At the end of the 1980s, the Associació d'Empresaris Surers de Catalunya (Association of Catalan Cork Entrepreneurs) - AECORK, created in 1977 and made up of more than 90% of the companies in the sector, in the face of the difficulty of competing over costs, and with the aim of responding to the growing demands for quality by the end users - particularly in the case of cork stoppers - opted for a strategy of improving the competitiveness of the industry through technological innovation and by differentiating the product.
In 1991, at AECORK's proposal, the Catalan Government created the Public Consortium "Institut Català del Suro" (Catalan Cork Institute) to organise the strategies of the sector through guided lines of action that emphasise making the most of competitive advantages that already existed of quality, image, at a technological scale, etc. In addition, the mainly public character of the consortium provided greater objectivity to its actions.
The Catalan Cork Institute, created through Royal Decree 208/1991 (Official Journal of the Catalan Government 1509), is an organisation of a consortial nature, made up of the Catalan Government, through the Department of Labour and Industry (the General Secretary of Industry holds the Presidency), the Department of the Environment and Housing and the Department of Agriculture, Stockbreeding and Fisheries, AECORK (Asociation of Catalan Cork Entrepreneurs), the Forestry Consortium of Catalonia, the Chambers of Commerce of Palamós and Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Palafrugell, Sant Feliu de Guíxols and Cassà de la Selva town councils and the University of Girona.
In June 2006 The Catalan Cork Institute inaugurated its new building situated in the Armstrong factory complex in Palafrugell. This project has involved an investment of 600.000€ with the valuable support of the Employment and Industry Department, Environmental and Housing Department of the Catalan Government, the Palafrugell Council and from the business sector. In this context, this project has obtained a FEDER subsidy and a financial credit through The Catalan Institute of Finance.
1. Promoting and controlling quality Standardisation of cork products: Drawing up and reviewing the "Normes Catalanes del Suro" (Catalan Cork Standards) (NCS). Coordinating the work of the UNE standardisation committees. Participating in ISO standardisation committees. Promoting and developing programmes from the public administrations destined at the introduction into companies of the ISO 9002:2000 standards on quality management and assurance, ISO 14,000 standards on environmental management, the HACCP - the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point - and any action to reinforce qualitative features. 2. Boosting R&D activity Carrying out and fostering studies on arboriculture, transformation technology, new products, new applications, new markets, the microbiology of cork, analytical chemistry, sensorial cork-wine analysis, etc. in collaboration with universities and research centres. Participation in European research programmes about sylvan improvements, pathologies of cork oaks, analysis of finished products and their components, etc.3. Training Internal: aimed at the technical areas of the companies in the sector (microbiology, oenology, quality management and control, gas chromatography, etc. External: aimed at oenology professionals in collaboration with oenology schools at universities or with oenology and sommelier organisations. 4. Promoting the Catalan cork sector Organisation of conferences and seminars about quality.Carrying out campaigns to promote products.Publication and dissemination of studies and research into cork. Participation in congresses and seminars.
The essential aim of the Institute is to promote and develop the cork sector in its various aspects of production, transformation and commercialisation through study, research, assessment and help to bodies, associations, companies and people involved in the sector.
The functions of the Institute, as far as its resources allow, are:
a) To stimulate the development of the sector through technical divulgation, assessment in the organisation of structures, fostering and controlling quality, commercial promotion, external relations and collecting information.
b) To contribute to research and knowledge of the Catalan cork sector through carrying out or encouraging studies concerning its arboriculture, the technology of transformation, new products, new markets, etc.
c) To define and present proposals for action to the relevant bodies.
d) To carry out, co-ordinate or promote any other function that serves to favour the development and promotion of the Catalan cork sector.
Institut Català del Suro, C/ Miquel Vincke i Meyer nº13, 17200 Palafrugell (Girona) Espanya.