Clusters are groups of firms and institutions that are located close to one another and have grown to a scale sufficient for developing specialised expertise, services, resources, suppliers and skills.
The SBIB argues that "clusters should be based on local strengths," while "Europe should concentrate on sectors where there is the potential for innovation". "Innovation policy should be designed to drive focus and help clusters attain critical mass," the panel asserts.
To achieve this, "EU cluster policies need to recognise that innovation can happen in all sectors," the experts say, citing the fact that innovation can happen in high-tech as well as the food processing, agriculture and footwear sectors as an example.
Nevertheless, the SBIB underlines that clusters must driven by markets and retain the capacity to change as markets change if they are to grow and innovate.
For EU cluster policy to be successful, therefore, it "must be framed to support local action that is attuned to the specific needs and available resources of particular regions," the experts argue.
Furthermore, the SBIB claims that the EU and national governments should work together to "reform higher education" and "remove regulatory barriers" to cooperation between universities and companies.
"Most successful clusters have universities at their heart," the paper argues, lamenting that "many of Europe's universities do not have the standing, the structure or the inclination to pull their weight".
The authors, nevertheless, predict that universities "will not be state-funded, but will be run as public or private foundations" in future.
"Universities also need to promote the development of professor-entrepreneurs, who get involved in the formation of companies based on their research, but retain their university posts," the experts add.
"This calls for a generation of more productive interfaces between universities and industry," the SBIB concludes.