The main objective of the Fostering Single EU Market, Grabbing Third Countries Markets project (FGOI) is to establish a European Strategic Cluster Partnership that promotes cross-regional cluster cooperation in the furniture and related industries. Over a period of 36 months, the partnership aims to enhance collaboration within the EU and with four third countries: USA, Canada, South Africa, and Egypt. The partnership will support industrial and business growth, while fostering excellence, entrepreneurship, transferability, and mutual trust between partner organizations and their small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from the furniture and habitat industry.
Until July 2023, 22 months of the project had been completed. The progress of the project is in line with the proposed actions in establishing a concrete set of initiatives that proceed to the general objective: ”to establish a European Strategic Cluster Partnership that will intensify cross regional cluster cooperation in furniture and related industries, within EU and towards four third countries,namely USA, Canada, Egypt and South Africa in the 36 months of the project.”
The implementation of the project is based on 7 Working Packages, divided among the 8 European clusters members of the FGOI consortium: Transylvanian Furniture Cluster, HABIC Cluster, Wood Industry Cluster, Cluster of Czech Furniture Manufacturers, Interior Sweden Cluster, PRO WOOD Regional Cluster, Bulgarian Furniture Cluster and AMBIT – Living Spaces Cluster.
All the activities implemented during this period were aimed at achieving the set objectives. The Joint Internationalization Strategy was developed and completed in 2022 by HABIC. Also, the strategy document was approved by all partners and it envisaged their commitment to further implementation of the project. Additionally, questionnaires were used to gather insights from both cluster-level analysis and SMEs. The implementation roadmap was developed in order to map the main milestones and activities of the project.
Two strategic partnerships were formed with European organizations, ELCA (International alliance aimed at strengthening the competitiveness of the European lighting sector) and Luce in Veneto Cluster (a lighting cluster made up of 49 SMEs in the smart lighting sector located mainly in the Veneto Region), by signing a Letter of Intent with the Furniture Go International consortium.
Intelligence Gathering & Partnership SME Building is the second main objective, whereas ICS delivered the Market Insights Report in 2021, highlighting the main information about the furniture market in the third countries.
2022 was dedicated to the organization of cluster visits for all 8 partnership members and their SMEs. The partnership and their members learned about the activities of each cluster, participated at interesting events in the industry and ensured networking activities among the present companies. The visits were organized in Bulgaria, Slovenia, UK, Romania, Sweden, Czech Republic, Spain.
Exploratory visits to third countries, in order to identify the main ”hot-spots” for the furniture industry. Transylvanian Furniture Cluster visited Cape Town, George and Knysna in South Africa, during 3-9 April 2022, in order to promote the FGOI project. Interior Cluster Sweden has attended the Sweden Connect Business Summit, hosted by the City of Cape Town at Misfits by Ideas Cartel, with the aim of meeting stakeholders of interest, during 24-29 April 2022. During the Exploratory Visit in the USA, between 13 and 16 June, the Wood Industry Cluster traveled to Chicago and presented the bilateral import/export relations and companies interested in partners for international projects. Transylvanian Furniture Cluster traveled to Toronto & Calgary in order to learn and understand first-hand experience of local organizations and companies in the furniture and design sector in Canada, between 15 – 17 November 2022. Moreover, a delegation of 4 cluster representatives, along with company members, represented the Furniture Go International Project during a two-day exploratory visit in Cairo, Egypt, between 14 and 15 December 2022, with the aim of preparing the business matchmaking missions for next year.
For the purpose of achieving the Growing Business objective, BFC conducted the Feasibility Study on opening a joint representation office in third countries in September 2022. WIC is currently establishing an “Ambassador” function in other third countries, with confirmations for the USA and Canada. Up until now, the confirmed ”Ambassadors” are: Susana Babic (International WELL Building Institute Light Concept Advisory), Denes Levente (associate professor at West Virginia University, USA) and Trevor Kruse (CEO at Interior Designers of Canada).
2 Business Matchmaking Missions were organized in USA & Canada, between 22 and 27 May, in order to build alliances and open markets. A summary of the main events of the business matchmaking mission can be read here: https://fgoi.eu/building-alliances-opening-markets-business-matchmaking-missions-in-new-york-city-and-toronto/
In order to archive Operational Cooperation & Funding, the task coordinator proposed and launched 2 newsletters containing funding opportunities for SMEs and cluster internationalization, through the matchmaking platform of the project.
The partnership has developed a joint internationalization strategy, exceeded targets for SME involvement in case studies, formed strategic partnerships, delivered a market insights report, organized cluster visits, and completed exploratory visits to the targeted third countries markets: USA, Canada, Egypt and South Africa. Additionally, efforts have been made to support SMEs in their internationalization activities, by facilitating their participation at business matchmaking missions.
Measures for long-term partnership sustainability are currently under implementation – but until now, the project demonstrates a strong commitment to enhancing collaboration, fostering excellence, and supporting the growth of EU SMEs in the furniture industry in their quest to enter new markets.
The content of this news represents the views of the author only and is his/her sole responsibility; it cannot be considered to reflect the views of the European Commission and/or the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency (EISMEA) or any other body of the European Union. The European Commission and the Agency do not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains.