Big Technology of Small Businesses

Joining efforts to develop and implement advanced technologies.

Posted June 23, 2022

Workers prepare the refractory moulds for high-temperature furnance.

Photo: UNDP in Belarus/Sergei Leskich

In June 2020, small and medium business enterprises partnered with the I.P. Sukhoi Gomel State Technical University to create a “Cluster for Refractories Manufacturing".  The university acts as a researcher and developer of new fire-resistant materials and products, technological processes and equipment, while the cluster of local businesses carries out and brings these innovative solutions throughout the entire manufacturing cycle: determining requirements and technological characteristics, designing, producing and maintaining.

The partnership helps fill knowledge-intensive niches and promote local industrial processes.

Refractories or fire-resistant materials are high-tech products made using mineral raw materials to obtain special high-temperature qualities. Such products can withstand temperatures of 1750°C and more for long periods of time. High resistance makes refractories extremely much-in-demand in various manufacturing sectors.

“Refractory materials and products made of them are mainly produced abroad and imported to us, so our Association initiated the idea to combine the efforts of the academia and private sector to create an industrial cluster that will let change the perspectives on the traditional production of refractories.” Aleksandr Kozlov, director of the Real Economy Development Association, coordinator of the initiative "Creating a Cluster for Refractories Manufacturing.”

A working visit of the UNDP management in Belarus to a high-tech refractory production facility in the Zhlobin district.

Photo: UNDP in Belarus/Sergei Leskich

Successful Idea and Fruitful Cooperation

The cluster dates its history back to June 2020, when the contest of initiatives to support entrepreneurial activities was launched by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Belarus with the financial support of the European Union. The initiative called, “Creating a Cluster for Refractories Manufacturing” was one of the contest winners.  The priority in the contest was given to the ideas, in which the role of small and medium business in promoting innovation and use of new technology would be fulfilled.

In May 2022, the senior management of UNDP Belarus and Zhlobin district and a representative of the Ministry of Economy paid a visit to the initiative "Creating a Cluster for Refractories Manufacturing." During the meeting, the participants learned about the initiative's current outcomes and plans for its further development.

Photo: UNDP in Belarus
- The cluster is targeted at the fast-moving adaptation and application of new types of production and technologies," UNDP Resident Representative in Belarus Alexandra Solovieva emphasized. - A strong knowledge-intensive component allows the private sector to create innovative products and introduce them to the new markets. It is important for UNDP to support such local initiatives because they help mobilize the innovation and scientific potential for local economic development and create new jobs.

Learn how to Control the Fire

In order to keep step with modern technology, it is necessary to constantly upgrade workers' skills at the place of production and teachers and students’ skills in educational institutions.

The participation of the university in the initiative lightened this task. One of the initiative's significant achievements is an academic course on refractory manufacturing technology organized at I.P. Sukhoi Gomel State Technical University.

The synergy of business and science strengthens the interconnection and complementarity of enterprises, so the cluster has a great potential to access foreign markets with quality and competitive products.

Extensive application of 3D technology in refractories manufacturing and a fully automated drying oven allowed to optimize the production and enter the market with new products for the glass industry.

Photo: UNDP in Belarus

Benefits of Clustering

The close interaction of cluster members allowed to accelerate innovative products manufacturing and scale out their range. At the same time, the scientific component of cooperation and use of innovative technologies helped increase manufacturing efficiency.

The initiative "Creating a Cluster for Refractories Manufacturing" is implemented under the project "Support to Economic Development at the Local Level in the Republic of Belarus.” The project is funded by the European Union and implemented by the UN Development Program (UNDP) in partnership with the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Belarus.

Refractory products.

Photo: UNDP in Belarus/Sergei Leskich.