DECIDE – Digital Services for Circular Economy – a Toolbox for Regional Developers & SME

Funded by: Interreg Danube

Project duration: 1.1.2024 – 1.7.2026

The future holds many challenges and the EU responds with respective programs and objectives, like Agenda 30‘s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Fit for 55 – the EU’s plan for a green transition and especially the Circular Economy Action Plan (part of European Green Deal). The latter sets clear objectives which also contribute to the goal of the other programs: Make sustainable products the norm in the EU; focus on the sectors that use most resources and where the potential for circularity is high, including batteries and vehicles, packaging, textiles, plastics, ICT, construction and buildings, food, water and nutrients; ensure less waste; make circularity work for people, regions and cities.

With regard to the EU response, it is clear that Circular Economy Business Models (CEBM) are given a special role in addressing current and future challenges at a transnational level and that they are significant for achieving the set objectives. However, the development and implementation of CEBM meets common obstacles in the DR such as local regulations contrary to the circular concept, lack of infrastructure for waste treatment, lack of recycling technology and especially a lack of adequately planned business models.

This is where the project aims to intervene by providing methods and tools to SMEs, Startups, Economic Developers for the development of successful CEBM by modelling existing best practice CEBM (in batteries, food, textile, packaging, smart city), in-depth simulations on ecological and social dimensions and continuous monitoring of the CEBM’s success – protected by blockchain technology. Accordingly, the implementation of practical pilots and targeted qualification measures will ensure a thorough understanding of CE value chains and allow for knowledge transfer from the existing best practice CEBM across borders and sectors within the DR, turning the supposed weakness of geographical segmentation into a new and unique innovation accelerator.

Founding a moringa cluster in Uganda

Joining Ugandan moringa producers to make Uganda a global hotspot for high quality and transparent moringa products.

The cluster aims to group the Ugandan moringa producers, who work with thousands of smallholder farmers and produce high-quality and transparent moringa products, in order to make Uganda a global hotspot for high quality and transparent moringa products.

Partners: VDI/VDE-IT (DE)

Date: June 2021

Cluster’s website

EU Interreg DanuBioValNet

Multiple countries’ effort to enable the transition from a fossil-based to a bio-based economy in the Danube region.

Start date: 1.1.2017
End date: 30.6.2019

Overall: 2320844,8
ERDF Contribution: 1.857.124,54 EUR
IPA Contribution: 115.593,54 EUR
ENI Contribution: 0

Bioeconomy has a huge potential in the Danube region which could promote development based on innovation, new services, and value chains. The development of new bio-based value chains from primary production to consumer markets requires connecting firms across national boundaries and industries. Together with other expert groups from across the Danube region, Anteja helped to articulate a joint bio-based Industry Cluster Policy Strategy to further promote bio-based value chains. The clusters and SMEs benefit from the innovative tools and methods developed for transnational cross-clustering. Three sector-specific value chains were established and serve as a model for future development of bio-based industry activities in the Danube region. The main stakeholders include the four ministries from the region, the clusters and their SMEs, and the nine cluster organizations involved.

Project’s website

Project’s report

Meier zu Köcker G., Patzelt D., Dermastia M., Osvald D., Švajger G., Keller M. (June, 2019). Common Action Plan towards better framework conditions for bio-based eco-innovation in 1 Danube Region. DanuBioValNet.

EU Interreg S3-4AlpClusters

Multiple countries’ effort to enable the Alpine regions to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth of economically viable activities.

Start date: 1.11.2016
End date: 30.4.2019

Total eligible costs: 2.521.964 EUR
ERDF grant: 1.929.500 EUR

The S3-fAlpClusters project enhanced smart industrial transition in the Alpine regions through the interplay between clusters and Smart Specialisation Strategies (S3).

The Smart Specialisation concept is an integral part of the EU Cohesion Policy. Several EU regions have developed their Smart Specialisation Strategies (S3). The challenge is to implement S3 through clusters. In the Alpine Space, the implementation of S3 by clusters and cluster organizations can offer an innovative approach for improving innovation capacity.
Cross-regional approaches can serve to support coordinated actions between different sectors or regions. Transnational cluster cooperation helps to achieve a critical mass of SMEs and enhances cross-regional collaboration in relevant Alpine Space areas.

The activities of fourteen project partners included:
– exchanges of information and knowledge among political decision-makers from different regions of the Alpine region, including business, academics and civil society
– facilitation of innovation through cluster initiatives (innovation groups) across the Alpine Space with a strong technological orientation and a high degree of complementarity between the clusters
– cluster-to-cluster cooperation involving all relevant stakeholders: regional political bodies, academic institutions, business and civil society.

Project’s website

Final publication

Bersier J., Keller M. (2019. Smart Specialisation Strategies with Smart Clusters. S3-4AlpClusters.

INSPIRED, empowering SMEs in Bangladesh

Technical assistance for the capacity building of the national SME support infrastructure and the preparation of the Bangladeshi national SME development strategy as well as the management of the SME competitiveness grant scheme.

Reference: EuropeAid/130016/C/SER/BD, Programme Components 1 and 2b

This Technical Assistance (TA) program was aimed at ensuring, under the Component 1, that an adequate policy and strategy for the SME development is established and that that key institutions, such as the Small and Medium Enterprise Cell (SMEC) of the Ministry of Industries (MoI) and the Small and Medium Enterprise Foundation (SMEF), have adequate capacity and clear roles and responsibilities to support the SME development. Furthermore, under the Component 2, the program aimed at strengthening some of the Business Intermediary Organizations, thus, allowing them to better support their members, increase their membership and work upon behalf of their sector, and support private sector development, in particular facilitate the development of dynamic clusters with efficient backward and forward linkages.

The program included:

  • a multi-sectoral and inter-ministerial national strategy and action plan for theSME development, addressing all aspects of SME support, including improvements in the business environment in line with accepted international best practice
  • a strengthened national capacity to plan and implement SME development
  • an effective SME networking mechanisms aimed at sharing best practices
  • the SME Competitiveness Grant Scheme of €6.5m to business intermediary organisations in the following sectors: agro-processing, natural fibres, leather, plastics, light engineering, electronics, furniture and textiles
  • a support to clusters by using value chain development initiatives that seek to increase the SME competitiveness in agreed sectors and provide capacity building to business intermediary organisations (BIOs) in lobbying, advocacy, networking, public-private sector dialogue and the provision of business development services (BDS) to their members.

Anteja led the development of the SME Cluster Development Policy, promoting linkages, networks and clustering of SMEs on a sector-specific basis. This included advice on the value chain development, training for policymakers and the SME Foundation staff, benchmarking of cluster related organisations, institutional needs assessment analysis for cluster development, development of Cluster Strategy and financial support mechanisms.

INSPIRED was funded by the EU and the Government of The People’s Republic of Bangladesh. The contracting authority was the Ministry of Industries, the main beneficiary. Other beneficiaries were the SME Foundation and the Bangladesh Bank. The programme is aimed at supporting the development of SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) in Bangladesh.

Partners: BMB Mott McDonald BV (NL), Formaper, Agency of Milan Chamber of Commerce (IT), International Development Ireland Ltd (IE)

Client: European Commission

Date: 2012 – 2016

EU Interreg Clusterix 2.0

EU Interreg Clusterix 2.0

Contributing to the implementation of the Smart Specialization Strategies through clusters and value chains

EU Interreg Clusterix 2.0 addressed the improvement of regional innovation policies by making a better use of clusters. The evaluation was based on benchmarking that explored the role of the regional cluster excellence portfolio to provide inputs for development and testing innovation models. Assignment included documentary review and analysis of key features of Smart Specializations Strategies and cluster programs. It also involved analysis of the policy making process, the program development and the implementation process against regional economic objectives and benchmarking of selected clusters. Additional activities consisted of preparation and implementation of interviews, peer review workshops and identification of good practice and tools for the S3 implementation via clusters.

Date: 2016

Project’s website

Bridge to Boston: cross-Atlantic value chains in medical technology clusters

Helping Boston based businesses in medical technology to identify value chain opportunities related to intermediate and final markets.

With this project, Anteja assisted DELIVER, Business Development Office of the Mannheim Medical Technology Cluster in its international outreach. With DELIVER and selected companies in the Mannheim cluster being well-positioned to pursue opportunities for technology development collaborations, inward investment and US market access, Boston was identified as one of the priority cities with which to establish reciprocal relations. Focused on Boston-based businesses in the medical technology area to identify value-chain opportunities associated with intermediate and final markets. Assignment included documentary review, elaboration of value proposition for companies in the Mannheim Medical Technology cluster. Additional activities included analysis of the cluster environment and institutional settings in Mannheim and training for cluster members on how to successfully initiate business in the Boston area.

Client: DELIVER, Business Development Office of the Mannheim Medical Technology Cluster

Date: 2016

Poly4emI, developing innovation policies for biopolymer industry

The project contributed to Slovenian innovation policy with a new policy model for a more systemic approach to stimulate the development of the biopolymer industry. 

Poly4EmI was established in 2013 and it became a cluster coordinating and supporting entity in Slovenia, working closely with the Ministry of Regional Development and Ministry of Science in Slovenia. Poly4EmI tested and applied the Cluster Management Excellence approach for clusters in emerging Industries and new value chains. It developed a variety of new services to be offered by cluster organizations to support industrial transformation.

Poly4EmI also indicates that Slovenia has been excluded from cluster development related initiatives at EC level and globally for a decade. Consequently, dedicated attention has been given to internationalization of clusters and proactive participation at EC cluster excellence initiatives. Poly4EmI successfully evolved in Poly4EmI cluster internationalization platforms that bundled and coordinated effort of traditional and new clusters and operated at a macro-regional level, such as Alpine Space, Danube and Adriatic regions, EU, US and Africa. Poly4EmI supported the implementation of SRIPs – Strategic Research and Innovation Partnerships in Slovenia. SRIPs are key institutions for implementation of Smart Specializations Strategy. All of them put clusters and cluster excellence in the core of industrial transformation and creation of new value chains. Poly4EmI promoted Cluster Excellence and ECEI approach and was nominated by the Ministry of Science to act as a regional partner for ECEI.

Poly4EmI addressed the challenges of Slovenian innovation policy through developing a new policy model for a more systemic approach to stimulate the development of the biopolymer industry. The existing policies and policy instruments do not provide the framework conditions for the biopolymer industry and clusters to develop at scale and speed required to address the bio-based material needs of bioeconomy. This calls for policy makers to play a more active role than in the past in setting suitable framework conditions to support cluster dynamic and new forms of international and cross-regional cooperation models.

The Slovenian Ministry of Education, Science and Sports led the consortium composed by:

Anteja worked with the Automotive Cluster in Slovenia and provided the following services:

  • advice on overall project design and implementation
  • design and implementation of peer review and stress test with peer regions/clusters
  • conducted the benchmarking of clusters, and facilitated cross-cluster cooperation to create new business opportunities
  • international cross-cluster platform
  • inputs for road mapping.

Partners: ​​Slovenian Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, Center of Excellence POLIMAT, Polymer Competence Center Leoben, Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia

Client: Automotive Cluster Slovenia

Date: 2014 – 2016

Global Biopolymer Network (GBN)

A project that builds on the transformative power of biopolymers that hold the potential to tackle global challenges and contribute to solving major environmental problems in developing countries.

One of the most pressing global challenges we are facing today is how to leverage the power of new knowledge spread over the globe and regions to help to address the global economic and environmental challenges. New forms of international innovation networks are required, since no single place or a single cluster could  possibly host all necessary competencies to assure regions and companies to stay at the forefront of the new global value chain.

The Global Biopolymer Network builds on the transformative power of biopolymers, since they hold great potential to tackle global challenges and at the same time contribute to the efforts of solving major environmental problems in developing countries. Biopolymer applications emerge from scientific, technological and engineering approaches, which require new forms of international science and technological collaboration.

The Global Biopolymer Network supports cross-sectorial linkages and brings together scientific and technological know-how of developed countries and abundant resources and talents from developing countries around the idea of transformative power of biopolymers and biomaterials.

GBN’s members were:

These institutions provided support for the development of a biopolymer based platform. Two biopolymer workshops (Biopolymer workshop at JKUAT – Jomo Kenyatta  University for Agriculture and Technology, Nairobi, Kenya, Biopolymer workshop at CBBR – Centre for Biomedical and Biomaterials Research (CBBR), Mauritius). Additionally, various multilateral meetings were organized by GBN, in which many diplomatic community representatives took an active role.

Services provided:

  • enabling leadership in biopolymer development initiatives
  • identification of biopolymer potential in addressing  global challenges
  • identification of research and innovation fields with potential for transnational collaboration
  • design biopolymer workshops and facilitation  of first such workshop  at the JKUAT, Nairobi Kenya and second one at ANDI, Mauritius
  • facilitation of the design of research and innovation agenda: Biopolymers for Human Well Being program.

Project’s publication:

CE PoliMaT. (2013). Biopolymer Workshop Mauritius,

Improving innovation and competitiveness in Mauritius

Setting up innovation policy and improving competitiveness of scientific industries in Mauritius.

This project was a follow-up activity of the Biopolymer Workshop ‘Setting-up of a bio-based industry in Mauritius’ organised by CBBR in May 2013. The need to establish an innovation policy was recommended as a top priority for Mauritius. The main aim of the ANIS Workshop is to provide a neutral screening of the current status of the entire Mauritian Innovation System and its main determinants for the emergence of “Knowledge- Based Industries” (ex: Agricultural Biotech, Ocean Industry, Life Industry…). A sufficient understanding of these determinants and how they can be addressed in the future for further improvements is very important in order to assure long-term competitiveness and innovation capability of all the key stakeholders and actors of the Mauritian innovation system. 

Partners: VDI/VDE-IT, Centre of Excellence for Biomedical and Biomaterials Research (CBBR)
Client: The World Bank Group
Date: 2014

Final publication:

World Bank Group. (June, 2015). Mauritius, a systematic country diagnostic.