1- What is a competitiveness cluster?
A competitiveness cluster brings together firms, research laboratories and educational establishments from the same sector to work together. They lead projects that foster innovation and give partner firms the chance to become first in their fields, both in France and abroad.
France provides support for cluster development at both a national and regional level. The French State’s main contribution is its financial support through specific programs; however, the French government also helps clusters find international partners and other French public actors.
Clusters have been created according to different industrial themes. Each cluster is dedicated to a specific topic linked to the industrial sector of each cluster’s area. Today there are over 71 clusters, and 12 are devoted to the agro-food sector.
2- Developing clusters, a new industrial policy
The innovative way of gathering industrial, scientific and educational actors on the same geographical area has 3 main upturns.
• It represents a new source of innovation and stimulates the flow of information and skills, which then encourages the creation of more innovative projects.
• The physical concentration of all actors in one area gives the cluster an international visibility; it is a source of attractiveness.
• Firms’ competitiveness is linked to their fitting in their geographical environment with the surrounding of adapted skills and partners. Gathering all the production components also helps curbing delocalization.
3- What are the clusters’ three steps of development?
• The first step took place from 2005 to 2008 and aimed to create clusters by bringing together actors with complementary skills.
• From 2009 to 2012 contracts of performance have been instituted. These contracts settled goals and priorities to each cluster. They also define indicators of performance to help both the government and the clusters’ actors to follow the development of the project. This step was also dedicated to strengthen links between the cluster and its area. Clusters also had to look at new funders, especially private ones, to back their projects.
• The third step started in 2013 and will end in 2018. During this third step clusters will focus on projects that could be industrialized and would create new jobs for the sector. Clusters will also have to strengthen their educational role and to develop their international links. Finally clusters will favor the cooperation between large firms and small and medium enterprises.
4- French competitiveness clusters in the agro-food sector look toward international markets
One of the key strategies for the future is to develop international partnerships.
In this aim, Valorial, Agrimip Innovation and Vitagora have joined their resources by creating the Supercluster F2C Innovation (French Food Cluster Innovation). It has resulted in two partnerships, with Kyushu Biocluster from Japan and Portugal Food. These partnerships consist of research cooperation concerning plant extract projects.
F2C have also launched the WoFIN (World Food Innovation Network), which conducted the signature of a MOU (Memorandum Of Understanding) in 2011 between food industry clusters from France, Italy, Belgium, UK, Canada, etc.
In the green chemistry field, the Industry&AgroRessources cluster has coordinated the setting of the first European bio refinery project, Biorefinery Euroview. In that same field, they also collaborate with the Star Colibri project which supports innovations by speeding up and facilitating industrial exploitation of research results in the biorefinery field, with technical and legal support and funding. These projects and more generally Industry&AgroRessources’ R&D projects are being conducted in collaboration with many countries such as the United States, Japan, Brazil, Belgium, Finland…
Concerning fishing and fish breeding, AQUIMER has developed a partnership in Morocco and Quebec, for trainings and R&D projects.
5- “Meatic,” an example of a competitiveness cluster’s project, dedicated to food science
The project “Meatic” belongs to the Valorial cluster, located in Brittany. This cluster is devoted to food science; its main areas of research are milk, egg and meat products, food microbiology, functional ingredients, health nutrition, process and packaging
Meatic benefits from three laboratories and a 7.7 million euros budget (2.3 million euros are from State funding) to develop new food items.
It aims to provide industrial solutions to reduce the amount of salt, fat and additives in meat products (like ham, sausages, rillettes, pâtés…) by using new natural ingredients. For instance, four years ago a pound of average ham contained 0.37oz of salt, it now contains 0.28oz of it. One of Meatic’s objectives is to reduce salt concentration down to only 0.17oz of salt per pound of ham within 4 years.