EMCC European Monitoring Centre on Change

Norwegian Innovation Clusters

Phase: Anticipation
  • Access to finance
  • Advice
  • Fostering innovation
  • Matching/Networking
  • Support of companies' growth
  • Support of internationalisation
  • Support of SMEs
Zuletzt geändert: 01 October, 2020
Ursprünglicher Name:

Norwegian Innovation Clusters (Klyngeprogrammet)

Englischer Name:

Norwegian Innovation Clusters


Norwegian Innovation Clusters is a programme aimed to support activities in industrial business clusters composed of companies competing internationally.

Main characteristics

Norwegian Innovation Clusters (NIC) was established in June 2014. NIC continues the supply of services that until then had been given through the programmes Arena (since 2002) and Norwegian Centres of Expertise (NCE) (since 2006), as well as introducing a new programme called 'Global Centres of Expertise' (GCE). The aim of NIC is to set up and strengthen cooperative innovation projects in business clusters, focusing on increasing companies' ability to innovate and their competitiveness. NIC is a cooperation beteween Innovation Norway, SIVA and the Norwegian Research Council. NIC contributes with funding, competence services, advisory services, networking services and promotional services. It supports clusters at three levels: 

  1. Regional clusters in an early phase, for three years (Arena);
  2. Regional and national clusters, for five years (Arena Pro);
  3. Well established clusters with a global position, for 10 years (Global centres of expertise, GCE). 

More specifically, the Arena programme targets regional business communities that have a high concentration of companies within one industry, value chain or area of expertise, and that have relevant competence centres. There must be a potential for increased innovation and value creation by way of increased collaboration between these parties. Arena is a three year programme while Arena Pro, introduced in 2019, provides support for five years. The programme offers financial and professional support for implementation of projects. The Arena programme can co-finance activities in process management, analysis and strategy processes, network building arenas, communication initiatives, early-phase idea and project development and learning initiatives. The financing can cover up to 50% of the costs of a project, normally NOK 1.5 million to 3 million a year (€190,000 to 310,000). Professional assistance is also offered through methods and tools for cluster development, workshops and courses, project advice and more.

The GCE targets clusters with a considerable potential when it comes to growth in markets both nationally and internationally. The programme is limited to 10 years.

NCEs (National Centres of Expertise) was a separate 10 year programme similar to Arena, aiming to develop the most important regional industrial clusters in Norway - those with good resources and established competitive advantages. NCE is no longer a programme, but a brand name clusters can qualify for. The main focus areas of the NCE programme was increased innovation, goal-oriented internationalisation, increasing attractiveness as hosts for participating companies and access to tailored competence. Each NCE is knowledge-based, and includes development and financial actors who support the core companies’ development. 


  • National funds
  • Other

Involved actors

National government
Funded by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation.
Regional/local government
Local government is often involved.
Run by Innovation Norway, and with support from the Research Council of Norway and SIVA. A NCE consists of cluster companies, but other actors can range from research and development institutions, public bodies, county municipals to banks.


The ARENA programme consists of 20 cluster projects as of 2020. 12 clusters have NCE status, while three clusters are in the GCE programme.

Samfunnsøkonomisk analyse evaluated both NCE and GCE clusters in 2017. The main conclusions from the report was that the rationale for the programme is still present, cluster status enhances visibility and pride, collaboration between cluster firms increases as a result of the programme, and there are positive effects on employment, sales revenues and value added. The report also concludes that enrolment in the programme leads to positive changes in organisation and in operation. The report does not find support for long-term funding of clusters.


The NCE programme was evaluated in 2011, where it states: 'The programme is solidly anchored in relevant cluster theory, reaches its target group, and offers relevant support to participating business actors. The programme is on track to deliver on its objectives and has initiated and completed a number of activities likely to underpin the overall programme goals.'


The 2011 evaluation pointed to uncertainties relating to whether the initiated R&D and innovation projects reach their full potential through sufficient financing. An additional challenge is how to document impact on innovation. The programme would benefit from a clearer selection of projects. The programme aims at developing mature clusters, but some of the clusters that have been awarded NCE status were best described as emerging. In this way the NCE programme overlapped with the Arena programme that supports less established clusters. The NCE programme has since been discontinued as a separate programme and is now a status clusters can qualify for, while the five-year Arena Pro programme was introduced in 2019 to complement the three year Arena programme. 


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