Much of the furniture produced today in the international market is based on a wood composite such as a particleboard, which is coated with a decorative covering, usually a veneer. The pyramid of skills needed in woodworking and furniture sector shows that design and innovation for multifunctional products are one of the top skills. The knowledge of and use of new materials is one of the most important innovation elements in the development of new products for the wood processing and furniture industry. And this has developed in such a fast way and has become much more complex in recent years. This enhanced complexity reflects in a number of developments, that have already been noted, such as the globalization of the market for wood based products and the development of very sophisticated/innovative production and finishing technologies.
The flash Eurobarometer survey 196 of mainly European SMEs (European Commission, 2007) collected information related to the skill shortages as a constraint for innovation. Roughly 28% of firms that responded to the survey said that they were constrained in the implementation of innovation activities in the two years prior to the interview.
During the crisis the furniture sector has decreased the number of companies and the number of employees, i.e: to a 22.5% in April 2014 (5.4 million persons aged 15-24, EUROSTAT) at EU level. Wide disparities exist among countries: youth unemployment rate reached over 40% in Italy, over 50% in Spain, while it is lower than 10% in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
Companies of the furniture industry, that want to maintain their position in the international market, must differentiate themselves with innovative design and/or use of innovative materials. This is one of the most important tools to allow a good positioning in the international market. This demand has been reflected in the results, obtained in the FUNES project (2014-1ES01KA202-004883), which aimed to determine emerging skills. “Knowledge of new materials and technical specification of materials; know-how of usage wood, raw materials efficiency and substitute materials” are very important. See also http://www.funesproject.eu/docs/FUNES
This MIMWOOD project aims to generate study methodologies and tools that facilitate centres of vocational training in wood and furniture choosing and selecting innovative materials. Many of these new materials can be used in the furniture sector, but are not included in the current curricula of vocational education and training for wood and furniture.
During the project, the partners from different European countries will provide information about how the implementation of new materials is evolving in their countries. The goal is to have a kind of assessment and determination, of the existing innovative materials in our international market. It will also give information which can have a useful application in the furniture sector at European level. European involvement will give this international component, since the development of innovative materials and their use in the furniture sector is different among European countries. By doing so, by acquiring this knowledge of innovative materials, our current and future workers will also enhance their opportunities and mobility in the European market.