The next few years will be marked by the arrival of the European Covid 19 Next Generation EU Recovery Fund from the Union that will have to finance the projects that contribute to the reactivation and especially the digitization of the Spanish economy. Some analysts even speak of a “founding moment”, such as the one that occurred with the entry of Spain into the European Union. We spoke about it with Isabel del Pozo, director of the European Funds Program at Airbus.
Question. In the field of digitization, what are we at stake as a country with the correct management and use of these funds?
Answer. European funds are undoubtedly decisive to accelerate the digital transition of our society and industry. They will allow us to have a connected, efficient, flexible national industry and a digital benchmark at a European level.
To take advantage of them well and ensure that investments are effective, a clear roadmap is needed, a national strategic plan in different technological areas and that is focused on different key industrial sectors. It will also be necessary for it to bring together efforts and synergies between actors and be able to attract and secure large investments.
In the field of digitization, it is key to consolidate an infrastructure at the national level, which allows connecting people, processes and machines, and which meets the needs of the value chains of small, medium and large companies. In turn, this digital transition means transforming the industrial fabric so that it is capable of modifying its production model, directed by management and exploitation of data in real time. It’s easy to launch proofs of concept and pilots, but digital business transformation requires a comprehensive plan. It will require a global effort, from the entire supply chain, from the driving companies, their suppliers and from the companies developing the necessary infrastructure. And for this we need public-private collaboration.
We have a great opportunity in Europe, and in particular in Spain, and we cannot miss it. The pandemic has made it clear to us that the industry of the future must prioritize strategic economic sectors with the highest added value, fostering the development of flexible and robust production processes. For Spain, these funds are a unique opportunity to maintain a relevant position in the European aerospace industry and in the world, we have to make it a benchmark in digital transformation. The consolidation of a digital industry will allow Spain to be more competitive in international markets; have greater flexibility, control and adaptation to changes in production processes.
P.What type of projects should Spain focus on in order to achieve the objectives of creating quality employment and contributing to the reactivation of the economy and what could be those driving axes or specific sectors where Spain could have the opportunity to become a benchmark?
The aeronautical sector plays a leading role in the Spanish economy, for guaranteeing interconnection and cohesion between the territories, for being a source of quality employment generation and for its contribution to the Spanish GDP. Our sector is a reference and showcase in R & D & i investment, a fundamental factor to attract and retain talent, it has a strong capacity to promote innovation throughout the supply chain, largely SMEs and regional companies.
In order to face the technological challenges, achieve the objectives of ecological transition and digital transition and transform the national sector to be more resilient and competitive in the future, we need to work together, administration and business, quickly and efficiently, we cannot afford to leave without executing not a part of the European funds.
Aeronautical activity still has a high dependence on fossil fuels today. A public-private collaboration is necessary to carry out the technological challenges of the sector and guarantee an ecosystem that facilitates and promotes new fuels and energy vectors. This public-private collaboration together with a clear roadmap are essential to jointly face technological risks, reducing uncertainty about the availability of financing in a multi-year period of time and thus ensuring the execution of initiatives and the commitment of private resources.
P. What are the mistakes that we should not make in the process of executing these funds to prevent what seems like a huge opportunity from turning into a big fiasco?
It would be a shame to articulate these funds without a clear plan of action, a well-defined roadmap that brings together the efforts of large, medium-sized and small companies from different sectors towards common objectives. A disjointed investment can lead to redundant efforts that don’t add up. For this reason, we support the government’s efforts to define funds for key industrial sectors and we are delighted to contribute as a leading company in the aeronautical and space sector.
And not only is the definition of strategic plans essential, but it is also key to ensure their management, monitoring and correct execution in accordance with the established roadmap and defined objectives.
As we have been able to verify with the recently approved Strategic Projects for the Recovery and Economic Transformation (PERTE) of the electric vehicle, we need a management unit for these aesthetic plans that is in charge of guaranteeing their execution, which is coordinated with the different affected departments of the administration, and that it relies as much as possible on existing mechanisms to promote and develop R & D & I already defined and validated by Europe and those new that are established for this purpose, in order to ensure aspects such as coordination, correlation and continuity of the proposals in the different phases of their temporary execution; the coherence between initiatives that require an effort to research and mature technologies, concepts, operations or solutions throughout the implementation and the consistency and complementarity of the initiatives that are promoted at the state, regional and local levels.