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The idea behind the Cluster House

By Thor Sigfusson.

In this article, I will discuss our strategy regarding the cluster houses and how I believe such houses can become a part of a successful industry cluster strategy. I am sure there are other ways to do it but at least our strategy has worked.

Our cluster house initiatives are somewhat pioneering work. Given the success of our Ocean house and now the new Tourism cluster house, we have a proven concept.

Transparency is invaluable for rapid learning and can be a game changer. In light of this, I want to continue spreading the word about how we have set up our cluster work and cluster houses for all of those interested to hopefully add to your knowledge.

The Tourism Cluster House in Reykjavik which opened recently, is a subsidiary of the Iceland Ocean Cluster House. The interest which this new facility has received indicates even stronger the value of cluster houses for the sustainability and growth of industry cluster organisations. The Tourism Cluster House is led by the Tourism Cluster which an independent cluster with great leadership. In the new facility there are already several startups cluster office and offices for larger companies.

The Ocean Cluster House opened its doors in 2012. In the beginning twelve companies had offices in the facilities but they are now over 70. Recent study by the Iceland Ocean Cluster shows that over 70% of the companies in the Ocean Cluster House have collaborated with another company in this facility. The Ocean Cluster House is not government subsidized and neither is the new Tourism Cluster House.

There are five major elements which have made the Cluster Houses unique.

1. The cluster houses are focused on specific groups of industry but emphasize also on the importance of bringing in new services and entrepreneurs which can strengthen the existing industry. For instance, in the Ocean Cluster House we combine core seafood industry people with startups in IT, product design, social media marketing etc. 

2. The cluster organisations have their meetings and gatherings in this space. There, all the members of the cluster meet with startups and get a great insight into the dynamism in the startup field. This develops an interesting community which both parties can benefit from.

3. The space is used by startups and larger companies giving both groups in the cluster a valuable networking opportunity. Here, it is also important to have a mixture of people of different age and gender. We have seen amazing spin-offs where veteran entrepreneurs have collaborated with young entrepreneurs in the ocean cluster.

4. The focus on startups and the startup community gives the cluster house a unique sense of this important part of the cluster. Startups are not often paying members of clusters and are therefore often left out. The cluster house opens the doors for these valuable players in the cluster. It should be noted that we have received grants from large companies to operate a special space within the Ocean Cluster House for startups. This has meant that many brand new startups can have work space for a very limited amount.

5. I am often asked what service we provide to startups. Putting aside some absolute basics such as internet, copying machine and coffee which is of course provided, we want the startups to show a certain character before we start plugging them into our network and assist them further. If the founders show dynamism, organisation and dedication, we become quite excited to assist them, find investors, invest ourselves, assist them in finding the right contacts etc. Our strategy is therefore: if you show dedication we are all in!

We are in the process of opening the New England Ocean Cluster House in Maine this fall. The next steps in Iceland are also being taken. If there are interested parties who want to collaborate with us on cluster houses, we are open for ideas.