Towards a United Composites Industry – the Role of EuCIA

23 September 2007

Gertjan de Koning, Business Director at DSM Composite Resins and an active board member of the European Composites Industry Association (EuCIA), talks about EuCIA’s role within the industry and how it can make a difference.

Does the European composites industry need an association?
“Yes. The composites industry hasn’t done a very good job competing with other materials industries in the last decade. Almost every composites manufacturer is far too busy watching the other market players when our real competitors are the thermoplastics industry and the metals industry. These industries are very well organized and as a result, they’re able to speak as one voice when promoting their interests. EuCIA’s role is to be the voice of the composites industry.”

What does EuCIA offer?
“EuCIA is the only association that promotes the entire composites industry at a European level. We represent some 15,000 companies and concentrate on three main activities: providing industry platforms that promote business growth, effective lobbying on European legislation and the development of internal and external education programs.”

What added value does EuCIA offer?
“Industry associations usually play a crucial role in inter-industry competition. EuCIA performs the three key tasks that usually characterize an industry association. We provide a forum to exchange views and create awareness and consensus on topics of common interest. This is crucial to combining forces and aligning activities around industry-wide issues. An obvious example is that we coordinate lobbying activities to influence decision makers involved in policy and legislation. We also create awareness amongst the wider public and promote a positive image of the industry. It’s all about creating favorable conditions for our industry to grow.”

How effective has the industry been with these activities in the past?
“As I said, not very effective and we deserve better! Composites are amazing materials. They’re lightweight and durable and in many applications they can replace conventional materials like steel, aluminum and wood offering significant financial and environmental benefits. Unlike other materials industries, the composites sector lacks a powerful association with broad industry support promoting industry growth. It’s hard to prove that the absence of a strong industry association has resulted in our lack of success in inter-material competition. But it is clear that the general public, and many design engineers in particular, have very little awareness of composite materials compared to other materials such as metals. Also, when it comes to legislation, other industries have promoted themselves at the expense of composites, for instance by presenting clearer environmental messages. So we have lost some of our competitive edge.”

Has no-one spoken up for the composites industry?
“There are currently many different composites associations and only about 30 percent of composites producers has joined one or more of them. Both the high level of fragmentation and narrow industry coverage means that these associations are usually small and poor. No single association has the resources to effectively represent the entire industry or even to coordinate with other associations. As a result, each association is conducting its own lobbying activities. There’s no coordination and activities sometimes even contradict each another so we’ve lost some credibility in Brussels.”

What is the solution?
“The composites industry needs a powerful European industry association. DSM has been pushing for this and found other composite resin producers are of the same opinion. Together we are now actively supporting EuCIA so that it becomes the industry association we need.”

How will you achieve this?
“Until recently, EuCIA had very low resources and no paid staff. It was completely dependent on the commitment of volunteers. As a result, the organization has had its ups and downs. Composite resin producers have now provided EuCIA with a three-year commitment for the financial resources it needs to afford full-time professional staff.”

So what’s the current status of EuCIA?
“We now have a new board with a very active chair. We have installed professional and dedicated staff supported by a professional service organization for administration, lobbying, legal advice, accounting and more. We teamed up with a professional communication channel. We’ve clearly defined our scope (fibre reinforced resins) and key tasks: industry education (creating awareness of industry-wide issues and increasing professionalism), coordinating lobbying activities and promoting industry growth. A well-defined program of activities is running and we are well on track. Most importantly, people have noticed the change and more and more composites producers are joining EuCIA. This means that EuCIA is now recognized across the industry as the one voice representing the composites sector on a European level. And the increased support also provides more financial space to achieve our targets.

Will this be enough?
“It’s all part of transforming ourselves into an organized and professional industry. For Brussels legislators to take us seriously, we cannot afford to have a fragmented approach. We need to speak with a single voice. To be taken seriously by composite users like the demanding automotive OEMs, we need to be a professional and reliable supplier that meets their requirements. To be taken seriously by engineers and designers we need to provide professional tools and training so that they can as easily design with composites as with metals. With the recent changes we have made, EuCIA is in a far better position to do all of this.”

EuCIA, the European Composites Industry Association represents the European composites industry with some 15,000 Companies. EuCIA is the voice of the composites industry in Europe and concentrates on three main activities: industry platforms that promote business growth, effective lobbying related to European legislation and the development of internal and external education programs.

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