I would like to use this news to substantiate the answer to a question that perhaps you have raised, dear reader, these years: why the agri-food sector is the one in our country that is best avoiding the difficulties of the economic crisis we are going through ?
When analyzing the competitive weaknesses of the Spanish business fabric and proposing solutions, we usually look for successful examples to imitate in other more economically developed European regions. These regions are characterized by an intense and sustained investment over time in R & D & I and by having well-geared science-technology-company systems that ensure that the scientific and technological advances that arise from the research activity of universities, the Research centers and the companies themselves are transformed into new and innovative products, services and production processes that maintain high dynamism and greater international competitiveness of specialized business sectors.
The Spanish agri-food sector is the first industrial sector in the country (17% of industrial GDP and 7% of general GDP) and is ranked as the fourth of the EU. The agri-food system as a whole has a stable weight around 8% of Spanish GDP, this has contributed to the strengthening of our foreign sector in recent times. Spanish agri-food exports have experienced a continuous growth, representing 16% of the total of Spanish exports in 2012. The agri-food sector in Europe accounts for more than 5% of the added value of the economy and 7% of employment.
The quantitative and qualitative improvement of these figures in the current global economic crisis and the challenge of the globalization of markets, demands to be more efficient, competitive, sustainable and with the capacity to provide new added values.
In this line the Center for Industrial Technological Development (CDTI), under the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, allocated in 2014 more than 22 million euros to subsidize in the Region of Murcia 56 research, development and innovation projects (R + D + i) of companies mainly in the agri-food sector. Extraordinary news, because with all certainty these projects will give results that will serve to reinforce the innovative dynamism of this important sector of the Murcian economy.
I believe that, in Murcia’s agri-food sector, we have an unbeatable example to follow without having to look beyond our borders. A sector that has remained afloat, despite the crisis, thanks to the added value that R & D & I provides. Indeed, I think that this is the answer to the previous question. It is a sector in which, both the production and the transformation of food and its commercialization, as well as the different resources and environmental factors that influence them, have been given attention for decades and from many different areas, constituting a solid and well-structured science-technology-company system.
A system that integrates: public research centers, such as the Center for Edaphology and Applied Biology of Segura, the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (both belonging to the Higher Council for Scientific Research) and the Murcian Institute for Agricultural Research and Development and Food (dependent on the Ministry of Agriculture and Water), which carry out an important research activity in very diverse lines of interest for the agri-food sector; the University of Murcia (with qualifications, among others, of Veterinary, Food Technology and Agricultural Chemistry) and the Polytechnic University of Cartagena (with the Higher Technical School of Agronomic Engineering, the Institute of Plant Biotechnology and different engineering and business departments ), which form magnificent university graduates for the different areas of the sector and carry out at the same time a relevant R + D + i activity; the network of Agricultural Land Offices (former Agrarian Extension Agencies), disseminating and transferring the knowledge generated by the former to the producing companies and to the farmers and ranchers; the National Technological Center for Food and Preservation, which promotes research and fosters the technological development of agri-food companies; the Agri-Food and Animal Health Laboratory, providing its services; the Integrated Training Centers and Agricultural Experiences, forming excellent professionals; communities of irrigators, cooperatives and associations of producers, which seek to optimize the procurement, processing and marketing of both fresh and processed foods; the innovative character of many companies in the sector, which leads them to invest continuously in R + D + i and to collaborate with the research agents of the system; the dialogue of the Development Institute of our Region with the CDTI and the agri-food companies of Murcia to channel state investment in R + D + i (such as those referred to by the great news that heads these lines); the prioritization of the sector in the different regional strategies …
In short: a well-structured vertebrate science-technology-company system, promoted for decades by both public and private initiatives, which has constantly generated new knowledge and technologies that have reached a business sector that, innovating, has put them in value ; the value that R & D + i provides. A system that can be a perfectly valid reference to strengthen the rest of the business sectors of our Region.
José Antonio Franco Leemhuis | Rector of the Polytechnic University of Cartagena
The Polytechnic University of Cartagena is a member of the Triptolemos Foundation for agri-food development, an institution whose activity contributes to the proper articulation of the agri-food system and to increasing citizen confidence.