European Foundation
for the Improvement of
Living and Working Conditions

The tripartite EU agency providing knowledge to assist
in the development of better social, employment and
work-related policies

EU PolicyWatch

Database of national-level policy measures

Eurofound's EU PolicyWatch collates information on the responses of government and social partners to the COVID-19 crisis, the war in Ukraine, rising inflation, as well as gathering examples of company practices aimed at mitigating the social and economic impacts.

Factsheet for measure NO-2014-23/2552 – measures in Norway

Norwegian Innovation Clusters

Norwegian Innovation Clusters (Klyngeprogrammet)

Country Norway , applies nationwide
Time period Open ended, started on 01 June 2014
Context Restructuring Support Instruments
Type Legislations or other statutory regulations
Category Reorientation of business activities
– Change of production/Innovation
Author Aasmund Arup Seip, FAFO and Eurofound
Measure added 23 June 2022 (updated 09 November 2022)

Background information

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

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.

This case is related to Innovation Norway and Innovation Contracts

Content of measure

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. 

Funding - National government: Funded by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation. Funding - Regional/local government: Local government is often involved. Funding - Employers' or employees' organisations: NA Funding - Public employment services: NA Funding - Other: 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. Examples: No information available.

Use of measure

Effectiveness: 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.

Strengths: 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.'

Weaknesses: 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. 

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Employees in standard employment
Applies to all businesses Does not apply to citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
National government
Local / regional government
National funds

Social partners

Social partners' role in designing the measure and form of involvement:

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role Unknown Unknown
Form Not applicable Not applicable

Social partners' role in the implementation, monitoring and assessment phase:

  • Unknown
  • Main level of involvement: Unknown



Views and reactions




Eurofound (2022), Norwegian Innovation Clusters, measure NO-2014-23/2552 (measures in Norway), EU PolicyWatch, Dublin,


Eurofound publications based on EU PolicyWatch

30 January 2023


Measures to lessen the impact of the inflation and energy crisis on citizens

Governments across the EU continue to implement policies to support citizens and businesses in the face of rising food and energy prices caused by the COVID-19 crisis and intensified by the war in Ukraine. This article summarises the policy responses as reported in Eurofound's EU PolicyWatch database from January to September 2022.


12 September 2022


First responses to cushion the impact of inflation on citizens

Although the worldwide pandemic situation had already disrupted supply chains and triggered increases in energy and food prices in 2021, the situation deteriorated in 2022 with the Russian invasion of Ukraine.


12 September 2022


Policies to support EU companies affected by the war in Ukraine

This article summarises the first policy responses that governments across the EU have started to implement to support companies affected by the rising prices, and those with commercial ties to Ukraine, Russia or Belarus.


5 July 2022


Policies to support refugees from Ukraine

This article summarises the first policy responses of EU Member States, including those of the social partners and other civil society actors, enabling refugees to exercise their rights under the Temporary Protection Directive.


Disclaimer: This information has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process.