The first International Congress on Local Production Systems (clusters), organised by the DATAR (French Delegation for Territorial Planning and Regional Action) and the OECD (Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development) was held in Paris on 23 and 24 January 2001, and united over 1,200 people from 45 different countries.
This event was hallmarked by rich exchanges from a broad range of debates. Over the two days,round tables, forums, an exchange fair, cluster villages and field visits to networked enterprises in
the Paris area led to an abundance of eye-witness accounts and opportunities for meetings.
Its success was also due to the diversity of the organisations represented by the participants, i.e.
enterprises, enterprise service-providers, development agencies, local and national communities and governments.
The goal of comparing and exchanging experiences from several of the world's regions-a third of the participants were from foreign countries-was attained. Participation in various forms by five
French ministers (Dominique Voynet, François Huwart, Christian Pierret, François Patriat and Elisabeth Guigou, represented by Catherine Barbaroux) alongside numerous foreign government representatives and international organisations demonstrated France's strong attachment to
developing local clusters.
Local clusters, industrial districts or Local Production Systems-however you want to call them-the many highlighted experiences clearly proved that, for enterprises who know how to organise
together and pool their resources, results are there, engendering economic benefits for both companies and territories.
The exchanges also made it possible to highlight the originality of the "French-style" networks of SMEs. Derived from a local culture of specific enterprise, the clusters weave new bonds around the SMEs with local institutions and professional and civil associations, and they affirm their role in the organisation and governance of nations as specific modes of local economic development.
As part of the extension of leading actions by the organisers since 1997, this Congress is an important step in the process of creating a dynamic network of local clusters throughout the world, and it serves as a genuine starting point for new programmes of French cluster development and better co-operation with the different enterprise networks from various countries.