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Success through cluster ecosystems: 
Our industry's future

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WMCO by Mike Baker
Mike Baker is the Chief Executive Officer of the Wood Manufacturing Cluster of Ontario. He can be reached at:
In my last article, we discussed how the culture of our industry is beginning to respond to the need for change.
Today I am going to discuss more of what else is being done globally with wood industry clusters, and some real-live results of cluster ecosystems.
A recent global case study was completed on wood industry clusters that exist all around the world. This is an amazing document worth viewing, and I urge you all to do so. You can read it here through this link: Global Wood Clusters: What the World is Doing. It was completed for the New Zealand Forest Service by Ifor Ffowcs-Williams, Cluster Navigators, and Mats Williams, WilConsulting.

In this document, 17 global wood industry clusters are profiled (including WMCO) and compared:
Austria: 2 Wood Industry Clusters
Norway: 2 Wood Industry Clusters
4 Wood Industry Clusters
Further discussion is also included on: Europe, Canada, USA, and Australia.

First, it is interesting to see how many wood industry clusters there are globally, and so few here in North America. It is also specifically worth noting what some of our global competitors in the wood industry are doing:
Sweden and Austria have two wood industry clusters, and Finland has four; all serving various segments and their ecosystems in their countries. You will see in this report that WMCO is the only wood industry clusters in Canada, and actually in North America by definition. So, lets talk about results; here is an excerpt from this case study report:
A reminder of the cluster definition: Clusters are industry-led and managed organizations that represent one industry, its supply chain, academia, government partners, in one region.
“The European Commission highlights that such clusters matter. It is within these clusters that a region has the better paying jobs, the higher growth businesses, and the more successful start-ups. This is because clustering fosters localised competitive pressures and simultaneously enables better access to pools of skilled labour and specialised infrastructure. Active clustering also facilitates knowledge spill over and the coordination of supply chains. As the international case studies demonstrate, physical co-location is an asset for many of the clusters. Social proximity is essential.”

Introducing cluster development
“Cluster development is about lifting the performance of regional specializations, the regional clusters. It is not about creating clusters. Centre to cluster development is cooperation, based on trust. It is about co-petition amongst business, with businesses both competing and collaborating. It is about public agencies and academia being more closely aligned around business needs.
Clustering initiatives are proactive interventions to strengthen the collaborative dynamics between the clustered businesses and other organisations. These initiatives are often operationalized through cluster organisations, specific legal entities dedicated to supporting collaboration within clusters. These organisations provide meeting points for the triple helix of business, research and government.
The roles of cluster organizations are becoming even more central with the need to accelerate green and digital transitions. As collaboration hubs between large and small firms, research organizations and public agencies, strong cluster organisations can catalyze transitions and become a key asset for structurally weak regions.
The international case studies provide many examples of cluster organisations facilitating collaborative projects, bringing businesses together in contexts that lead to increased knowledge, innovation, and business opportunities. These collaborative projects, along with other cluster development activities, are driven by a small team within the cluster organisation. A measure of the success of this team is the scaling-up of the clustering initiative over time.”
“The case studies show some 
impressive changes:
Clustering initiatives 
Ontario’s Wood Manufacturing Cluster has grown over 10 years from seven participating firms to 140.
Estonia’s Wood Houses Cluster, over 13 years, has grown from 20 to 50 members. Exports reach 70 countries.
Sweden’s Paper Province Cluster has grown over 23 years from one staff person to a team of 16 today, the number of participating companies has grown from seven to 125, and the clustering initiative’s budget has increased ten-fold.
Norway’s Woodworks! Cluster has grown over 17 years from 17 members to 75 today, the clustering initiative’s budget has increased twenty-fold.” (Cluster Navigators, 2022)

The wood industry clusters movement is getting momentum, and we are starting to get the attention of governments interested in supporting cluster development. Most important: Industry is showing an interest and supporting it with companies wanting to engage:
WMCO Cluster Results 
for 2021-2022 Fiscal:
41 events including training
700+ attendees
Collaborative projects: 4.0 Integration, Export Readiness
Twenty-two net new company members
New 5-year Strategic Plan implemented
Metrics tracking
Thirteen engaged board members: 
10 Manufacturers, three suppliers

For more information on WMCO, visit 
our website at:

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