The LEATECH project coordinated by the Universidad de Lleida (Spain) under the Erasmus programme is a spin-off of the S4TCLF project. For the time being, it is a small project that is meant to coordinate and prepare a number of Higher Educational Institutes (HEI) to qualify in a subsequent submission for a full-fledged Erasmus Mundus project to implement a joint Masters in the leather industry.

The current LEATECH project will reinforce the opportunities of three EU HEIs (UdL-Spain, ITECH-France, EGE-Turkey) and one academic institution from a partner country (CIATEC-Mexico) to achieve a successful Erasmus Mundus project application. Developing an innovative Joint Master’s Degree in Innovative Leather Technology responds to the needs of the Global Leather Industry and promotes worldwide the educational excellence of Europe’s HEIs, with a particular focus on leather production.

Indeed, Europe is a global leader in leather production and trade in terms of value. With a turnover of some 7.4 billion Euro annually and a share of 30% in the value of all finished leather produced worldwide, Europe still remains the number one in front of China, Brazil or India. Thanks to EU leather about 200.000 companies generate employment for some 10 million people worldwide and a wealth estimated at 120 billion Euro. European tanners have successfully transformed their factories into the most environmentally performing and socially accountable leather industries.

If Europe keeps this leading role at global level, it is due by and large to the excellence of the education and training in the field of leather science and technology that it developed during the course of the last century. However, there is a clear gap in the training offer to meet the current needs of technological transition in terms of safety, sustainability of production and adaptation of production to the principles of the circular economy and its expectations for 2030. The introduction of these topics into the transnational academic program will allow the new Joint Master Degree to facilitate the changes towards more sustainable production processes worldwide and introduce the principles of the circular economy in many companies as well as promote the life cycle thinking in finished leather production processes.

By capitalising on their corresponding competitive advantages, in terms of language outreach, academic reputation, cluster conformation or teaching diversification, Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Europe have achieved to attract students locally and worldwide and maintain, deepen and expand the excellence of education in leather science and technology. These centres of excellence are the Universidad de Lleida (UdL, Spain) and the Institute Textile et Chimique de Lyon (ITECH-Lyon, France) in the EU. They maintain close academic relations with the Leather Engineering Department (Ege University, Turkey) and CIATEC from Mexico.

This new Master’s Degree – Level 7 (EQF-7) of the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED 2011) – will be designed to address the latest technologies in leather production according to the needs of the international market and modernise the curricula and the teaching practices, as well as prepare students to the management of environmental, social and ethical aspects of the industry, which are of increasing importance.

Enhancing the physical mobility of students, developing and improving students’ admission, progression, recognition and certification mechanisms, as well as the student recruitment joint strategy and the joint services offer, are key points to be addressed together by the HEIs.

COTANCE, the employers’ umbrella organisation of the EU tanning industry will play a secondary, yet highly important role; carrying out the promotion of the Master’s Degree and looking after aspects such as student recruitment or employability.

Gustavo Gonzalez-Quijano, COTANCE