In many countries, clusters promote economic growth and employment. Clusters attract new technologies, qualified personnel, and investment in research. Co-operation between groups of enterprises, which allows reducing the cost of acquiring knowledge or technologies, creates more learning opportunities, allows the allocation of risk and costs of research and applied activities, encourages flexibility, and also helps to reduce the time of leading new products or processes to the market is becoming an increasingly important condition of succeeding in competition.
At present time, 46 cluster initiatives are identified in Lithuania. Some of them are still at the embryonic stage or are presented only by groups of enterprises whose gathering was sparked by the desire to take advantage of the EU structural funds. Only a quarter of the identified clusters are being formed naturally, in developing new products or services through long-term co-operation and seeking to gain a bigger market share, thus enhancing the overall competitive ability of the cluster enterprises.
The following can be classified as naturally formed clusters: Vilnius Cinematography Cluster, Laser and Engineering Technologies Cluster, E-services Cluster, Photovoltaic Technology Cluster, MONAK2 Modern Home Creation Cluster, Odontology Innovations Cluster, ABBI Cluster, Plastics and New Materials Cluster, iVita Wellness Cluster, and ELIT Cluster. The foundation for these cluster formations – long-term mutual co-operation in the development of new products or services and the opportunity to seize a bigger market share owing to joint effort, thus increasing the overall competitive ability of the cluster enterprises.
Most clusters form in the service sector, where the number of cluster formations is remarkably higher than in the industry sector. Especially many cluster structures are initiated in the sector of services that change the physical or mental characteristics of the client (especially in the field of health promotion and cultural industry) and information services. In the processing industry sector, most cluster formations establish in the sectors of chemical industry and food and beverage industry. The lowest number of clusters is recorded in the sectors of the textile industry and wood and furniture industry.
In Lithuania, clusters form in economically strongest cities (Vilnius, Klaipėda, Kaunas, and Alytus), which have the most dense concentration of operating economic entities and highest employment rate. However, certain embryos of clusters can be found in the Lithuanian provinces and some regions have their own specifics (Biržai, Druskininkai, Kėdainiai, Mažeikiai, Ignalina, etc.).
As far as the international scope of Lithuanian clusters is concerned, it can be stated that most of the clusters participate in international projects (Baltic Sea Region 2007-2013, EUREKA Eurostars, projects funded by the 7th EU Common Programme, etc.) and other EU initiatives in creating the knowledge and innovation space and develop commercial co-operation with foreign partners.
The essential strengths of the activities of the Lithuanian clusters include favourable conditions for their operations (relatively affordable and qualified labour force, favourable location in terms of logistics, well-developed logistics infrastructures, and high level of the engineering capability of the enterprises).