Introducing The Packaging Cluster: The Future of Packaging is Here!
The packaging industry is facing major challenges as companies seek to reduce their environmental impact. One company that is at the forefront of this effort is Packaging Cluster from Catalonia, a nonprofit organization that promotes innovation and sustainability in the packaging industry.
The packaging industry is under a lot of pressure to reduce waste and improve sustainability. Consumers are demanding more environmentally friendly packaging, and companies are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint. In a recent interview, Mònica Riera who is Responsible for European Projects and Entrepreneurship, discussed some of the challenges facing the packaging industry and how her organization is working to address them. They have been leading the way in the industry for over a decade. With over 130 active members, the cluster has worked tirelessly to help member companies improve their competitiveness, promote innovation, and generate new business opportunities.
European and regional projects
One of the cluster's recent successes is the Safe Smart Food project, which was born in 2019 thanks to funding from the COSME program of the European Union. The project brought together the regions of Austria, Latvia, Lithuania, and Spain with the aim of promoting internationalization of the associated clusters and their companies and strengthening their management capacities to improve the environment of the agrifood sector.
The project concluded in September 2022 with a final event in Barcelona that saw the participation of members of the European consortium and stakeholders. The consortium has achieved several milestones, including improving their Cluster Management Excellence Label, creating individual and partnership strategies, developing a training e-book, conducting joint activities to strengthen cluster cooperation and online hackathons, and bringing together 50 representatives from the agri-food and packaging sectors to share best practices and learn about trends shaping the global markets.
The Packaging Cluster is involved in other two projects at the European level, that bring together several clusters to move towards a more sustainable food system: Global Foodture and Smart Specialisation Platform for Food and Packaging. Global Foodture is designed to boost the sustainable transition of the food system worldwide through collaboration and innovation, while the Smart Specialization Platform accelerates the transition towards sustainable food packaging and supports EU countries and regions in the development and implementation of research and innovation strategies for smart specialization.
At national and territorial level, projects or proposals for activities are carried out with transversal clusters such as printing (ATEX&Qplant), textiles (TRACEABLE PACK) or meat (SOFLEX), between others. "It is very important to work together with other sectors to learn from new methodologies and the knowledge they have, so that the ecosystem is enriched, and we grow in harmony," Mònica Riera explained.
The packaging sector in Catalonia (a region with 7.7 million people out of the 47 inhabitants of Spain), our core business, has demonstrated its strength and resilience in recent years, as explained by the quantification carried out. Packaging companies account for 4% of the Catalan GDP, with 716 companies, nearly 42,000 employees and a turnover of 9.749 million euros.
Despite the successes, the packaging sector faces challenges, including adapting to new regulations that require the entire chain to achieve a series of recycling, reduction, and reuse objectives. Mònica Riera added: "Our task is to support our members in adapting their strategies to meet these objectives while maintaining positive growth figures for the sector. We also face the challenge of enabling Industry 4.0, and processes need to be updated in line with the needs of automation and digitization."
Finally, another challenge to highlight as an entity is an opportunity to generate a greater attractiveness of the packaging world among young talent. There is a lack of representation of the new generations in the sector and a lack of women in management positions.
To overcome these challenges, the Packaging Cluster believes that collaboration is key: "Clusters are a way of connecting with the different industries and this allows to know what their challenges and strengths are as a market. The fact that we collaborate with each other allows industries to pool all the knowledge they have in their hands to carry out high-impact actions and projects. If SMEs are part of this collaborative and connected ecosystem, they will be able to benefit from all this market intelligence and generate greater wealth in the global economy," Mònica Riera emphasized the importance of the clusters.
How does the EC supports clusters
The ECCP serves as a contact channel that brings together a vast network of leading clusters to share best practices and specific information. Mònica Riera appreciates the possibilities that the platform offers: "Through ECCP communications, we can learn about inspiring initiatives and access members to collaborate with." Additionally, the platform facilitates the dissemination of cluster news and highlights to reach a wider international audience, making it the "loudspeaker of European innovation and collaboration."