Horizons expand for natural stone industry

Macael marble hewn from Almeria's mountains can be seen in the Roman and Arabic architecture that abounds in Granada's Alhambra, Mérida's Roman theatre and Córdoba's Great Mosque. Today, having overcome make-or-break challenges, the industry comprises roughly 400 companies employing some 9 000 people. This is thanks largely to the ingenuity of the Andalusian stone technology centre (CTAP).

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Marble stone being worked on by expert hands Marble stone being worked on by expert hands

“CTAP is the best platform in Andalusia for the innovation and development of a traditional sector. The centre collaborates directly with entrepreneurs and is fully committed to continuous improvement and the promotion of R&D&I. CTAP helps entrepreneurs to develop new products and to find their niche in the market.”
Antonio Pastor Soto, Manager of Mármoles Antonio el de Pura

Made a reality through EU funding, this centre was set up to develop innovation in Andualusia's masonry sector. By working closely with businesses to assess and adapt to market trends, the centre is successfully promoting the Andalusian region's special craft heritage. Businesses are offered scientific expertise and lab facilities, as well as support for new designs, technological development, training and marketing strategies.

Ingenuity in action

As the first industrial technology centre in Andalusia, the centre itself represents a pioneering endeavour. ERDF assistance was used for the construction of a building to house the centre and for the acquisition of scientific and technical equipment, such as a test laboratory. Before beginning operations, the centre conducted a rigorous analysis of the stone sector from the perspective of local companies.

Then CTAP set about identifying a range of possible services and projects to improve the activities of the companies. These services include R&D, quarry restoration, waste recovery, industrial design, quality control and guidance for innovation. Close cooperation with universities helps the centre to identify areas of research from which specific development projects could benefit.

One spin-off company, Macaedis makes urban furniture in natural stone. Through its innovative products, Macaedis is opening up a niche for itself in the well-designed urban furniture market. This high-end niche has been created in cooperation with prestigious architects and designers.

Changing mentalities, finding new markets

Companies in the region are now thinking more in terms of their innovation potential. Increased pressure from competitors has opened their eyes to the need for the kind of professional help that CTAP can provide. Wary at first, the companies now appreciate that CTAP can help them gain a competitive edge – thanks to support and training in line with their needs, not to mention a specialist research team.

CTAP also helps companies adopt longer term strategies, rather than simply continuing in what they have always done. The general development of the stone sector is overseen by the CTAP's 53 paying members which include the Government of Andalusia, the Provincial Government and the University of Almeria, as well as private organisations and companies.

CTAP in 2008 has participated in more than 27 innovation projects in two years with more than 545 different companies. Andalusia is now responsible for some 42% of the total production of marble stone in Spain, the second biggest producer in the EU, after Italy.

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