Is there a collective noun for clusters? I ask only because I was in Sheffield this week for the second face to face meeting of all the clusters who are part of UKC3, UK Cyber Cluster Collaboration. OK, ten of the thirteen were there but it was still a great meeting. I guess that UKC3 is a cluster of clusters, a super cluster perhaps?
What is interesting about getting together is the opportunity to understand what each of us is doing. We are all trying to address similar issues and going about it in similar ways yet each cluster has its own nuance, its own objectives and addresses them in its own way. No two clusters are truly alike. This is good as there is always something to share and learn.
Going back a little further, David from Sunderland Software City and I were sitting over a coffee and thinking about clusters in the North East. We wondered if there was some natural order to them, a lifecycle with a birth, a maturity and ultimately, a death? He suggested there was a circle of clusters. Cue Elton John!
As these throw away comments always do, it got me thinking. Why bother with clusters, what are their objectives and how do we know when they are done?
In short they should start with a community of people with similar interests who meet socially to share their passion. As the cluster comes together it identifies common issues that the members could work on together. These then become the basis of a business plan and the cluster matures, bringing on resources to help it realise its goals.These tasks wax and wane depending on the challenge and the cluster continues to develop, addressing more and more common opportunities.
Eventually, there must come a point when all of the issues are addressed and the members of the cluster are working together, competitively and collaboratively in a common field. What is left then is to meet socially and talk about their passion.
The circle is complete.