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Layers and cluster visitors: What did we learn in Bau-ABC today (Part 1)

December 5th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

During the last few weeks quite a lot of effort in the Learning Layers (LL) project have been put to reporting and drawing conclusions from the Y2 activities. Also, a lot of effort has been put to the technical development of the tools. This might give a false impression that our fieldwork in the construction sector pilots has gone to standstill. We wouldn’t accept this interpretation. Yet, since we have not been able to organise major events, it is difficult to give a picture, what is going on  in the field. (For several practical reasons we had to postpone a new round of field workshops to the beginning of the year 2015.) From this point of view we were happy to receive visitors from the Norwegian Tretorget cluster organisation and to make a joint field visit to Bau-ABC with them. Below, in the first post I presents some observations from the cluster exchange session of our visit.

Layers meets the Norwegian cluster Tretorget

In September some partners of the Learning Layers had participated in the European Clusters’ Matchmaking Conference in Berlin. There they had organised a seminar on the project and participated in bilateral matchmaking talks with interested cluster organisations. The contact with the Norwegian cluster organisation Tretorget was made in this event. Tretorget is a regional cluster in the area of Lillehammer and it promotes innovations in wood industry and in using wood in building and construction work. As a follow-up to the Berlin conference they were making visits to other cluster regions, including the North German pilot region of Learning Layers. The major event during their stay was our working visit to Bau-ABC, during which we had talks with Melanie Campbell and visited some of the training workshops, in particular the carpenters’ workshop and the well-builders training area.

Cluster talks – insights and lessons

Much of our talks was exchange of information on each others’ organisational frameworks, regional environments and of the main activities. Although we had to spend much time to explain our different action contexts (and boundary conditions), we found quite a lot of points for mutual learning. Furthermore, we noticed that this discussion drew both parties’ attention to some issues that we or they had not considered very thoroughly before.

For us – the LL partners – it was helpful to discuss the evolution of the Tretorget cluster organisation as an iterative process with several setbacks and reorientations. Now, we could see that it has reached a stable phase – both as a cluster organisation based on wide membership and as a sustained consultancy service. For us it became clear that there is no ‘one perfect way’ to become a mature cluster or to scale up innovations. Instead, their success was very much dependent on circumstantial factors like timing, setting the right priorities for networking and pursuing the goals despite obstacles. For the visitors it was interesting to see, how consequently Bau-ABC emphasises the training of skilled workers – both in the initial training for labour market and in the continuing training for advanced professional positions. Here, the visitors made the point that their members and clients had mainly focused on higher education and continuing professional development of HE graduates.

We agreed to continue exchanges and look for opportunities to develop cooperation. At the moment it would be premature to anticipate possible next steps. Yet – the talks were inspiring and emphasised the relevance of linking clusters from third regions to exchanges with the LL pilot regions.

More blogs to come …

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