Innovation and promotion of Umbrian ceramics
The 2008 crisis reduced artistic ceramics in Umbria by 60%. A research carried out by the University of Perugia for the Umbria Regional Government (URG) showed that ceramics are made with old processes that are expensive and not competitive. Moreover, the low capacity of ceramic SMEs to embrace innovation results in low performances and in difficulties to access international markets. “Ceramica Made in Umbria” was launched by URG to innovate ceramics, building on its strong heritage, boosting process and product innovation and triggering a change in the mindsets of ceramists.
The project builds on cooperation among SMEs. URG selected an expert designer who coordinated 21 ceramic SMEs, from 4 ceramic cities, working together for the first time. SMEs were selected by URG based on: % of exports, n. of employees, use of e-commerce / digital marketing tools, knowledge of foreign language. They developed the collection “Contemporary Banquet”, innovative yet representative of Umbria ceramics tradition. URG owns prototypes, but SMEs have the right to reproduce them with no royalties due to the designer. Each SME is allowed to produce 1 or 2 specific pieces only, representing company’s brand and the Collection as a whole. An internal agreement defines the sale price of each piece and SMEs are free to sell their own pieces or the entire collection on national and international markets.
The programme website is a sales showcase, promoting pieces and reference ceramists.
Around € 200.000 were granted through the Umbria Region Development Fund to finance the overall project development, promotion activities (including digital tools and printed materials) and the participation in 4 international fairs.
Ceramic SMEs contributed with human resources and raw materials.
Evidence of success
- 66 ceramic companies involved and 21 companies selected to participate;
- 56 innovative ceramic pieces made;
- 4 international fairs participated in, with over 250 contacts for the collection purchase.
- Ceramists who participated in the project declared to feel “less alone and left behind”.
At the beginning, the craftsmen were afraid to share their "secrets" with the others.
The agreement in place did not allow to monitor well the n. of pieces sold and the return in terms of turnover. More detailed monitoring arrangements should be put in place for future initiatives.
Potential for learning or transfer
The collection was a precious tool to promote Umbria, its ceramic tradition and the Umbria ceramic companies.
Ceramica Made in Umbria supported SMEs to innovate their style and techniques and reduce costs for communication and promotion. Especially, it helped create a virtuous circuit, among the ceramists, with a durable exchange of knowledge and experiences that is expected to be continued spontaneously also in the future.
The elements of this GP that could be transferred are:
1. Cooperation between different ceramic companies creates a network where to share innovations, knowledge and skills.
2. Tradition can be innovated by maintaining the specific characteristics of each territory;
3. Networking works well if there is a coordinator who plays the role of mediator and who controls the network.
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