Norwegian Innovation Clusters

Norwegian Innovation Clusters is a government supported cluster program. The program aims to trigger and enhance collaborative development activities in clusters. The goal is to increase the cluster dynamics and attractiveness, the individual company's innovativeness and competitiveness. The program is organized by Innovation Norway, in joint effort with Siva (The Industrial Development Corporation of Norway) and the Norwegian Research Council.

Starting in the early 2000s Norway has had a policy to strengthen its business clusters through a national cluster programme. In June 2014 “Norwegian Innovation Clusters” was launched. The new programme builds on the already existing programs (Arena and Norwegian Centres of Expertise, NCE), adding new levels, modules and elements to further develop existing and potential new cluster initiatives.

The Norwegian Innovation Clusters programme is based on the following understanding of clusters and cluster development:

-      A cluster is a geographical concentration of enterprises and related knowledge communities linked by complementarity or a similarity of interests and needs. The enterprises can gain easier access to important production factors and ideas for and impulses to innovation through interaction and cooperation. A cluster emerges over time, on the basis of location advantages and natural development dynamics.

-       A cluster organisation is a formal institution that is established to facilitate increased interaction and cooperation between participants in the cluster. A cluster organisation is based on an organised partnership between the participants in the cluster, often with public development agencies as important contributors.

-       A cluster development project is a targeted effort over a limited period to strengthen and accelerate the development of the cluster. This is generally achieved by means of a wide range of strategic activities aimed at strengthening the cluster's and cluster participants' competitive position. 

A cluster is generally defined and delimited on the basis of the participants' affiliation to:

  • The same value chain or the same knowledge/technology base
  • A geographical concentration of businesses and related functions
  • A grouping of enterprises and related knowledge communities that have a critical mass that can form the basis for triggering cooperation and dynamic relations between the participants
  • A common understanding of the cluster's importance and vision for further development.

Through annual open calls clusters compete to be part of the program. There are strict criteria to take part in the program. The cluster resources, potential for growth and position in the industry is important, but just as important is that the initiative is founded on the participation and leadership of the enterprises’ common interest and their common ownership to the cluster project. The evaluation of applications emphasizes how the cluster has set their strategic goals for collaboration and growth and how they have made their common plans for implementation of the cluster project. 

Cluster collaboration must be organised in a manner that supports the participants' cooperation pattern. It should always be based, however, on the geographical business hub that constitutes the driving force of the cluster's development dynamics. Successful cluster collaboration will often entail expanding the partnership, also with respect to geographical area.  A cluster can be a very concentrated local group of participants, or be more extensive. The latter applies in particular to typical resource-based industries. A cluster will never be uniformly delimited, but will always have collaborative relationships extending outside the core of the cluster. 

Norwegian Innovation Clusters supports cluster on three levels:

Arena: Immature clusters: Clusters that are in an early phase of organised cluster collaboration. They can be clusters with different preconditions and potential: they can be small or large, and the participants can be in a regional, national or international position. 
Visit the Arena web page


Norwegian Centres of Expertise: Mature clusters with a national position: Clusters that have established a systematic collaboration and that have developed dynamic relations with high interaction and a broad strategic action area. The participants in the clusters have considerable potential for growth in national and international markets. Within their respective sectors or technology areas, the clusters have a strong national position and the participants normally have clear and strong international ambitions. 
Visit the NCE web page


Global Centres of Expertise: Mature clusters with a global position: Clusters that have already established systematic collaboration and that have developed dynamic relations with high interaction and a broad strategic action area. The clusters have considerable potential for growth in national and international markets. They form part of a strong innovation system, based on both publicly funded R&D and the participants' privately-funded R&D. Educational programmes of a high international calibre are available that have clear professional relevance to the cluster, and the cluster comprises global market and technology leaders that are integrated in and have a strong position in global knowledge networks. 
Visit the GCE web page

Arena is a 3-5 year, NCE a 10 year, and GCE a 10 year program. There are annual evaluations of each cluster determining whether they are on the right track according to their strategies and whether they deliver at a quality sufficiently high to continue as part of the program.

The clusters are supported with partial funding, as well as advisory services, cluster development support, networking activities and profiling services.

The program contributes to a documented positive development in each cluster based on the cluster's established position and prerequisites for development. The specific objectives of this development are determined for every level, but should for all the clusters be expressed in the following common goals:

  • The cluster businesses, knowledge institutions and development actors should increase their interaction and cooperation.
  • The cluster should increase their capacity for innovation through collaboration with R & D or other knowledge providers.
  • The cluster should enhance their access to relevant expertise.
  • The cluster firms and knowledge providers should increase their international orientation.
  • The cluster should establish an environment that promotes the development and application of knowledge as the foundation for entrepreneurship, investment, innovation and change.
  • The cluster's resources and potential should be visible.