Eduardo García, R&D Director at CUPA Innovation: “Innovation plays a fundamental role when it comes to positioning ourselves as the global leaders of the blackboard”
Since its origins in the southern region of Valdeorras (Galicia, Spain) almost 130 years ago, CUPA Group has positioned itself as the world leader of the natural slate business, covering more than the 33% of the global market share. Its business development will continue to grow under three strategic lines like innovation, with ITC projects such as CUPA 4.0, applied knowledge and environmental concern. We speak with CUPA Innovation R&D Director, Eduardo García Pazo.
One of the differential values to position itself as world leaders in the sector has been innovation. What role does R&D play in the current market for CUPA Group?
Innovation is part of the Cupa Group’s DNA and plays a fundamental role when it comes to positioning ourselves as the global leaders of the blackboard. In fact, in 2006 the company Cupa Innovation was set up to centralize all the R + D + i efforts in a single company.
We investigated in 3 main lines:
- Optimization of processes within the framework of Industry 4.0
- Development of new applications and more efficient construction systems.
- Waste Recovery
R & D + i also helps us to open new markets, such as the Cupaclad product, since the company has gone from selling 100% of the slate destined for roofs to doing it also for facades.
Is it a challenge to lead the innovation of a world leader in its sector?
The level of demand is very high and competing at a global level is always an exciting challenge, knowing that 1 out of 3 blackboards of building covers installed in the world bear the CUPA seal is a pride and without a doubt a responsibility. We must be one step ahead of our competitors and the demands of the market in order to grow the company. For this we need to have the most appropriate collaborators at all times and in this way to be able to successfully face all the projects we have underway.
Do you think that relationships with R&D providers such as technology centres can be positive?
It is definitely positive. Research centres are a key tool to contribute knowledge to our process and product, and to diversify to fields of action.
What has collaboration with CETIM meant in this regard, with projects such as GEOSTONE or CUPA 4.0, financed by GAIN and CDTI?
CETIM has been key to verify that our by-products are a valuable raw material for different industries. Currently, we work to optimize geopolymer concrete products from our by-products, and we begin to investigate innovative applications with our raw material. They are very ambitious objectives for which the support of a trusted technological partner is essential.
In general, this is a change of model, from a linear economy to a circular economy. Do you think that this circular economy and the use of recycled raw materials are or will be decisive in the future products you would commercialize?
Circular economy paradigm is here to stay, and for CUPA it is not a new concept. We have been working on this for many years, recovering both production discards and waste that may be generated in the production process, and it is essential to incorporate them as raw material for new products.
The vast majority of CUPA’s business is abroad since 80% of its production is exported to more than seventy countries. These new markets demands, have they involved a change in your operations or have you exported the “CUPA model”?
Internationalization is present in the Group since its origin, when five slaters decided to join forces to export their products. Over the years growth has been constant and today we continue to open new markets and continue to grow thanks to a strategy that is supported by the purchase of 2 large distributors for roofs in the United Kingdom and the United States.
Present and future, where do you direct your efforts?
With natural slate business, we cover more than 33% of the world market share, so our present is very solid. I see promising and exciting future, we are focused on the growth of the company in both traditional markets such as building covers, as in innovative applications like facades.
In addition, with the strategic project CUPA 4.0 (subsidized by the Galician Innovation Agency with FEDER funds), we have embarked on incorporating and adapting state-of-the-art technologies such as artificial vision, collaborative robotics, Internet of Things, or additive manufacturing, in our productive process . This project will allow us to be more efficient and flexible, and therefore more competitive. In addition, the fact of making better use of the slate that we extract from the earth will allow us to be more sustainable.
The multinational CUPA Group was born in 1968 in Sobradelo de Valdeorras (North-West Spain), going back to its origins at the end of the 19th century. Its business areas are focused on slate, stones and granite that it extracts in 22 quarries in Galicia, León, France and Brazil, being world leaders in slate. Its corporate structure is made up of 65 companies with offices around the world, from the United Kingdom to Portugal, France, Belgium, Denmark, Brazil, USA. or China In addition, it exports to more than 70 countries around the world. With a workforce that exceeds 2,100 workers, its turnover in 2017 exceeded 450 million euros.