1. Thank you for joining us today! Please could you give us a short introduction to the Transylvanian Furniture Cluster, and your work promoting and endorsing the furniture industry, especially in increasing competitiveness for SMEs?
First of all, thank you for the kind invitation. To get you acquainted with Transylvania Furniture Cluster, I can shortly tell you that our associative structure is an umbrella organization that brings together people, resources and ideas, to increase the performance and competitiveness of the value chain of the Romanian furniture industry. The work we have undertaken since 2012 can be most easily understood through our goal: we want to contribute to the sustainable growth of the furniture sector through innovative products and services, marketed in regional, national and global niche markets. The projects we carry out within the cluster and the ones we help our members to get finance for, go in the direction of this goal, to sustainably grow on the national and international market.
2. Thank you! To someone reading this who has never heard of Better Factory before, how would you describe it in simple terms, and why do you feel it is significant?
Better Factory is the project that helps manufacturers to brilliantly respond to the latest challenges in the industry, with the help of creative partnerships and innovative, complex and yet user-friendly technologies. Better Factory is more than an opportunity to align with market trends – it is the tool by which manufactures can better understand and optimize their internal processes, the liaising point with suitable artists and technology suppliers, the launch pad for new products, an affordable chance of financing the risk and, most of all, a place where learning and collaboration for fruitful results are at home.
3. As one of the project partners supporting the participants as they prepare their proposal for their KTE (Knowledge Transfer Experiment), could you tell us about what challenges you’ve seen for the first round of participants? And what advice would you have for the applicants of the second open call?
The challenges were many, I dare to say, but the support we provided to our member participants was a permanent one, as was the help received from those responsible for the open call. We noticed a certain difficulty in identifying international partners among the artists who could offer creative solutions applied to our members’ project ideas. Also, Romanian companies are not necessarily familiar with the concept of collaborating with partners from the artistic field, because, at national level, there is a gap in communication and understanding between producers and people coming from the creative industry. However, this challenge was a good exercise to bring companies and factories closer to art representatives, because it gave them the opportunity to see concretely how such a relationship can work and how the results of creative processes, not just technical ones, can be capitalized and applied in manufacturing.
4. The RAMP platform is an important element of Better Factory. Could you explain in your own words how you believe it will continue to support furniture SMEs, even after the project has ended?
One of the differentiating elements of the RAMP platform is that it has a high degree of post-project continuity, which doesn’t always happen in other types of projects. RAMP will always be a click away from the manufacturers’ needs. The marketplace will ease the efforts of companies and factories to find the support services they need and will keep the international collaboration ecosystem alive and fresh, as long as it is constantly updated, such as to give beneficiaries continuous access to a pool of diverse collaborations.
5. The Transylvanian Furniture Cluster is coming up to a 10-year anniversary in 2022! What are your predictions for the next 10 years of development in this industry, in Europe and beyond?
There is no point in talking about statistics that are available internet-wide anyway. What I want to emphasize are those trends that do not need a numerical expression, but will dictate the way companies in the furniture industry will do their work in the next period. I’ll start with the technology, the main way we can stay connected to the highest market standards; without automation and digitization, in the decade in which the digital revolution is the strongest path to development, our companies will not be able to remain competitive. I will continue with the need for powerful, long-term strategic partnerships that can increase producers’ chances of success, not only nationally, but especially as a form of penetration of international markets and consolidation of positions there. Then, we are already accustomed to the fact that sustainability is the key to a future of great results – the care for the environment (given that the furniture industry is still heavily dependent on natural resources, such as wood), for our future generations and for us (both as people and as economic actors) could not be missing from the producers’ development agendas. Last but not least, solidarity and mutual assistance have returned to the priorities of our members, who have already taken many initiatives to integrate the Ukrainian community (commercial partners, laborers) into their daily activities, which will become more and more consistent from now on, amid the military conflicts in Ukraine.
6. No doubt there will be some readers that are keen to meet you to talk more about the project and your role in it. Which events can people find you at in 2022, and beyond (name, date, location)?
In 2022 we reach world-wide events for the projects we are involved in, but we will dedicate June to the 7th annual edition of the Transylvanian Clusters International Conference (TCIC), which has turned, this year, into a week-long event full of opportunities – Transylvanian Clusters International Week, an event proudly hosted in Cluj-Napoca, the dynamic cultural melting pot of the Transylvania region. We will also keep part of our energy for other events of great importance for us and for our members, because we will be present at the events within the projects in which we are highly involved, including Furniture Go Interantional, Exceliving and Intride. However, we are still in the first part of the year, so we know for sure that we will reach other actions, which we will announce along the way, on our Facebook page.