The Foundation for MSME Clusters (FMC), along with UNIDO, CII and TCI Network, organized a two-day international conference on ‘Changing Paradigms of Cluster Development: Learning from Global Experiences’ between February 20–22, 2014 in New Delhi. The conference was supported by the EU, GIZ, Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), SIDBI and Embassy of Switzerland, New Delhi. There were around 210 participants from more than 100 institutions and 24 countries, comprising policy makers, eminent academicians, cluster practitioners, researchers and independent consultants. The Conference was inaugurated by Shri Madhav Lal, Secretary, Ministry of MSME.
Speaking on the sustainability agenda, Mr Mukesh Gulati, Executive Director, FMC said that “Economies of change in the short term are the main driver for addressing sustainable development in MSMEs,”. He opined that change in practices among MSMEs is a bigger factor of change than changes in equipment and technology. Mr Daniel Ziegerer, Director of Cooperation, Global Program Climate Change, Embassy of Switzerland further emphasized this point, and suggested the need to shift from a technology-driven approach to a systematic approach in implementation of projects on sustainability in MSMEs. He also emphasized the need for setting up partner-networks and capacity building of the partner agencies and other stakeholders; innovative strategies; co-financing; and sharing of experiences in order to make implementations more effective. Mr Guillaume Massard, Scientific Director of Sofies SA, suggested the setting up of eco-industrial parks as a long-term solution for addressing the issues of sustainability in MSMEs. He also elaborated on the need for park management structure for proper functioning of the industrial parks. Mr Florian Beranek, Chief Technical Advisor, UNIDO, Vietnam, suggested that steps should be taken to provide MSMEs with customized management tools like ‘reap26’(a CSR-based management and reporting tool developed by UNIDO) that is in line with the ISO26000 standards for responsible, sustainable and successful functioning of MSMEs.
The conference also dealt in detail with issues like innovation, structural challenges and market-led inclusive development that need to be addressed during the process of cluster development. It was suggested that local networks of producers should be created and linked to global value chains, and that policies for cluster development should take advantage of the natural network or pockets of trust that exist in clusters, for smoothening forward as well as backward linkages. The India Backbone Implementation Network (IBIN) system created by the Planning Commission should be utilized to remove bottlenecks in implementation of cluster development policies. The participants voiced the need for a service unit to operate as the knowledge backbone through information collation, research and coordination, etc. A small network of institutions with knowledge in the area of cluster development could be involved in setting up this service unit.