Nurturing a Needed Knowledge and Innovation Culture

EBRD EE outlook on Romania

Read the latest Outlook on Romania 2017 special report


Andrei Kelemen

About Andrei Kelemen

Andrei Kelemen is executive director of Cluj IT Cluster. Throughout his professional career he has held various management positions in private and public bodies where he managed numerous projects worth tens of millions of Euros. In particular, he acted as a management consultant for Babes-Bolyai University. Prior to that he led the Information Compartment in an EU structural funds management organisation of the Ministry of Labour. Andrei holds a Master’s degree in public administration from Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. He is currently pursuing a Doctoral degree in international economic affairs at the same university with a thesis on clustering, internationalisation and proximities.

Many have dubbed Cluj-Napoca the emerging Silicon Valley of Eastern Europe. Although this is debatable (for many reasons which are not within the scope of this short article), one thing is clear: technology has found a good home in my native city.

More than 400 companies, employing more than 15.000 people (approximately 10 per cent of the entire active working force), are contributing to what has become the main economic pillar of the Cluj region. Although approximately 60 per cent of the aggregated turnover is generated in Bucharest (against 12 per cent in Cluj), companies in my region account for almost 70 per cent of Romania’s IT exports.

Together with the very powerful educational sector, the IT industry is literally changing the landscape of the city with new complex buildings, offices and residential; new services and a new infrastructure to support a lifestyle that has become a model for many in Romania. A recent World Bank study showed that Cluj is the most preferred destination for Romanians who are considering a move within the country, outranking Bucharest and all the other major cities.

So, if this is not San Francisco, then what makes this city so attractive?

While space is limited I have tried to summarise a few possible explanations, with an eye on what the future holds for Cluj region.

Technology is not new to Cluj. The city is the birthplace of some of the first computers in Romania: the famous (at least locally) DACICC-1, followed by the more performant DACICC-200, both developed in the 1960s. They were a product of the Institute for Calculations of the Romanian Academy, which is now considered the place of origin of Information Technology in Cluj.

From here, knowledge in computer science spread across the region, first with the contribution of the universities, and then with emergence of the first entrepreneurs (immediately after the fall of the communist regime, in the 1990s). So, tradition is definitely part of the answer.

Cluj is the perfect test bed for almost everything: new social models, intercultural relationships, education and public services, technological advancements and business in general; they are all echoed in some way by the community. This happens continuously, throughout the whole year, with perhaps the exception of August.

Here is why: there are approximately 100,000 students, enrolled in ten public and private universities, who flock to the city every autumn, eager to make a life for themselves. Officially, Cluj has a stable population of 312,000, so the impact of almost 100,000 students is, obviously, of great magnitude. They are the driving source behind many of the initiatives that have emerged here, or in other places. They are also the source of talent that the local IT industry needs. More than 2,000 of them graduate each year with a specialty that relates to technology; from computer science to robotics. Therefore, students and a generally vibrant young community is also part of the answer.

There is also an important innovation eco-system that is driven by the presence of universities and research institutes. Cluj is home to the largest public, higher-education institution in Romania, Babes-Bolyai University as well as other prestigious schools such as the Technical University or the University of Medicine and Pharmacy. They have infrastructures and knowledge that fosters many innovation-based initiatives.

Although its potential is insufficiently exploited, there are now encouraging signs that this eco-system is becoming more and more connected with the entrepreneurial behaviour that is being manifested by the Cluj community.

Which brings me to another reason why Cluj is at the epicentre of technological development in Romania: start-ups are not a rarity anymore. More and more people, especially technically savvy younger individuals, are willing to take this risky road to building a business from scratch. Investors, business angels and venture capitalists are starting to pay attention to this forward-moving landscape, with the important aid of incubators and accelerators.

My short review of the technological success of Cluj cannot be complete without mentioning “motivation”; this underlying consciousness about the unrealised potential of an Eastern European society that has now had the chance to manifest itself. It is a powerful fuel that I hope will keep the engine running, despite the political and societal turmoil that looms over the entire continent.

These are all reasons to further nurture a culture of knowledge, innovation and entrepreneurship, not for the benefit of the few, but rather for safekeeping a way of life that has been refused us for decades.


The views expressed in this opinion editorial are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Emerging Europe’s editorial policy.


Princess Marina Sturdza: Things Are Bound to Improve for Romania

Central square in Iasi town Moldavia Romania

Robust First-Quarter Growth in Romania

emerging europe romania brasov

A Family Between Britain and Romania

london emerging europe

Romania To Stay Close After Brexit

Greg Hands

Romgaz and GE Partner in a New Power Project

romania GE

Romania Could Catch Up in Innovation

innovation emerging europe

Romanian Upgrade to Emerging Market is on the Cards

Romania capital market

What Was First on the Romanian Table?

food romania dragut emerging europe

Political In-fighting Must Be Resolved

Sorin Grindeanu

Alexandru Petrescu: Romania Is Working to Solidify the Highest Growth Rate in Europe

BUCHAREST ROMANIA - MAY 1: Unidentified people relax and socialize in the green area of the Promenada Mall on May 1 2014 in Bucharest Romania. The mall has a gross floor area of approx. 110000 m.

Romania’s Short-Term Prospects Remain Solid

romania economist

Romania Will Be a Hot Topic in Europe

Privatisation, Past and Present in Romania

energy privatisation romania emerging europe

Poland and Romania: Almost 100 Years of Friendship That Is Still Growing

warsaw poland emerging europe

Romania Can Foster German Partnership

frankfurt emerging europe

Juncker’s “More, Together” Offers Romania a Better Future

aspen institute romania emerging europe

Risky (but Rewarding) Business

risky business

Romanian Wine Is Making a Comeback

Romanian IT Business Statistics Are Promising

ANIS romanian ICT

Romania Says No to Corruption

Corruption romania

Romanian Market Moving Towards Rebalancing

Changing Perspectives and Showing That True Romania is a Vibrant Innovative Country

People Power Reminds the Government of the Rule of Law

The Bucharest Stock Exchange Has Started the Year on a Promising Note

stock exchange bucharest

The Competitive Edge in Central and Eastern Europe

SOFIA BULGARIA - MAY 5: View of the Ivan Vazov National Theatre in Sofia on May 5 2016. Sofia is the largest city and capital of Bulgaria.

Merging and Growing Romania’s Outstanding Broadband and Other Infrastructures

electrogrup emerging europe

Romania’s Economic Outlook Is Bright

Different Romanian Lei Banknotes on the table

Seven Reasons for Optimism in Romania

gazelle emerging europe romania

Romania — Decades After Two Milestones

View of Palace of Parliament in Bucharest Romania

Romania’s EU Membership Was Slow to Be Appreciated But Now the Tide Is Turning

Romanian Palace Of Parliament

Netherlands and Romania’s Love-Match Continues

romania netherlands emerging europe

Romania’s Infrastructure Development Is Slow

roads romania

Building on CEE’s Established Reputation for Quality and Value

Romania’s Government Plans to Grow the Country’s Already High ICT Reputation

romania ICT emerging europe

Can Romania’s success last longer?

brasov adecco emerging europe

Romania’s 140 Years of UK Cooperation

Romania in 2017 in Brief

romania emerging europe

Romanian Wine: A Growing Opportunity

halewood wine

Romania Needs to Follow its EU Membership With Some Sweeping Reforms to Avoid Stagnation

Bucharest Romania - March 07 2016: Bucharest Sky Tower Business Center. Bucharest urban landscape.

The Goal for Romania — the Positives Outweigh the Negatives

ebrd emerging europe romania

Romania’s European Values Are Changing Public Misinformed Opinions

world bank emerging europe

It’s Time for Romania to Roar

outsourcing romania emerging europe global sourcing association

A Country of Beauty and Warmth That Will Reward Those Who Visit With an Open Mind

Cityscape Brasov

Driving the Romanian Automotive Industry

opel romania

Romanian Banks Must Use Lessons Learned

romania emerging europe banks

20 Years of Romanian-US Cooperation

usa romania emerging europe

Surprising Resilience of Romanian Social-Democrats

BUCHAREST ROMANIA - June 21 2017: Liviu Dragnea President of Social Democrat Party speaks in front of Parliament during a no-confidence vote against Sorin Grindeanu's Cabinet.

Office Real-Estate Is Burgeoning in Romania

romania office space emerging europe

Romania Works to Cement its Position in the EU

european union

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *