What is meant by a “Cluster” in this context?

While there are many variations of the term, a cluster in the sense meant here may be understood using the European Commission definition:

“Clusters are groups of specialised enterprises – often SMEs – and other related supporting actors that cooperate closely together in a particular location. In working together SMEs can be more innovative, create more jobs and register more international trademarks and patents than they would alone.”

This definition is similar to that provided by the eminent Harvard professor, Michael Porter:

“A cluster is a geographical proximate group of interconnected companies and associated institutions in a particular field, linked by commonalities and externalities.”

The Geoscience Ireland cluster is based on the collaboration between the industry, the State (notably Geological Survey Ireland (GSI) (a division of the Department of Communications Climate Action & Environment), Enterprise Ireland and the Departments of Foreign Affairs & Trade and Business, Enterprise & Innovation), third parties stakeholders and academic bodies namely Ireland’s national geoscience research centre: the Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences (iCRAG).

In this integrated way, the cluster works together to access new markets abroad, strengthen the participating companies, improving their service offerings and create research-driven value, in aid of sustainable job creation that is not dependent solely on the domestic market (Ireland).

Successful clustering involves close cooperation, unified teamwork and precise policy alignment: the various actors must cooperate effectively to achieve the common goal, namely high-calibre sustainable employment and diversification in targeting geographic markets.

It should also be noted that geoscience is a deep (but largely unseen) enabler of an economy: good geoscience is essential for infrastructure development (such as buildings, road and rail systems) but also for developing the natural environment underground.

Geoscience Ireland companies are experts in geology, engineering (including civil and water engineering), mineral exploration, quarrying but also in habitat restoration and in community development (most notably in Africa). The better the quality of the underlying geoscience, the better will society benefit from superior infrastructure and higher utilisation of scarce natural resources.

Clustering helps co-located firms and organisations become high-performance entities. Clustering works at a system, rather than individual organisation, level. An active local cluster that includes firms and support organisations all working together invariably achieves results that would not be possible individually.