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Engaging Stakeholders

Once the regional evaluation is complete, cluster initiatives can begin meeting with individual stakeholders with the eventual goal of convening a large group of interested stakeholders and securing a commitment to proceed with the initiative.

Recruit Prominent Leaders

If possible, fledgling cluster initiatives should recruit at least one or two prominent industry leaders before engaging other stakeholders. These industry leaders will already have extensive social contacts within the industry, and can lend respectability to the cluster initiative.

Ideally, one or more of these prominent leaders should be willing to serve as a champion for the initiative, a powerful advocate dedicated to promoting the cluster among stakeholders. These champions are important in stimulating interaction within the cluster, building social capital, and providing direction for the cluster initiative.

Meet with Stakeholders Individually

Cluster organizers should attempt to meet individually with as many stakeholders as possible. These meetings should be used to raise stakeholders’ awareness of the region’s potential as a cluster and gauge stakeholders’ interest in participating in a cluster initiative.

Networking is important at this stage. While ecosystem maps and other resources developed to evaluate the region are useful for identifying an initial group of stakeholders to contact, this initial group will be able to identify more potential stakeholders to contact.

Prioritize Key Stakeholders

Although a successful technology cluster relies on the interaction of stakeholders from all sectors, fledgling cluster initiatives will benefit disproportionately from the involvement of certain key stakeholder types.

  • Universities and other research institutions have considerable research and development capabilities. They often hold patents for new technologies, but need partners in order to commercialize them.
  • End users such as utilities and large companies hold considerable purchasing power. As potential markets, these organizations drive the commercialization of new technology.
  • Economic development agencies such as local chambers of commerce and business accelerators offer crucial business development expertise, and may have funds available for cluster initiatives or startups.
  • Regional politicians, whether at the state or local level, are vital partners in raising the profile of a cluster initiative.

Early-stage cluster initiatives should prioritize identifying and engaging these stakeholders.

Convene Interested Stakeholders

Once the individual stakeholder meetings are complete, fledgling cluster initiatives should convene interested stakeholders. The goal of this meeting should be to secure a commitment to proceed with the cluster initiative from a critical mass of stakeholders, and to identify a core group of stakeholders willing to formally organize the initiative.