5 Reasons That Made CLEAN Win Award As Europe’s Best Cluster

October 31, 2016

(Images courtesy of CLEAN and RegioStar)


Two weeks ago in Brussels, Belgium, CLEAN (formerly Copenhagen Cleantech Cluster) together with Capital Region of Denmark and Region Zealand proudly won the prestigious RegioStars Award  for “Europe’s best regional project” in the ‘Smart Growth’ category.


CLEAN was established in 2009 as one of the most ambitious cluster project in Denmark’s history by Region Copenhagen, Region Zealand and Copenhagen Capacity. The cluster project initiative had 12 partners whose five-year plan among others was to build 1000 jobs. Since then, CLEAN has continued to evolve and establish its focus in developing green growth solutions by focusing on five areas: Tests & Demonstrations, Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Matchmaking, International Outreach and Partnership Facilitation. It has more than 170 members including knowledge institutions, industry promoters, leading cleantech companies and public authorities. The project has led to impressive results by creating more than 1000 jobs, supporting about 126 start-ups and facilitating numerous new cooperations and partnerships.


Many clusters try to develop different focus areas as they strive to achieve inspiring accomplishments.

Danish clusters have won several awards such as GOLD label in Cluster Management Excellence by CLEAN, Gate 21 and WelfareTech clusters. Nicolai Sederberg Rottbøll the CEO of Quercus Group & Lead Expert in Cluster Development attributes the success of such clusters to the following 5 points:


  1. Clear measurable goals and outputs -  From the beginning, CLEAN tried to be very concrete in terms of defining goals and output, which were measured systematically every 6 months

  2. A decentralized but well coordinated organizational setup – In the case of CLEAN, all 12 partners were involved with concrete roles and deliverables. This was a new approach compared to most cluster organizations that tend to try to deliver everything themselves instead of creating an environment where everybody can do what they are best at whilst still working towards the shared mission and goals

  3. A clear and ambitious internationalization strategy – CLEAN focuses both on attracting foreign companies to the cluster and supporting the internationalization of Danish companies to markets abroad

  4. Defining a comprehensive exit strategy including a long term financial model and a membership model to ensure that the cluster organization was self-sustaining after the expiry of the 5-year EU funding period

  5. Strong focus on supporting start-ups and SMEs in their business development and in connecting them to larger companies. Additionally, it is crucial to ensure continuous dialogue and active engagement of private companies in concrete activities of the cluster


Clusters have been widely recognized as a catalyst for job creation, accelerated innovation, branding, SME growth, productivity and internationalization. According to Nicolai, clusters will continue to play these vital roles as well as creating value for their members by developing a strong focus on KPIs and member engagement. 


Nicolai Sederberg Rottbøll was among the initiators of CLEAN and thereafter the CEO from 2008 to 2012. He later founded Quercus Group in 2012 as a consulting firm specializing in advising in cluster development including facilitation of strategic processes, stakeholder engagement, organizational development, financial models, membership models and cluster internationalization. For more information, contact us at info@quercus-group.com or read more on www.quercus-group.com.



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