Territory, tradition and productive specialization at the service of innovation
While there is so much talk recently about the keys to successful entrepreneurship, or about innovation as one of the fundamental elements in any business to maintain a differential capacity in the markets, a small inland region in the province of Alicante, popularly known as the Toy Valley due to its long history of industry, and officially as Foia de Castalla, has shown how a territory can successfully design its own development through the direct involvement of all the social and economic agents that make it up.
The industrial area in the territory of Foia de Castalla is more than 5 million square metres, spread out over the different industrial estates of the four municipalities that make up the region: Ibi, Castalla, Onil and Tibi. The competitive advantages of Foia de Castalla come from its ability to adapt, its SME structure, its specialized knowledge and its productive know-how, which provide it with industrial versatility, according to the study led by the Professor María Dolores Pitarch, of the University of Valencia.
Foia de Castalla
This versatility comes from the strengthening of industries that previously fulfilled auxiliary roles in their respective local production systems (rubber and plastic, metal products) and that have become basic activities linked to value chains.
The range of products and industrial processes has been expanded to different productive sectors as they have adequate technology and qualifications to do so. This industrial diversification allows approaching the development of new proposals with greater added value, with more technical rigour, and which can be used in industries such as the construction, packaging, automobile and furniture industries, as well as others that are emerging such as the robotics or aeronautics industries, as indicated by Josep Antoni Ybarra and María Jesús Santa María Beneyto in their research on the industrialization of the area.
In this case, the qualification of human capital, both in knowledge and in skills, is one of the demands of the industry for public policies, as it is considered a fundamental element for growth and innovation. This includes both high quality Vocational Training, adapted to the reality of the organizations and that is carried out through the support of different institutes with industrial Training Programmes in the area, as well as through the promotion of activities and joint research between universities. (Alcoy Campus of the UPV, the University of Alicante and the Miguel Hernández University) and companies.
The collaboration of training centres and institutions has contributed to the industrial development of Foia, based on the creation of various resources to support the industry, consisting mainly of a network of sectorial Technology Institutes (AITEX and AIJU) and an array of aid programmes for companies through modernization, technological innovation or training actions. One of the recently developed programmes that has been an important impetus is Castalla Emprende, a commitment to entrepreneurship, innovation and business growth in the territory, jointly organized by the Council and Miguel Hernández University of Elche and that, among other activities, has paid tribute to Vicent Berbegal, of Actiu, for his 50-year-long career.
As Berbegal points out in this regard, "training must occupy a central role in the strategy of entrepreneurship. It is essential to promote professional technical and university studies that, in addition, can be linked to the learning of other equally necessary skills, such as leadership, collaboration or creativity".
The region has managed to find the right formula to enhance its territory by combining an image of advanced industry, specialized qualification, quality and innovation that has helped position it in the competitive national and international marketplace, attracting investments, creating employment and improving the quality of life of the those who live in the area. A journey started by a group of first generation entrepreneurs, back in the 70s, many of them toy makers, who knew how to risk, innovate and have a broad enough vision of the future to build the foundations for those who follow suit as entrepreneurs today.
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