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 Xavier Ferrás, a professor at Esade.
Question. In the field of digitization, what are we at stake as a country with the correct management and use of these funds?
Answer. We play as a country and as a continent the last chance to be relevant agents on the international board. After the Covid, a process of hypercompetition for global technological supremacy among China, the emerging power; and the United States, which will not lower its guard. Dizzying amounts, unimaginable until very recently, are being poured into R&D. China hit its all-time high for R&D investment last year: $ 378 billion. Biden has launched a comprehensive restructuring plan for its economy, to turn it into a high-tech digital economy, with a package of measures of that dimension. Europe does not want to be left behind, and hence the launch of those reconstruction funds, which are not reconstruction funds. They are really competitive. And they must serve, above all, to reindustrialize Spain, with an intelligent industry (based on knowledge), sustainable (respectful with the environment), and inclusive (generating stable and quality employment)
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, what criteria should prevail in the distribution and what could be those driving forces or specific sectors?
R. The speed of technological change and the challenges of the global economy do not leave much room for maneuver. We must increase strategic investments in calls enabling technologies, those that support industrial competitiveness (artificial intelligence, 3D printing, microelectronics, supercomputing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, sensorization, robotics, clean energy …). And we must do it not from theory, but from practical application, investing jointly with companies, in projects that not only have a high technological content, but also have a strong economic impact in terms of creating competitive advantages and quality employment. Those should be the requirements of the projects: high technology and economic impact. Once these conditions have been established, the projects should be awarded competitively, to those initiatives with the greatest mobilizing and dragging effect on the economy, in all its sectors.
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?
R. There are reasonable threats of over-fragmentation. Projects will create competitive advantages ex-boyfriendnew plant) if they have a critical mass, if due to their size and level of technological challenge, they could not be addressed spontaneously by market agents.
What has more effect, to distribute a million euros in a thousand bonds of a thousand euros, or to bet on a single transformative project of a million? In innovation, we know that the former has no real effect, although it is well accepted by the market. The latter is less popular, more demanding and selective, but it has real effects on the economy.
There are also threats of non-competitive allocation: projects must be financed under strict rules of competition and competition, allocating resources to those with the highest quality and impact. And, finally, there are threats derived from the possible incapacity of management: speed must prevail over legal certainty and, in any case, severe subsequent controls must be carried out. Our administrations are, in general, slow and very guaranteeing. The flow of resources that they must now manage is enormous. If they do it with an excess of bureaucratic control dynamics, a large part of them will remain unimplemented.