It concentrates 22% of the most innovative businesses and keeps increasing
“I like the Catalans because they do things,” said M.Rajoy. I do not know whether Catalans do more things than Canadians or the Congolese or if we do things when the rest of the world, presumably, does not. Or if that is the case, why do we do things when nobody else does? What motivates us to do what has not been done yet? And even more importantly, is there any point in doing what needs to be done simply because we are Catalans and we have to do things to deserve praise from this gentleman?
These are questions of a profound philosophical nature but without an obvious answer. Regardless, there are numerous reports and studies from bodies like the Mobile World Congress, l’Agència per la Competitivitat de l’Empresa (ACCIÓ) – Agency for the Competitiveness of the Business – or the Fundación de Estudios de Economia Aplicada (Fedea) – Studies and Applied Economics Foundation – which not only confirm that Catalans do something indeed, but that we do it quite well. So year after year Catalonia tops rankings on business’ innovation.
- Leader in product and business process innovation
The analysis done by ACCIÓ is conclusive; “Catalonia leads in the number of innovative businesses in Spain, with 22% of the total. Catalonia leads in both product and business process innovation.”.
The above figures are not by accident but the result of a conscious and proactive support from both, industry as and the public administration, increasing growth by 10.7% from the previous three years as shown by the study.
Innovation that is always linked to investment in R&D, a key factor because one cannot understand one without the other, and here data also shows an increase of 2.4% in 2019 compared to the previous year, third year of continuous growth and the highest figure in the historical series although below the Spanish State (4.2%) and the European Union (4.5%).
There is no doubt that we, Catalans, have the talent, the scientific knowledge, the industry and the entrepreneurship, but perhaps we lack a State strategy that can successfully coordinate academy and industry. We must be able to transform all this science into specific projects with real commercial applications, and to ensure our human capital, in which we invest so much, does not go abroad in order to be valued. Obviously a Catalan MIT is a long way off but not for lack of talent but financing resources.
- Foreign investment and financing resources
Although it seems that we Catalans are good at innovation, like our American cousins, we cannot say the same in regards to our apprehension to risk, specially when it comes to investing in small to midsize businesses who see innovation and uncertainty not as a side order but as a starter, main course and dessert, also known as startups.
Therefore, how do we complement this apparent shortcoming of our character?
According to the Ministerio de Industria, Comercio y Turismo y la Empresa Nacional de Innovación (ENISA) 36% of small and mid-sized Catalan businesses have received State loans, well above the Spanish average and topping the ranking by a long way.
And here we should highlight that by field of activity small and mid-sized businesses from Technologies of Information and Communications (TIC) gather the majority of this financing. An industrial network that seems to be immune to the pandemic and continues to grow with figures that are the envy of the sector. This is also confirmed by a study by the Gabinet d’Estudis Econòmics de la Cambra de Comerç de Barcelona and the Laboratori de Transferència d’Anàlisi Quantitativa Regional of the Universitat de Barcelona (AQR-LAb) which shows that TIC businesses employed 128.700 people during the third quarter of 2020, an increase of 19.1% when compared to the same period in 2019, and an historical maximum.(*3) Consequently we are talking about a digital field that is fully consolidated and one of the most dynamics in the Catalan economy, therefore becoming key and strategic at a time when the economic and social reactivation of Catalonia is of an imperious need.
On the other hand we have foreign investment where the Cambra de Comerç de Barcelona confirms that Catalonia is also leading on productive investment by asset value. An important factor since, contrary to data issued by other reports and often only useful for sensationalist headlines, it is not based on quarterly or yearly data which is subject to volatility but on the net cumulative investment during a period of more than ten years by which we can identify tendencies.
To conclude, all these reports, studies and analysis confirm what the gentleman said to us, Catalans do things, but they also show that when we talk about innovation it is not enough to do things if these things are not accompanied by a global and common vision supported by the funding resources it deserves.