv in the field of sustainable development — reconstruction of Infrastructure and Regions. Currently, the key partners are clusters of Poland and a consulting company from Germany.

  • About the Eastern European Space Center presentation at the “Aviacosmos and Defense” forum in Ryaszew (Poland) on May 9-11, 2023. Profile members of the organizations that are part of the Ukrainian Aerospace Center are invited to participate in the event.

  • About a joint event with the Romanian Association of Clusters to intensify exchanges between the southern regions of Ukraine and Romanian clusters in Galati, Romania.

  • Conducting a matchmaking event to attract Ukrainian organizations to participate in EIT Manufacturing projects – April 27-28 in Milan.

  • Holding Slovak-Ukrainian energy forum with separate sections on cooperation in engineering and automotive industry – May 17-18 in Košice.

  • Joint participation and national stand in the international contract manufacturing exhibition – May 31-June 2 in Poznań.

5. Due to the development of relations with EIT Manufacturing, this institution announced at the forum appointment of a separate representative for Ukraine – Olga Trofymova, director of internationalization at UCA.

Several important exchanges on forming joint consortia within the framework of the 2023 grant programs also took place during the forum.

These results are preliminary. In general, considering the online-offline matchmaking format, the Ukrainian delegation held more than 100 meetings. Accordingly, all the results that follow from the exchanges and meetings of UCA clusters are still at the stage of processing and gathering information.

In addition to specific agreements, the important results of the event for UCA are the growth of trust and awareness of the cluster movement among a wide range of stakeholders. Ukrainian delegation did its best to ensure that the clusters of Ukraine proved their maturity and potential as a significant factor of economic stability and one of the key subjects in the field of European integration.

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