The Valencian Regional Minister for Sustainable Economy, Productive Sectors, Commerce and Labour, Rafa Climent, recently presented the first 4.0 smart industry demonstrator for the footwear and auxiliary industries sector in the town of Elda, with fifty leading entrepreneurs from the trade in attendance. This demonstrator was developed by the footwear technology institute INESCOP with a €400,000 injection from the Valencian Institute of Business Competitiveness IVACE.
This smart tool combines the most advanced enabling technologies required to create an intelligent, connected, automatic, personalised, sustainable and collaborative footwear industry, capable of competing at the highest level, all in a unique, integrated space.
Using these technologies will allow companies to reduce their physical samples by up to 30%, design and manufacture a footwear sole for validation in a matter of hours, and obtain real-time data on downtimes between production processes, among other data.
The Regional Minister for Economy, Rafa Climent, defined this demonstrator as “an authentic revolution for the sector, which undoubtedly validates the aid packages we launched in our ministry with the support of IVACE in 2018, aimed at making demonstrators available to companies so they could see how useful new technologies are, how to apply them and how to use their results, while promoting technology and know-how transfers to our companies.”
In turn, the chairman of INESCOP, Antonio Porta, stressed that company receptivity in the trade to the incorporation of innovative solutions over the last 30 years “has been fundamental in laying the foundations for a sustainable digital industry.”
Specifically, Porta made it clear that “digitalisation is necessary for maintaining and fuelling company growth and the jobs they generate, as shown in other industrialised countries, where there is a higher level of qualification, better wages and more employment.”
The role of technology centres
Rafa Climent reiterated during his speech that technology centres in the region are “key players” in this process of change towards new productive models due to their ability to generate knowledge and technology with higher added value and their capacity to transfer these to companies.
“For this reason, from the Ministry for Economy and IVACE, we are firmly committed to cooperation between institutes and companies, as this is the most direct and effective way to identify and enhance lines of research adapted to the real needs of our various sectors.”
In 2019, IVACE Innovation provided support to technology centres to the tune of over €48 million – and this level of support is still operative in 2020, “allowing us to reinstate financing levels prior to the crisis”, according to Climent.
Of the €48 million, €21m went for developing over 100 projects in cooperation with some 500 companies in the region, covering a broad spectrum of technologies and areas of concern for the improvement of competitiveness.
The remainder of the aid, €27m, was used to finance research projects which have not yet provided transferable results, but without which it would not have been possible to achieve advances in new technologies, materials, products and services for companies, with results becoming available over the medium and long term.
The Spanish footwear sector
Spanish footwear companies make up around 20% of the total in the European Union.
The Valencia Region is the leading community in Spain in the production and export of Spanish footwear, with major activity centres in the province of Alicante (Elche, Elda and Villena), Vall de Uxó (Castellón) and a few companies in other locations of the region.
A total of 96% of footwear exports from the region originate in the province of Alicante.