The COLLABOR8 Project

Using uniqueness to overcome barriers for SMEs

The challenge

Globalisation creates homogeneous businesses that are often unconnected from the region’s cultural identity. Rural areas, in particular, can struggle to take advantage of rapid changes in technology, and face economic hardship with declining populations and disappearing traditional landscapes.

Careful economic restructuring is required to strengthen their economies and protect their landscapes, cultural diversity and traditions. 

The project in brief

COLLABOR8’s approach was to use cultural identity as a powerful device for collaboration across regions and mixed sectors, in order to offer a “critical mass” of products and services.

Their four main goals were:

  • Use cultural identity and uniqueness of place as a powerful catalyst for forming joint ventures between enterprises.
  •  Break through the barriers of local competitiveness
  •  Improve product and service quality and eco-standards to gain competitive advantages
  •  Maximise the use of new media and new technology by bringing rural areas and small enterprises up to date with modern trends and requirements.                  

Over the lifetime of the project, partners put in place 80 clusters involving more than 2 500 enterprises in the cultural, creative, countryside, recreation and hospitality sectors. Additionally, COLLABOR8 provided 183 training courses in total to regional stakeholders.

A transnational European project, it aimed to contribute to the economic prosperity, sustainability and cultural identity of North West Europe in increasingly competitive global markets. 


We achieved 80 clusters across our partner regions, plus permanent organisations set up to continue beyond the project well into the future.

Noel Spillane, Chief Executive Officer. South Kerry Development Partnership Ltd

The impact

Their success, leading to the development of 62 new joint products and services and 26 new brands across borders, broke the prejudice that economically viable businesses must be based in urban areas.It also used new communication technology to break the old conception of “rural” as far and disconnected, maximising potential and capturing new visitor markets.

One example of their innovation and ambition was the creation of a mobile laboratory that travelled to each partner area during 2011/12, where new technologies and opportunities offered by the creative industries based in Tilburg were shared with enterprises across the partnership. Through access to these new technologies and modern trends, previously isolated areas were able to increase capacity of local SMEs to innovative and expand.

2 500

enterprises involved


new joint products and services


new brands

COLLABOR8 set out to promote economic growth and to combat unemployment. These have been the true successes of the project and will sustain the clusters and networks into the future.

Final report 2013

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