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 talked about it with Juan de Antonio, one of the founders of Cabify.
Question. In the field of digitization, what are we at stake as a country with the correct management and use of these funds?
Answer. Technology is generating a new industrial revolution, and Europe must increase its speed and courage. In the rest of the world, companies based on the digital economy of significant size are being created. Not in Europe: the European Union is currently home to just 7.2% of the world’s unicorns (companies worth more than $ 1 billion) in the world. And it is getting worse: the US and China increase the distance every year. We must use these funds in cross-cutting programs to support high-growth technology companies to ensure that we create the jobs and initiatives of the future without leaving anyone behind.
It is time to move from need, which is more than clear, to opportunity. In fact, within the framework of EU Unicorn Group of which we have been a part since its foundation, we have signed the proposal for a Sovereign European Fund for Technology to enhance our economic sovereignty, protect long-term prosperity and well-being, and maintain, safeguard and develop its strategic interest, particularly in the industrial sectors of the future.
The fund should have the ambition to use European public funding to leverage at least € 100 billion in public-private funding to retain European champions of innovation and attract private capital.
Spain, one of the two major beneficiaries of the funds along with Italy, has to embrace the outstretched hand of Europe and ask itself what great long-term goals we set ourselves. These funds are a great opportunity for the recovery of our country, but also an immense responsibility to transform our economy towards a model of added value, inclusive, cohesive, ecological and digital.
P. What type of projects should Spain focus on, what criteria should prevail in the distribution and what could be those driving axes or specific sectors where Spain could have the opportunity to become a benchmark?
Europe has been able to strengthen its global leadership by giving a coherent and future response to a situation as tough as the pandemic. I firmly believe that Spain has the possibility and the obligation to take up the baton and also seek its own leadership to make us stronger. A clear line of action must contribute to the creation of innovative companies, which results in the activation of the entrepreneurial ecosystem as a whole. Instead of being the public sector that individually identifies the actors through the programs, the most effective thing is that they apply innovation criteria to the group of companies that are leading the new technological revolution.
Undoubtedly, one way to find this leadership in Spain lies in the ecological transition and technology is the best lever to execute it. The projects that will move the needle in this sense are strategic and intersectoral, so the funds will allow the alignment of different actors and capillarize their benefits in a broad way. Sustainable mobility is one of the crucial areas for the modernization of the country. Spain has an outstanding collective transport of people, but that has to be complemented to give more efficient responses both in urban and rural areas. After the pandemic, no one doubts that the path to sustainable mobility runs through technology.
Green innovation is today the main source of modern economic growth, which implies that this transition is more than compatible with long-term economic growth and that it also opens up a wide range of opportunities to stimulate business and social development. And emerging companies (startups) and and scaleups (company with an average growth of employees or turnover greater than 20% per year for three years) are at the center of this transition: not only because of the impulse of technological innovation, but also because of the way in which entrepreneurship reinvents our lifestyles and socio-economic paradigms, breaking down barriers.
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?
We must not miss the opportunity to have a common front at the European level around the Next Generation EU plan and its national decline # EspañaPuede. The profound transformation that we must undertake will require not only national policies, but also greater cooperation and coordination among governments.
For reasons of its own nature and capabilities, it has been challenging for the world of entrepreneurship to be able to work together with administrations through the usual channels for this. This is why it is very important that this sector is taken into account in a special way for the allocation of funds, since it will be a key piece in providing the necessary solutions to accelerate the sustainable digital transformation.
Transforming the background is important, but so is the form. There are structural issues that have been hampering our potential and now, more than ever, it is time to be courageous. We have to make an effort to align and simplify the multiple regulations that hold back innovation and generate a very high level of uncertainty and legal insecurity. But, above all, it is essential that we build this future together without leaving anyone behind, ensuring that the great opportunities for job creation and prosperity reach everyone through powerful training in value-added roles and mechanisms that strengthen territorial cohesion. (from cities to rural areas).
European funds are a historic opportunity to repair our social fabric, protecting the European single market, helping to balance the accounts and jobs of so many companies in difficulty, with all recovery efforts aimed at moving towards a green, digital and resilient future for the next generation.