Better construction is built in clusters
The construction sector in Europe is a dynamic force behind growth and employment, amounting to 7% of national employment per gross domestic product and 14% when design and materials are accounted for. However, it is relatively behind in absorbing research and development (R&D) and innovation. The Strategic Research Agenda prepared by the European Construction Technology Platform has set up ambitious goals to transform this traditional sector into a knowledge driven and R&D-based one. In response, the EU-funded Reg con project is supporting innovation-driven areas in Europe or 'clusters' that will house research and construction infrastructure. The initiative will involve regional approaches, multi-stakeholder engagement and cross-regional cooperation. Reg con has elaborated a framework to define the most important elements for emerging, developing and mature clusters. Thorough analysis of potential stakeholders' opinions on cluster initiatives was undertaken through field surveys in each country, taking into account the specific requirements and needs of the relevant region and cluster. The project prepared country reports and a database of potential cluster members and stakeholders. In 2008 it mobilised stakeholders during communication workshops organised in the Basque region, Greece and Poland. Meetings with potential stakeholders took place and intense dissemination activities were undertaken. This laid the ground for forming new clusters in these three regions. Novel action plans developed by the project were an important step in further developing the new clusters, covering organisational, operational, and financial aspects. As a result of all its activities, Reg con also prepared a publication titled 'Regional construction clustering in action. Strategic roadmapping & action planning'. This publication acts as a guideline for cluster formation, featuring examples for construction clustering beyond the pilot regions. Another publication titled 'Regional construction clustering in action. Case study showcase' provides insight into the plans and aspirations of several European cluster regions. The case studies highlight innovation in construction and demonstrate the clustering concept in action. Lastly, by incorporating small and medium-sized enterprises into sector innovation processes, the Reg con project has contributed to a knowledge-based shift in the construction sector. Its actions are still helping to change the face of construction in Europe into that of a leaner and more competitive industry.