Interview to Eudald Casas “we are looking for strengtherning the competitiveness of the sector through the cooperation

“25% of projects developed from INNOVACC have been successfully implemented in companies and more than half have a feasibility study.”With 8 years of experience, INNOVACC has positioned itself as a reference cluster that brings together 89 companies and institutions from the Catalan pig sector with a common goal, to improve the competitiveness of the sector through innovation and cooperation. Throughout these years, the entity has developed a total of 119 projects, 25% of which have been successfully implemented and have provided innovative solutions to companies. In order to know what is the activity that is developed in INNOVACC, in this issue of the ‘Informativo Porcino’ we speak with its manager, Eudald Casas.

What is the purpose of INNOVACC?
INNOVACC was born in 2008 with the aim of strengthening the competitiveness of companies throughout the value chain of the pork sector in Catalonia, through innovation and cooperation. To achieve this, we first work to build trust among the cluster members, since everyone wants to prove that INNOVACC is useful and that being part of it is worthwhile. From here, our work is to promote and execute projects proposed by the partners, through an open and participatory methodology and, in many cases, provides innovative solutions that are eventually implemented in companies.


What is the main advantage of belonging to a cluster?

What sets us apart from other traditional associations is that there are partners with different activities, and not all are competitors. In INNOVACC, the smallest company is as important as the largest company, whether it is a meat industry or a machinery company or a supplier of hygiene solutions, etc. Often, ancillary services provide the most innovative proposals for development and testing in farms, slaughterhouses or processing industries. Be that as it may, competing companies regularly participate in INNOVACC-driven projects, and we see that they share a lot of information and know the best practices of each of them, which is very positive, since we believe this is the best way to That the Catalan pig sector continues to be competitive.

Who is part of INNOVACC?
We have 89 partners, 71 companies and 18 institutions, among which there are signatures of the whole value chain (livestock, slaughterhouses, meat processors, machinery manufacturers, logistics services, additives manufacturers, engineering, consulting, health laboratories …) , As well as institutions related to the sector (universities, chambers of commerce, research centers, professional associations …). As for figures, we can highlight that the associated companies have an approximate turnover of 3,340 million euros and employ 14,071 workers.

What indicatives show that the cluster works?
What works most in this sector is word of mouth. Entrepreneurs and company executives talk among themselves, and if INNOVACC did not do our job well, we would have a hard time surviving. Fortunately, the evolution of INNOVACC is positive, and year after year new partners are added to the cluster. In 2008 there were 61 partners and we are now 89 partners. On the other hand, it is also possible to verify the good trend of the project-to-project cluster, depending on whether it has been a significant improvement and has been implemented. In this sense, of the 119 projects initiated, more than 25% have allowed a solution to be implemented in companies, more than 40% have reached the pilot and / or prototype test phase, and more than half have a viability study.

What is the daily work?
The three people working at INNOVACC are mainly focused on boosting R & D & I projects related to pig production and the meat processing industry. We listen to all the partners in the cluster and, based on their proposals, help them to promote, contribute and develop innovative practices, as well as their international projection and visibility, through the exchange of information, knowledge and collaboration in innovative, technological and Organizations. We also support our partners with the dissemination of conferences, courses, seminars, international missions, etc.

What are the main projects that have been developed from INNOVACC?
Since the creation of INNOVACC, 119 projects have been initiated and developed in different strategic areas: innovation in raw materials, food safety, traceability, production processes, products, packaging and packaging, as well as internationalization projects, benchmarking And communication.

How do they fund these projects?
Projects involving more partners, which normally have a clear vocation to help the whole sector, are accustomed to receive public aid, although there is always a part of private co-financing. On the other hand, we also carry out accompaniment in the development of confidential projects, where few partners of the cluster participate, which usually develop without subsidies and more quickly. The experience we have accumulated over the years allows us to know very well which are the best financing options for each of the projects, so in the projects we promote, we are in charge of processing all the documentation for the helps.

On the other hand, as regards the position of pork on the market, what is the current situation regarding consumption?
World consumption of pork continues to increase, mainly due to a significant upturn in consumption in China and other Asian countries, a situation that will continue to continue in the coming years. And Catalan companies are well positioned to continue exporting their products to these countries. From INNOVACC, we will support any initiative related to maintaining and increasing exports, for example to overcrowded countries such as China, India, Brazil, Nigeria, Mexico … Moreover, it is true that in the more developed countries consumption has decreased somewhat Of pork, but far below the fall in beef consumption. In addition, pork, along with chicken, still represents a significant part of the diet in these countries. The same happens in Spain and Catalonia, so from INNOVACC we will promote all kinds of projects related to health, such as products low in salt and saturated fats, iron enriched products, products without allergens, organic, free of antibiotics …

In the foreign market, the closure of the Russian market was a challenge for the sector. Which are the markets that have absorbed the swine production that before went to Russia?
The truth is that, given this situation, companies in the sector have shown that they are well prepared to face difficulties, and most of our partners have maintained their production and export figures, increasing sales in other parts of the world and even opening new markets , But above all, increasing business figures to Southeast Asia. On the other hand, sooner or later the Russian market could reopen, so we will stay alert. Meanwhile, some Catalan companies have already decided to settle in Russia.

Finally, as a cluster, which are the future challenges?
As a major challenge, we would like to reach 100 partners by 2019. On the other hand, we will continue to focus our efforts on promoting and coordinating innovation projects, as well as research and development projects. In addition, we have decided not to concentrate all our projects on the porcine, since many companies specialized in pork offer other meat products and, as a cluster, we are willing to accompany them in the projects that we can propose.

Interview published in the magazine Informativo porcino