Organised by ISTMA-Europe - International Special Tooling and Machining Association and, in close co-operation with the European ManuFuture Platform, Lisbon was chosen to host the first European Tooling Forum on September 14. With the presence of over 200 participants from 20 European Countries, this initiative by the European Association of this most important industrial sector, was a milestone in promoting its visibility and its importance in the eyes of official national and international bodies, with a special focus on those who decide domestic industrial policy as well as that within the European Commission.

The European Tooling Forum brought together the most important figures within the sector as well as public policy-makers on a European scale. Emphasis is given to the presence of the European associations representing the sector, companies, customers, universities and centres for innovation and development, including others directly connected to the Mould and Special Tooling Industry. The meeting focussed especially on strategies associating the sector with the market, the discussion of and emphasis on the importance and strategic position of the sector within the context of European industrial development as well as its role in sustaining employment and the economy.

In an institutional context, we highlight the support given to the initiative by the Portuguese Minister for Industry and Innovation, who was represented at the opening of the event by the Under-Secretary of State for Industry and Innovation, Professor António Castro Guerra. The event was closed by the Slovenian Minister for the Economy, Mr. Andrej Vizjak representing the future Presidency of the European Union.
Both politicians emphasised the strategic role played by the Sector both in a national and European context and the mentioned the importance of giving structural support to concerted efforts which would allow companies to be better prepared to face new challenges in the market.
The delegates were given the opportunity to hear accounts by well-known European companies (Daimler Chrysler – Germany, Fiskars Brands – Finland and Gorenje – Slovenia) of the strategic importance and added value that the Moulds and Special Tooling Industry brings to innovation and the creation of new products within Europe and European companies. The speakers called for strategic co-operation between the different political and economic players to ensure the necessary development and sustainable growth of the Sector, which is considered strategic not only for Europe but also for its economic development.

The recent (last ten years) and current market position of the Moulds and Special Tooling Industry in Europe, its challenges and opportunities in a global market was the theme of the talk given by the General Manager of ISTMA, Eduardo Beira. He took the opportunity of highlighting the new challenges brought to the sector by increased globalisation in recent years both due to relocation of customers to locations with lower production costs and also due to the appearance and development of new competitors in the international market.

These factors force the Sector to develop new and more complex skills to confront a new business model in which companies can only exist where there is a monitored development of know-how, creativity and permanent innovation in its supply of services and processes, variety in its products, and efficiency in its production processes.

The way in which companies have responded to the ever-changing demands of its customers, adopting new factors of competitiveness on a daily basis and showing themselves to be strategic partners in two important yet distinctly different areas of the market, was the theme for a presentation of two European mould manufacturers: Simoldes – Portugal (Automotive sector) and Avenue Mould Solutions – Ireland (medical equipment sector).
Considered to be an important and most suitable event by the vast majority of those present, it also became an interesting opportunity for debate, allowing personal interaction between the different delegates and establishment of contact between agents, either directly or indirectly associated to the Sector.

It is worth noting that during the Forum and the days prior to it there was the opportunity for political representatives and those representing public bodies which support SMEs in different countries, who came to Portugal exclusively to attend this event, held meetings (both formally and informally) which may give rise to new forms of co-operation and support for the Sector. It is worth mentioning the support of the Portuguese Institute for the Support of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (IAPMEI) to the event, on a national level and its assistance in contacting other similar bodies on a Europe-wide basis to try to identify opportunities to launch joint initiatives at an international level.

ISTMA currently has 26 members in the Americas, Asia, Europe and South Africa.

At a European level, ISTMA has contributed to raise awareness and promote the strategic importance of the Sector in the development and sustainability of the European economy within the political decision-making centres, both at a national level as well as in Brussels and Strasbourg. This Association has also assumed a decisive role in facilitating Access to the Sector to Community initiatives and programmes, namely in relevant R&D projects which allow the European Sector to remain competitive in an ever-more global and aggressive marketplace.