As we start 2019 and make our plans, as good evaluators the TCI Cluster Evaluation Working Group (CEWG) thought we would look back on 2018 and reflect on the year.
2018 was a very busy year for the group, with active participation across the TCI family of events, which took us from Australia to Canada, across Europe and into Africa and Asia. It was also a year where we started to be able to share the work we have been doing with a wider audience through other conference participation.
We kicked off the year at the TCI European conference in Sofia where we delivered a session looking at evaluation and policy. As well as sharing the work of the CEWG, including key outputs such as the Principles to guide evaluation and the Perfect Cluster (Initiative) Framework (more details here) we were joined by a panel of experts from Innovation Norway and Vinnova who shared their experience of past, present and future approaches to policy evaluation.
In May the CEWG had its annual meeting, this time hosted by Cork Institute of Technology. As ever in the working group we spent some of our time continuing to address our collective questions (this time focusing on evidencing the value of clusters through a framework of effects), and some time exploring new areas. In Cork this second area was the role of clusters in Smart Specialisation Strategies and how evaluation can help both to evidence impact and shape strategic focus. Thanks to John Hobbs at CIT and the ecoRIS3 Interreg project for hosting us so well (including a visit to the Franciscan Well Brewery).
TCI Australasia was our next stop, with stimulating discussions on the challenge of evaluation and a specific cluster evaluation workshop. Evaluation was also a hot topic for the newly funded F&D clusters supported through FIAL. Thanks to Tracy at TCI down under and to TCI member FIAL for a great couple of days.
This year was also a time when we took some of the outputs and work of TCI to discuss and debate in other conferences. There is a genuine interest in the work of the group and TCI, with our unique collaboration of policy, practitioners and academics adding real insight to the challenge of how we truly evidence the difference that a cluster approach makes. We presented both at the Regional Studies Association winter conference in London in November and at the Triple Helix conference in Manchester in September, where the idea that you need to bring together the Triple Helix (policy, practice and academia) to evaluate the Triple Helix found in clusters was well received.
In addition to discussing the work of the TCI WG at academic conferences, we’ve also developed a teaching case on cluster evaluation that has been used within the European Foundation for Cluster Excellence training modules in Kazakhstan and Botswana. The new case has helped build interest in the working group, and in TCI, as well as supporting the development of cluster evaluation practice.
The culmination of the year was of course at the Toronto TCI Global Clusters conference. A very participative cluster evaluation workshop helped further challenge and debate the indicators and evaluation frameworks that should be used for cluster evaluation both at an individual, a group and a system level.
The next meeting of the TCI Evaluation Working group will take place the 15-16 April in Skane, Sweden. Click here and register for the meeting!
Madeline Smith, Innovation School, The Glasgow School of Art
James Wilson, Orkestra and Deusto Business School
Emily Wise, University of Lund