Collaborative Research Launched in Spain's Basque Country

Article excerpt

A model for collaborative and cooperative research in advanced manufacturing systems is being developed to help improve the regional economy of the Basque Country, Spain. Known as CIC marGUNE (High Performance Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre), it was inspired by other collaboration success stories, including the 158 CRCs in Australia (the result of a government program established in 1990), the more than 100 associations in Germany, Kplus and Kind/Knet in Austria, RRIT's in France, and the Competition Centers in Sweden.

In 2005, the Spanish government set up new cooperative projects for strategic national consortia (INGENIA 2010 program) on research and technology.

The Basque Country is a highly industrialized region with an economy based on manufacturing for automotive, aeronautics and machine construction. The products made here are of medium level in terms of technology, so the risk is high of becoming less competitive if technology does not progress fast enough.

In 2003, 700 million [euro] were invested in scientific research and technological development in the Basque Country. This figure is 1.5 percent of the region's GDP and 4.1 percent above the previous year, when investment totaled (672 million. Investment in R&D in the Basque Country is slightly higher than that of Italy, but lags behind that of other countries with equivalent per-capita income. Currently, the population of the Basque Country is 2.5 million.

Collaborative Research Centres

A Collaborative Research Centre (CIC) is a platform for multi-party collaboration intended to develop capacity in strategic economic and social areas for the Basque Country over the medium and long term. However, its framework of action is not merely regional but must extend to national and European levels.

The purpose of CICs is to optimize scientific and technological capacity and generate economies of scale, ensuring sufficient critical mass to increase research capacity in the Basque Country network of science, technology and innovation.

CICs are dual organizations consisting of a core physical component and virtual component. The core physical component must be able from the outset to make use of an infrastructure of its own that will enable it to carry out management, administration and marketing tasks. In addition, the CIC uses facilities and equipment available at member organizations that have undertaken to place them at its disposal for the furtherance of the CIC's goals.

The functions of the CIC core are the general coordination, performance of part of the research, direct management, and finally the transfer and exploitation of the results of the collaborative activities.

The virtual CIC comprises those players that are active in the lines of work pursued by the CIC. In 2005, the basic workforce of the virtual CIC was 78 researchers with different skills and professional experience.

Active members of CIC marGUNE are representatives of the leading players at the different levels of the value chain in manufacturing technologies:

* Universities: University of the Basque Country (School of Engineers of Bilbao), School of Engineering of the University of Mondragon and the University of Navarra.

* Research centres: Ideko S. Coop., Fundation Fatronik, Fundation Labein, Fundation Tekniker, Koniker S. Coop., Aotek S. Coop., and Lortek.

* Industrial corporations: Danobat S. …