The traditional view holds that cluster cooperation could be driven by top-down initiatives, public incentives and management. However, other, more bottom-up ways of cooperation are becoming possible due to the direct links established by individual cluster members with their counterparts along the relevant value chains. These business-to-business contacts matching the complementarity of other companies involved along the supply chains become the initiators of cross-cluster cooperation
SMEs in Cooperation
One such company is TOPAG Lasertechnik GmbH from Darmstadt (Germany). In 2006 the company started cooperating with EKSMA Optics from Vilnius (Lithuania). Ever since two companies have been involved bringing to market a variety of laser components, e.g. special optics for high power lasers, optomechanical components for optics positioning, laser and nonlinear frequency conversion crystals, electro-optical Pockels cells.
Goals of long term Cooperation
As a result of a close long-term collaboration between two companies in 2014 TOPAG Lasertechnik GmbH was invited by its Lithuanian counterpart to join the Laser and Engineering Technologies Cluster (LITEK) in Vilnius (Lithuania). Through the involvement with EKSMA Optics TOPAG also became a part of this cluster network and benefited from some marketing, shared channels and cross-sales activities.
Prior to that TOPAG co-founded the optics competence network Optence (founded in 2001) in its own region (Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate) which developed into a regional photonics cluster with members from outside the region as well (including the cooperation with companies in Switzerland, the Netherlands and the UK). Thus, when in 2016 the need arises for Optence to expand its cluster networking reach beyond Germany LITEK came first on the list due to the ongoing links between TOPAG and EKSMA Optics.
Cross-Regional Cluster Cooperation
This case clearly shows that the cross-cluster cooperation is often driven by SMEs themselves and that the cluster managers should pay a close attention to them in order to spot bilateral connections early on so that further networking efforts could be built upon them. To that end, the LASER-GO partnership is considering Optence as a future member of the consortium.
For further Information,
Laser and Engineering
Technologies Cluster, Lithuania