The Catalan Government expects to see growth in the innovative activity of the Catalan business sector and that 59.6% of companies will have innovated in 2023. This is almost 4 percentage points more than the companies that did so last year (56.4%), according to the Barometer of Innovation in Catalonia (Catalan version) prepared by ACCIÓ-Catalonia Trade & Investment, the agency for business competitiveness of the Ministry for Business and Labour. This document has been prepared based on a survey of 1,200 companies with over nine employees representing Catalonia as a whole.
According to the Secretary for Enterprise and Competitiveness and CEO of ACCIÓ-Catalonia Trade & Investment, Albert Castellanos, this increase in innovative activity within the Catalan business sector can be mainly attributed to "the recovery from the crisis caused by Covid-19, the driving effect of the Next Generation funds, and Horizon Europe." Castellanos also justifies this growth in relation to the internationalization of Catalan companies, stating that "to export, it is essential to have differentiated products or services; without innovation, there is no internationalization, and without internationalization, there is no innovation." The Secretary for Enterprise and Competitiveness further emphasizes the "support from the public administration" through ACCIÓ-Catalonia Trade & Investment, highlighting that in 2022, “over 40 million euros were allocated for grants to companies for innovation and R&D projects: projects involving risk, long-term investments, and generating high added value”.
In this regard, Castellanos emphasizes that in 2023, "ACCIÓ-Catalonia Trade & Investment will increase the budget allocated to innovation and R&D projects of Catalan companies by 35%, surpassing 56 million euros". The objective is to "accelerate and consolidate this growing trend in the Catalan business sector in innovation and R&D." Additionally, new funding lines are being launched this year to boost new technological innovation projects, the growth of 'deep-tech' startups, and access to the European funds of Horizon Europe.
Innovate to gain efficiency and increase turnover
The Catalan business sector has primarily innovated in product development (almost 60% of the companies that innovated in 2022) and information and communication systems (50%). Not to mention those companies that have innovated in production processes (37.2%), business process development (35.1%), administration and management (28.4%), marketing and sales (26.8%), and logistics and distribution (7.9%), in this regard, the Secretary for Enterprise and Competitiveness and CEO of ACCIÓ-Catalonia Trade & Investment emphasizes "the importance of innovating both in the final product and in the process of obtaining it, as well as in other intangible aspects. All of this translates into increased business competitiveness".
In fact, according to business forecasts, the impact of this innovative activity will result in increased efficiency (61.9% of innovative companies), revenue growth (54.5%), productivity improvement (50.5%), reduction in the average cost of the product or service (32.3%), and an increase in the workforce (16%). "Innovation is the main driver for companies to grow, export, become more productive, and create new jobs", assures Castellanos. Similarly, as Castellanos points out, the Barometer of Innovation in Catalonia indicates a clear link between innovation and internationalization: 58% of innovative companies are exporters, while only 30% of non-innovative companies sell their products or services abroad.
The Innovation Barometer conducted by ACCIÓ-Catalonia Trade & Investment reveals that in 2022, the R&D activity of Catalan companies also grew. 30.7% of innovative companies acquired or developed R&D, which is a higher percentage compared to 24.4% in 2021. The goal of these companies is to introduce a new product or service to the market (79.1%), implement a new business model (31.8%), or apply for a patent (16.2%).
Digital and green transformation is on the rise
The document also concludes that 35% of Catalan companies invested in digital transformation in 2022, which is a 10-percentage point increase over the previous year. The most incorporated technologies have been the Internet of Things (14.4% of Catalan companies), big data (11.3%), artificial intelligence (8.4%), 5G (4.7%), and 3D printing (4.6%).
On the other hand, the Barometer of Innovation in Catalonia indicates that 38.8% of Catalan companies invested in green transformation in 2022, which is nearly a 7-percentage point increase compared to 2021 (32.1%). Noteworthy investments include renewable energies (18.5% of Catalan companies), the use of recycled materials (14.3%), the acquisition of R&D or eco-design (13.9%), investments throughout the product or service lifecycle, business model, or production process (13.1%), and the sourcing of new materials (12.8%).