Competitive clusters

Irstea’s involvement in competitive clusters

The Irstea position

Similar to the Carnot label in terms of objectives, the policy of the competitive clusters differentiates itself through its internal logic, which is at once territorial and thematic. From our point of view, these two aspects constitute a coherent and complementary whole whereby the establishment can seek to enhance its knowledge and competences. It is for this reason that it has considered it appropriate to make use of both elements.

Thus, as a targeted research organisation with a strong territorial presence, Irstea has naturally become rapidly interested in competitive cluster dynamics.

Its involvement is one way of fulfilling the desire set out in the previous four-year 2005-2008 Government-Irstea contract, to consolidate the localised partnerships and further optimise the work in the interests of socio-economic development.

Participation and compliance with governing bodies

The opportunities identified have enabled Irstea to become involved in more than a dozen clusters, one of which is global and two of which have a global approach.

This involvement was, in certain cases, evident from the initial stages of the cluster propositions; in other cases, it resulted from subsequent discussions; ultimately, it can be linked to a cluster’s participation in a qualifying project which rendered it affordable.

Therefore the intensity varies depending on the proximity of the cluster themes in relation to the research orientations of the units concerned.

The result is a presence in the cluster’s leading organisation – in this case, associations under the 1901 law – adapted to the importance of planned or expected contributions: from more occasional cooperation, to clearly defined projects, to participation in the governance of the cluster as the coordinator of a thematic area or as a member of the scientific or administration councils.

At the end of 2008, Irstea was cooperating with 11 of 71 qualifiers. It remains in contact with several others. Among them, two have a global approach and five are “MAP Clusters” or focused on “agricultural” or agri-food themes.

The summary table indicates the clusters with which it cooperates and the themes with which it is associated.

An overview

At the competitive clusters, the Irstea association is completely coherent in its strategic plan. It contributes to the development of local partnerships and its own involvement in regional dynamics with economic operators and centres of research and expertise, in addition to local authorities (regional, in particular) which pay attention to the well-being of the clusters and offer their support.

In addition to a certain number of organised activities suggested by the cluster leaders, there is a real interest in the assembly of partnership projects, supported mainly – following calls for projects and validation by the cluster authorities – by the funding provisions in place, the ANR (national research agency) or the single fund, as well as several regions. Seventeen projects thus approved are underway with the participation of one or more Irstea teams and coordinated by the establishment in certain cases.

This overview must be adjusted as variations were noted in the cluster activity and project production. Among the 11 clusters:

  • six are of particular interest, either due to institutional positioning, the assembly and support of the projects or the two points combined;
  • five retain an interest (visibility, networking) but have not yet made headway in any significant projects.

This situation will naturally evolve, in terms of the dynamism of each of the clusters or the themes to be developed by the establishment.

At present, and beyond the interests of Irstea, it has come to light that several national clusters are not functioning in an entirely satisfactory manner. Following the evaluation of the clusters carried out in 2008, developments, restructuring and even cuts could take place.

In light of these developments and their own strategic orientation, the implementation of a new performance contract with the Government will lead Irstea to revise its positioning. However, on the whole, it intends to continue and strengthen its collaborative research partnerships and cooperation in projects of this description, where it is plays the role of both beneficiary and contributor in terms of the dynamics and local network effects.