QOOT Cluster was recently benchmarked using an approach developed and carried out by the European Secretariat for Cluster Analysis (ESCA), the official European body of Cluster labeling and certification. By taking part in this benchmarking, QOOT Cluster demonstrated its commitment to achieving excellence in cluster management, therefore, was awarded the European Cluster Management Excellence label in Silver.
The ECEI Silver Label “Dedicated to Cluster Excellence” validates the successful implementation of improvement processes initiated in response to a previous Bronze Label benchmarking. The SILVER Label is awarded to cluster management organizations that can demonstrate improvements during an audit conducted by an impartial ESCA cluster expert.
“QOOT is the first Agri-Food cluster in Lebanon and the MENA to receive this label, a sign of readiness to transmit the acquired know-how to peer clusters in Lebanon and the region, noting that only seven Food clusters around the world hold a similar valid certificate”.Stated Marc Bou Zeidan, QOOT Cluster Manager
Benchmarking: Silver Label of the European Cluster Excellence Initiative (ECEI)
Cluster management organizations that are benchmarked demonstrate their interest in striving for excellence. For being benchmarked under the ESCA benchmarking approach by one of the ESCA experts cluster management organizations and are awarded the Silver Label Certificate of the European Cluster Excellence Initiative (ECEI).
QOOT Cluster was analyzed based on a full-day face-to-face interview with the cluster management team, conducted by an impartial ESCA benchmarking expert. The interview covered 36 indicators tackling the strategy and structure, the management and governance, the financials, the services provided, the involvement and interaction of members, the integration into the innovation system, and the achievements and recognition of the cluster, among others.
QOOT’s results were presented by an individual report to the cluster management expert and included also goals for further improvement in line with the requirements of the cluster quality label that is currently developed by the European Cluster Excellence Initiative.
“QOOT Cluster is one of the few clusters in the region to earn the silver label, a certificate of excellence which will help us to be more internationally exposed. We worked hard to coordinate all the eligibility criteria, with different departments during the assessment. Throughout this assessment, we are now ready by 2024 to submit for the gold label”Stated Aline Assaf – Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL) Coordinator.
The Silver Label Certificate audit
The Silver Label audit was based on four steps:
- QOOT as an organization was subject to a Bronze Label benchmarking in 2019, valid for 2 years.
- For the silver label, QOOT’s Management team has filled out a self-assessment document and identified three areas where they have improved in terms of the European Cluster Excellence Initiative’s quality indicators. Each area for improvement was adequately described. It was expected from QOOT’s side to demonstrate how each of the selected improvements impacted the cluster’s overall development.
- After the self-assessment, the audit was followed by an on-site visit by an auditor to validate the assessment and the areas of improvement identified. As a validation benchmark, the criteria of the European Cluster Excellence Initiative’s GOLD Label relevant to the identified areas of improvement will be used. In this context, it was also a chance to determine whether QOOT Cluster meets the “Cluster Management Excellence Label GOLD” minimum requirements. The Silver Label cannot be awarded to a cluster organization that does not meet one of these criteria.
- The auditor prepared a report outlining the findings and making customized recommendations for improvement.
When a cluster organization receives the ECEI SILVER label for the first time, it is valid for two years from the month of assessment. A valid SILVER label can be renewed for up to one year after it expires by repeating the same process. The label’s validity is then extended by three years from the previous validity period.
“This Silver Label Certificate assisted us in developing a clear cluster management system as well as a clear interaction plan between the cluster management team and the cluster participants. It also assisted us in fine-tuning our financial and activity plans for the next three years.”Stated Chantale Khourieh – QOOT Cluster Senior Officer
The European Secretariat for Cluster Analysis (ESCA)
The European Cluster Excellence Initiative was launched in 2009 under the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme as part of the EU’s efforts to create more world-class clusters across the EU by strengthening cluster excellence (ECEI), to carry on the successful work of this pan-European initiative that included 13 partners from nine European countries VDI/VDE Innovation + Technik GmbH, one of the partners, established the European Secretariat for Cluster Analysis (ESCA) to provide practical advice to cluster management organizations. ESCA is now a network of cluster experts from over 30 countries.