Small and middle-sized business, cluster, competition, cooperation, regions, knowledge, experience
The admission of the Czech Republic into the European Union made substantial changes for small and middle-sized businesses. The advantage of the admission can be seen in the extension of the market with broader import and export. The small and middle-sized businesses are more vulnerable because of smaller economic reserves and more limited capital. Employees of small enterprises have more limited access to professional education, information and consulting services and they are threatened by competition of large businesses. Problems of small and medium-sized businesses brought up considerations about possibilities of increasing their competitiveness by supporting innovations and introducing formation of business clusters. According to foreign experience, clusters provide an opportunity not only for the development of small and middle-sized businesses, but also for the development of regions. This cooperation opportunity is also used by firms in the region of South Bohemia. At present, there are three active clusters: CEVTECH - The centre of waterworks technologies, EKOGEN, Ltd. - cluster for processing small inorganic waste materials in construction industry and the South Bohemia wood manufacturing cluster. In preparation are: Brewery cluster, Renewable sources of energy (Technology for utilization of biomass) and Welding cluster. First clusters of CEVTECH and EKOGEN were established in 2006. The surveyed manager of these clusters considered the first year as positive. They were not fully satisfied with the cooperation with certain institutions and with complicated administration. They also emphasized the importance of subsidies for further activities of the clusters. In the region of South Bohemia, 12 new subsidy applications were submitted to the clusters program, 7 of them were approved. The survey among small and middle-sized companies revealed that the middle-sized companies have certain awareness of the business clusters, but small businesses know almost nothing about them. Small businesses showed only a minimal interest in the cluster membership, the present state of entrepreneurship suits them well. Good running clusters could increase interest in cluster formation.