Thursday, October 26, 2006

Last Tuesday the 11th we were visited by, Manolo Quevedo, the founder of Ikerlan, the first research center at MCC. Manolo was another early disciple of Fr. Arizmendiarrieta. He was also founder of Alecop, which is a program for university students to gain experience, specifically in a coop environment, while earning money to pay for their education. He didn't have enough time to go into depth about Alecop, however, I will be meeting him next week for coffe to talk more specifically about it. He mostly talked about Ikerlan so that is what I will focus on today.

Ikerlan ws founded more then 30 years ago by Caja Laboral (the MCC bank and its central institution) as a way to bring technical solutions to the coops. Ikerlan is one of several innovation centers in MCC, but it was the first and for most of its history the only one. A portion of its work is contract I+D for outside firms, for MCC firms and research on emerging technologies. Ikerlan´s specific areas of expertise are improvement in production processes and production design, product design and energy products and processes.

Prior to the founding of Ikerlan most production by MCC coops was done by buying the rights to use a patent from a foreign company, allowing them to be the exclusive producers of that product in Spain. This allowed companies to develop their sophistication and technical competency. However, it did not help them develop technologically. After the founding of Ikerlan, the idea was that new technology could be developed for coops and that technical solutions could be found for coops with very specific production needs. During this time Ikerlan was funded exclusively by MCC. Work was evenly divided between specific projects for MCC coops and research on new technologies.

In the early 80´s two changes come about, 1st Ikerlan begins to receive money from the regional government (approximately half of its budget) and 2nd they begin to take on research projects from all over Europe. At a certain point Ikerlan begins to have an identity crisis, because the majority of its work is coming from outside of MCC companies, they are being stretched in two directions.

Eventually they change their policy about working with non-MCC firms. They decide they will continue to do these projects, but with the understanding that they will only do projects that are relevant to MCC industries or that will allow them to gain technical knowledge that will be useful to the coops. The strategy of Ikerlan becomes very clear, to develop new technologies for coops, solve technical problems and understand and transfer emerging technologies to the coops from external sources. Outside projects would always be considered based on their degree of utility to the MCC firms.

Mostly he talked about the historyof Ikerlan, so after my meeting with Manolo on Monday, I will try to get a little more info its current situation and relationship with the coops.

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