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The Basque Country, European regional best practice in competitiveness and cluster strategy

2014 October 20
  • The role that clusters will play in the Basque Smart Specialisation is stressed to the European institutions
  • The challenges facing Basque industry include recouping its importance in the Basque economy and equipping it with greater technological value

The Basque Government’s Minister for Economic Development and Competitiveness, Arantxa Tapia, was in Brussels today to take part in the institutional opening of the European Conference on Clusters and Competitiveness, organised by the European Commission.

The institutional panel included the European Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, Fernando Nelli Feroci, the General Director of the French Ministry of Industry, Alain Schmitt, and the Basque Country represented on the panel the group of regions classified as the most competitive in Europe.

During her speech, the Minister argued that all the institutional levels of the European Union should include defending dedicated industrial policies on their agenda in order to become more competitive in the context of the world economy.  A commitment to cutting-edge industry, where the regions that part of the European “Vanguard” initiative, of which the Basque Country is a member, are playing a driving and leading role.

As regards the Basque economic model, which was here selected as an exemplary model by the European Commission,– due to the importance of industry in its economic structure and to the cluster policies driven since the 1990s-, Tapia stressed that “we are at a key moment for the Basque Country to focus on striving to search for better value through medium-high technology activity".

The Minister provided an overview of the Basque cluster policy.  She pointed out that the policies in the 1990s sought to construct new competitive advantages and that the success of this policy could be seen in the growth of GDP over the last 30 years, which places us among the 5% of the top European regions in terms of GDP per capita.

However, she added, in 2014 we are at a critical moment in terms of reflection and change. Despite its importance in the Basque economy, manufacturing industry has been in decline since that start of the economic crisis in 2008, and currently, it accounts for 6% less in GDP than in 2005.

“We are facing new challenges relating to industrial transformation, such as recovering its standing and ensuring the industrial character of the region in the future, along with increasing the technological intensity, shifting to activities with greater value added and with great potential for the Basque, Country," which she called Basque Industry 4.0.

"Medium and high intensity activities have performed better for some time now.  In fact, pharmaceutical, IT and electronic products, transport equipment, and machinery and capital goods – all medium-high activities -, are the only manufacturing sectors that have grown with respect to 2008".

Smart specialisation in the Basque Country to enhance competitiveness

Minister Tapia explained to the European institutions that the Basque Smart Specialisation strategy is precisely directly linked to meeting those challenges.

Smart specialisation that combines a cross-cutting priority linked to Advanced Manufacturing, a key sectoral area such as Energy, and the commitment of a diversification field in search of a high technology business with high growth potential, such as Bio-sciences.

“This is the context in which we are managing the adaptation of the cluster policy, so that it is more closely coordinated with the other strategies, such as Specialisation.  We are therefore looking to improve cooperation between the companies belonging to the same cluster and to increase their performance.  This impetus is always from a regional perspective, which is the reason why we believe clusters will play a fundamental role in developing Smart Specialisation, as their areas of expertise will be more effective to meet the development and growth opportunities.

Tapia ended with a class to European politicians.  “We are aware that important changes are necessary to link our cluster policy with the RIS3 emerging strategy, that we need a European cooperation framework to achieve success, and we are sure that our region is prepared for a challenge of this type".

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Politicians attending the event
(X term 2012 - 2016)