Purpose-driven communication is central to galvanising and sustaining support around a collective goal. Ronan Cloud and James Hillier, Directors at Copper Consultancy, share their reflections and insight. 

 

Industrial clusters are on the rise. Whether regional or industry-led, clusters are a central pillar to driving collaboration and accelerating innovation.  

Targeting a specific site or sector, clusters bring together knowledge, skills, and R&D facilities to help drive an industry forward towards a common goal.  

But they also bring together many partners, some of whom have conflicting agendas and differing levels of enthusiasm.  

 

So how do you create a cluster? And – crucially – how do you sustain success?  

 

Through our work with HyNet, Hydrogen South West, the Hydrogen in Aviation Alliance and the UK Research and Innovation’s Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge and the West of England Local Industrial Decarbonisation Plan, we have gathered a wide range of perspectives to uncover the key elements that help groups of organisations move from concept to cluster.  

 

1. A shared vision

 

Starting with the ‘why’ is fundamental to a cluster’s success. Sometimes, a specific objective will be obvious – decarbonising a particular site or industry, for example. But, if you’re trying to deliver something new, clarifying your purpose and vision from the outset it vital. Not only does it galvanise involvement, but it can motivate others who share your vision to get involved and pool resources.  

 

For HyNet, the purpose of its Vision Document was to set out why and a major network of infrastructure should be delivered around Liverpool and North Wales. This helped to attract many new businesses, cemented political support, and contributed to the project’s success in securing Track One status, making it an investment priority for central Government. 

 

For Hydrogen South West, we set out to create an infrastructure ecosystem that brings the benefits of hydrogen to the South West.  

This clear objective has resulted in more than 10 partners and 80 members joining forces to accelerate a wide range of hydrogen projects across the region. 

Conducting workshops and gathering insights from stakeholders to define the vision, mission and purpose for the cluster can be the ideal way to kickstart efforts and build bonds.  

 

2. Synergy isn’t just a buzzword

 

The word “synergy” is often lambasted. Vilified over dinner. Over-used on LinkedIn. But in the world of clusters, it has finally found its place.  

Clusters are often filled with many partners from many sectors. All with their own challenges and priorities. Identifying synergies brings themes to the fore. Themes that turn into working groups, and working groups that become projects.  

At the heart of every cluster is a desire to make things happen. And creating synergy is vital to making that a reality.  

 

3. Beat the drum

Launching a cluster is easy; collect stakeholders, define your vision, build a rudimentary website, and issue a press release. The challenge is sustaining its success and building momentum over time.  

A launch will make a splash – the more you spend, the bigger the impact – but waves die down unless you throw more into the water.  

Establishing a regular drumbeat of activity is vital to sustain the noise and build momentum over time. Building a content calendar of updates, events, and activity to document the cluster’s development and key milestones.  

 

4. Don’t just say something, stand for something

 

Everyone wants to be a thought leader. But the first mistake is talking about yourself. No one cares who you are – unless you’re already famous. They only care what you have to say. And they will only listen if you say something that matters.  

So don’t talk about the cluster. Talk about the challenge. What challenges is your sector facing that you’re helping to solve? How is the cluster overcoming those challenges?  

Answering these questions will create a thought leadership platform, from which you can drive out communications, connect with media and demonstrate your expertise. 

This will help put you on the map and give people a sense of what the cluster is really striving for.  

 

5. Accelerating success

 

With a vision created, synergies defined and a drum banging away, the cluster can look at ways to kick on and accelerate success.  

Central to that is joint marketing initiatives and joint bidding opportunities. While some clusters may even contain competing businesses, joint bidding can help to cement your position and turn a solid submission into a robust plan with scale.  

Cluster work means leaving your company lanyard at the door and considering which strengths each individual or organisation can bring to the table to best serve your shared objective. Working with your industry peers can be enormously rewarding, and who knows? You might even learn something new. 

 

6. A driving force

 

Finally, the fastest way to falter is a lack of proper governance and accountability. The buck must stop somewhere. A leader, who is the face of the cluster and cracks the whip among partners is essential to ensuring deadlines are met and promises delivered. Without accountability, a cluster is just a talking shop. Another hour in the diary you can all do without.  

Everyone is enthusiastic at the beginning but the shine soon fades, particularly as the real work starts and knotty challenges invariably emerge. Unless it’s kept fresh, evolves, and grows. This leader can help to ensure it does. They can help turn an idea into an active part of the industry – spoken of at events and highlighted through its growing membership.  

And there you have it. Six points to success. As easy as that.  

 

But of course, it’s never easy, particularly when clusters are trying to do something new. There may not be policy in place, or funding. There may be those who do not believe in your shared objective; and (we guarantee), disagreements within the cluster. 

 

But the will to succeed, plus the expertise – and perhaps these six points as well – and you can set yourself on the path to success.  

 

Get in touch today!