"As the center of the European aerospace industry, Aerospace Valley, the French cluster comprising companies in the Toulouse and Bordeaux region, boasts more than 850 companies, 80 research centers and an accumulated 123,000 employees. And the cluster has an export value 15 times larger than the the second-largest cluster in the country: Bordeaux wine. So socializing has its perks.
'I keep saying that the most important added value of our cluster is actually the network,' explains Thilo Schoenfeld, deptuy director of International Affairs for Aerospace Valley. 'We organize hundreds of events each year for our members, and they are an excuse to get our members to come together, exchage business cards and to converse.' These kinds of events can also stimulate internal competition. 'We have more and more activities now related to helping our smaller companies do business,' Schoenfeld says.
For larger companies, access to the network can help find suppliers and ancillary support without looking too hard. 'Hamburg Aviation is an important network platform for its members,' says Wolfgang Reinert, head of External Communications for Lufthansa Technik, an MRO and achor company within the German cluster. 'It bundles the interests of a variety of players coming from completely different areas in the aviation business and gives them the possibility for a regular exchange of information or for initiating common activities or campaigns.'
To succed in the aerospace industry, it's a little bit of what you know and a little bit of who you know. Put differently: 'It's not about knowing everything, but knowing who might have the answer to a particular question,' Kirchner says. And sometimes it's about finding subcluster communities. 'We also host women's conferences in addition to promoting women's working groups,' says Fiona McKay, business development director for the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance. In other cases, as with Aerospace Valley's inclusion of automotive and rail companies, there can be cross-sector cluster pollination.
There are also clusters of clusters. Established in 2009, the European Aerospace Cluster Partnership brings together 42 clusters from 15 countries. Not stopping there, the consortium organized the first Global Aerospace Cluster Manager Meeting at the Paris Air show last year."
By Katie Sehl
Please see the full article here from pages 63-70.