Archive for May, 2005

Clusters being devalued, says UK expert

May 17, 2005

 Cockatoo member, Paquita Lamacraft (Milton Keynes, UK), provides timely advice on the state of clusters. 

‘In the course of our daily work we use clusters as a vital part of a toolkit, but not as a sole activity to advance towards more robust regional economies.  

The ‘dumbing down’ of cluster initiatives is a cause for concern. We know that when clustering techniques are soundly applied and driven by commercial imperatives (and not bureaucratic tick boxes), they work stupendously well.

But the whole terminology has become devalued. Britain is awash with £ for clusters and then they say – ‘but how do you engage industry?’ – after having just claimed great success in cluster strategy development.  I think this makes an interesting point in our development.

Those of us who got together at the outset of CAP (foreunner to Cockatoo) to form it did so because we recognised clustering as a tool that worked and that our business and industry understood (enlightened self-interest) that in turn created a better regional business climate etc.  

In fact , John Dean and I sat and looked at each other at the first of our Economic Development Institute courses in San Diego and said – ‘Hey! They are talking theory with a label – we’ve been doing this because it just seemed logical and are 2 years down the track as practitioners, as are many of our colleagues”. Neither of us recognised until then that the term ‘clusters’ had been developed by Porter to categorise this process – well, I should not speak for John, but I didn’t for sure!’

Natural advantage of nations!

May 17, 2005

 Bob ‘no relation’ Brown reports that he has recently reviewed a book, ‘The Natural Advantage of Nations: Business Opportunities, Innovation and Governance in the 21st Century’, Edited by Karlson ‘Charlie’ Hargroves and Michael H. Smith, Published by Earthscan, 2005, ISBN 1-84407-121-9 

The book provides policies, strategies and methodologies aimed at achieving global sustainability in human activities.

An essential message is that competitive advantage and sustainability of companies and/or nations are not mutually exclusive; there are many examples of companies increasing profitability because they change practices so that sustainability is improved.

Michael Porter from Harvard Business School is quoted, “The notion of inevitable struggle between ecology and the economy grows out of a static view of environmental regulation, in which technology, products, processes and customer needs are all fixed.”  

The book includes contributions by the Natural Edge Project group.

Go to www.thenaturaladvantage.info  Bob recommends the book as a great source of ideas for business & industry leaders, engineers, architects, planners and society generally. See the ManSA REVIEW at – http://mansa.ieaust.org.au/editorial.htm The book is available from EA Books – see http://www.engaust.com.au/bookshop/

Marine Industry – Gold Coast

May 17, 2005

A meeting of Forum members in late 2001 voted to establish the Gold Coast Marine Industry Association in Australia.

It now has 60 members drawn from a cross-section of the region’s marine industry. The key issues that occupied the time of the Association in its formative years are as follows.

Training Needs Analysis

The association was oncerned that industry growth could lead to severe labour and skill shortages, hence a Training Needs Analysis was commissioned. Completed in 2002, it was a catalyst for the Queensland Department of Employment and Training and the Gold Coast TAFE to significantly expanded their marine industry training activities for both skilled trades and in supervisory roles. 

Gold Coast Broadwater Navigation Channels and River Dredging

The Gold Coast’s estuary system demands constant dredging and channel management. The situation has become critical e.g. Broadwater, Coomera River. The Gold Coast Marine Precinct, with its important super yacht refit and maintenance facilities, is located upstream on the Coomera River. A task force won a commitment from the State Government and dredging is underway. 

Overseas Boat Shows

The Gold Coast Marine Industry Association, in conjunction with Gold Coast City Council, assisted members to enter export markets through jointly funded displays at IBEX Miami and Boat Shows in Fort Lauderdale, Dubai, Phuket, Singapore and Shanghai. 

Future directions

The Association is currently planning the following initiatives:
§          The development of generic promotional material.
§          Production of newsletters and membership directories.
§          Facilitation of forums and seminars covering appropriate business issues.
§          Lobbying to address business constraints e.g. transport, environmental & infrastructure issues.
§          Supporting a marine industry supply chain study and strategy development.
§          Assisting development of the marine industry as an internationally recognised centre of excellence.
§          Seeking funding to research marine industry training needs & develop professional training programs.
§          Liaising with Local, State and Federal governments re impediments to industry growth. 

Upcoming tasks are to form alliances and combine capabilities to achieve success, as well as developing local, interstate and international markets for products and services.   

Contact: Jfountain@goldcoast.qld.gov.au

Bigger role for local government in aid projects

May 17, 2005

 There is now a substantial and timely opportunity for local government to flex its muscles in the aid field.

AusAid is currently taking advice on the role of local government in the Tsunami relief effort. Why not broaden the agenda beyond the countries affected by the Tsunami, and also widen the supply base of consultancy expertise?  The problem is that aid projects need long-term commitment if the full benefits are to be realised – parties from both sides must continue to connect the dots over a lengthy period. And the aid expertise also needs to be broadly based, to capture all the opportunities. These are rarely maximised if the contractors are mostly private sector and education agencies who need to turn a profit.   The window for local government lies in providing some ‘patient’ expertise in water and roads infrastructure, environmental/waste management, town and regional planning, industry development, investment attraction, cultural awareness etc. Local government has real expertise in these fields.   Councils also have a similar mindset to the managers of the aid in the recipient country, who are usually local government bodies. Councils in Australia can also tap into the expertise of companies in their immediate region. Robust, outcomes-driven ‘twinning’ arrangements would build strong foundations for long-term cooperation.  We are about to initiate discussions with AusAid on this subject. Please contact us if you have an interest.  

France – 20 centres of competitiveness!

May 17, 2005

A key plank in France’s industrial strategy is its 47 technopoles (S&T parks) designed to align the relevant skills in a network – universities, research centres, businesses, local communities etc.

The better known are:
§          Sophia Antipolis – specialising in computing, telecoms, electronics, health sciences.
§          Rennes-Atalante – ICT.
§          Montpellier – health.
§          Optics Valley (Palaiseau – suburbs of Paris).
§          Grenoble – nanotechnologies. 

Now the French Government has announced support for an initial 20 centres of competitiveness in both high technology (nanotechnologies, biotech etc.) and traditional industries undergoing structural change (automotive, railways, aeronautics, engineering etc.).

The aims of these centres are:
§          to prepare for the transition to a knowledge-based economy. At the Lisbon European Council (2000), France agreed to increase its public and private R&D expenditure from 2.2% to 3.0% of GDP by 2010.
§          To provide international showcases for France’s industrial and scientific achievements.

France is especially keen to prevent the relocation of companies abroad, and to profit from globalisation. The centres of competitiveness will be supported by tax incentives and exemptions, reductions in social charges, special funding and guarantee systems. 

Germany has created centres of competitiveness in seven regions since 1995 – in energy, transport and aeronautics. Also, several autonomous communities have emerged in Spain e.g. Catalonia is now a leader in telecoms, microelectronics, health and the environment. 

Source: French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.