Written by Mekong Institute  

The Mekong Institute (MI) conducted a two-week Regional Training Programme on SME Cluster Development and Export Consortia from 14th 25th May, 2012 at its Residential Training Center in Khon Kaen, Thailand. This training programme is part of the three-year project on Capacity Building for the Integration of CLMV Economies into ASEAN Economic Community from 2012-2014, funded by New Zealand Aid Programme (NZAID).

Twenty-nine participants from Cambodia, P.R China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam (or GMS countries) attended this regional training programme. They were senior or mid level of officials and staff from government departments from Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Trade Promotion Agencies, Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Business Association and business entrepreneurs.  

The programme aimed to build capacities of business development service (BDS) providers and SME exporters in key areas in SME cluster development; export model development through export consortia; facilitating access of BDS, cluster mapping, technology adaption, innovation, and integration of SME exporters to regional and global supply chains. It particularly sought to enhance the participants capacities and provide opportunities for them to:

To increase understanding of SME and their significance in the context of AEC 2015;
To facilitate formation of SME clusters and export consortia in the GMS countries;
To promote SME cluster linkages and support their integration to regional and global value chains;
To promote SME cluster linkages to reinforce long-term business cooperation and networking between and among the GMS countries.

The training programme was designed and delivered using a modular training approach in which participants went through three progressive stages : i) Learn to Do training on concepts, techniques and tools to be employed; ii) Do to Learn the participants were required to apply what they learned in their work assignments with proper coaching from assigned advisors; and iii) Share to Learn the participants had an opportunity to present the results of their group work, learning experiences and lessons learned.

Dr. Eduardo Q. Canela, an expert in SME Cluster Development and Export Consortia Formation, delivered lectures, led plenary discussions and shared experiences to the participants. Dr. Masato Abe, an economist officer from UNESCAP in Bangkok, Thailand served as invited resource person on regional SMEs and challenges of ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015. Mr. Madhurjya Kumar Dutta, an in-house resource person, shared a session on managing the competitiveness a SME cluster and promoting the SME through a formation of export consortia. Dr. Nittana Southiseng also contributed coordinating the programme.

The training programme was delivered on four inter-related modules:

Module 1: Concepts and principles of SME cluster in enhancing the SME development in GMS. Types, service, size, tools and approaches for developing SME cluster were presented.

Module 2: Importance of SMEs in the context of ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 was included. Participants attentions were drawn intensively on the importance of integration of AEC framework and SME development.

Module 3: Key elements for preparing SME cluster development plan was key focus of this module. This emphasized on preparing the SME cluster development plan (includes setting visions and objectives, and identifying prospective market, products and services, value chain and cluster operation plan, technology and facilities, pattern of cluster and marketing plan etc).

Module 4: Strategies and methods in managing cluster competitiveness to ensure the SME clusters survival and growth were key elements of this module. This module addressed marketing strategies in building trust among the cluster members, effective market linkages, e-marketing, branding and participation in trade fairs.

As part of the training requirements, the participants developed action plans on building capacity for SME cluster development and export consortia formation. The action plans, will be jointly implemented within the frame of six months during June November 2012.

The programme evaluation results revealed a high level of satisfaction among the participants. Participants also provided with recommendations for trainings in the future including (i) adding technical sessions on sustainable SME cluster development and export consortia formation, (ii) introducing discussants that have practical experience and initiatives in developing SME cluster, (iii) allocating adequate time for discussion during field visits as well as for developing the action plans.

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