To increase the innovative capacity and competitiveness as well as for the networking of the high-performing European cluster initiatives with each other, the European Commission provides various cluster and innovation-policy instruments in the different Directorates-General. In addition, most European countries have implemented cluster-specific policies and programs to support the development of sustainable, competitive regions in the national states.
At the European Union level there have been first cohesion policy instruments to develop innovative and regional strategies since the early 1980s. Explicit cluster policy programs have been around since the late 1990s.
On the part of the European Commission the Directorates-General "Regional Policy", "Enterprise and Industry" and "Research and Innovation" are mainly responsible. The three lead Directorates-General have implemented several actions and initiatives in the context of the particular program priorities, which respectively focus on each other differing promotion and support aspects. Nevertheless, the superordinate objectives of the European Commission are:
- improvement of conditions
- facilitate knowledge and technology transfers
- increasing the dynamics of innovation and implementation of research projects
- promotion of practical cooperation between existing clusters, cluster management organizations and cluster actors at European level
- increasing excellence and efficiency of cluster management organizations
- improving information-based situation of European clusters and cluster management organizations through information and cooperation portals
- closer cooperation between regions, institutions and cluster political representatives
Beside the European Commission, the national states have also developed enhanced cluster policies in recent years. Although the country-specific cluster supporting programs also have different priorities in focus and further different instruments are used, they still pursue the same objectives: the need-based support of the cluster actors and the improvement of conditions for a sustainable regional and sectoral development of clusters.
An overview on cluster policies of many countries in Europe conveys the cluster platform Germany. Each cluster program is presented by means of uniform criteria.