Effective cooperation between local stakeholders is one of the key success factors for Tourism 3.0 to thrive, but this cooperation needs to be well focused on strategic goals, in a way that many different types of cooperation may be developed. This article explains how SMEs in the same region create an alliance developing four types of cooperation to gain and advantageous position in the international market.

Smart Factory Alliance is a partnership of several SMEs created in order to gain the kind of visibility that just bigger companies can achieve. The collaborative initiative has internationalization and global customers as one of its main goals. The partnership takes place in the growing market of the so called Industry 4.0, one of those emergent contexts of new technologies and disruption in which we think collaboration supposes a core element for its development.

Five companies in the IT sector from the Basque Country (Spain) have set up the Smart Factory alliance aiming to boost their internationalization and being able to obtain contracts with large companies. The alliance will allow partners to offer integral Industry 4.0 solutions to manufacturing companies.

Four types of collaboration. Each of the five companies is specialist in several areas, so the alliance adds on the competence and solutions of each of them, promoting a more integrated, specialized and competitive offer. According to Tomás Iriondo, CEO of Gaia, an industry cluster promoting the initiative, “by working together, these companies can now address more distant, larger and more complex clients thanks to a collective solutions map and a portfolio that becomes one of the widest for Industry 4.0 demands”.

To strengthen the partnership, Smart Factory Alliance has established four types of collaboration. Shared knowledge is considered the most important one. And the most critical, as this sharing will only be possible if first a climate of trust among partners is created. Another two kinds of collaboration will involve common communication strategies to reinforce visibility, and detection of customers and projects. Finally, setting up the Alliance comprised also the technical integration of products and software developed separately by each of the companies partnering.

The Basque culture has collaboration as one of the key values that make it more competitive than its neighboring regions’. It has proved to succeed in many other cooperative ventures. For instance, three years ago, ten Basque companies in the designer furniture and equipment sector joined forces to grow in the retail market. This is a subsector in the world of specialized furniture and equipment for all types of shops in which customers include from a single store to chains, franchises and brands, and large commercial areas or the design of showroom. It’s a huge market but competing for global customers requires a wide range of services.

Creating a common brand, Basque Retail, they can now meet this challenge because each of the firms has a specialized portfolio (furniture, security lights, wood cladding, design lamps …). The alliance makes possible for them to offer complete projects, that is to say, to ‘dress’ from top to bottom a single commercial site or hundreds of stores from the same chain or franchise.

Each one of the companies partnering at Basque Retail keep its own activity coexisting with the one generated by the common brand. The alliance is been possible despite being very different businesses. Some of them are small companies and never worked internationally, some others have been exporting for years. Turnover, sales and products are quite different, but their goal is the same one: to be able to offer a comprehensive solution to both a customer with a single store and one that has a thousand.

Collaboration leading to more collaboration. Internationalization has been also a main driver. Just recently, Basque Retail and its solutions were presented in Düsseldorf during the main global trade show for this sector. For most of partners in Basque Retail, with their sales limited to Spanish market until recently, been able to have a stand in Düsseldorf would have been unthinkable just few years ago.

Currently, close collaboration between companies is working so positively and leading to so many new ideas that they are even considering to create a new collaborative sub-brand focused on “sensorial marketing”, an increasing demand from brick and mortar commercial sites competing with online e-commerce.

This post is from www.co-society.com/basque-smes-collaborate-get-larger-global-customers/

Posted by Jordi Pera

Jordi Pera is an economist passionate about tourism, strategy, marketing, sustainability, business modelling and open innovation. He has international experience in marketing, intelligence research, strategy planning, business model innovation and lecturing, having developed most of his career in the tourism industry. Jordi is keen on tackling innovation and strategy challenges that require imagination, entail thoughtful analysis and are to be solved with creative solutions.

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