13 Jan 2023

“The digitalisation of our economies is vital if we want Europe to compete on the global stage”

2023 is a big year for Spain as it takes over the Presidency of the European Union in July. This month, its pioneer Startups Law has come into force, making it the first country in Europe to have a law specifically aimed at supporting young companies to grow and become the next EU unicorn.

Spain is home to two of DIGITALEUROPE’s national digital associations: Adigital and AMETIC, together representing the whole Spanish digital economy. We sat down with Cesar Tello, Adigital’s Director General, to learn more about how Spain is planning to implement the law and what can the rest of Europe learn from their experience.

Cesar Tello, Director General at Adigital

Question: What impact is this new law going to have on the Spanish start-up scene?

Answer: It is going to boost entrepreneurship by recognising start-ups as a unique and innovative business model and by setting a clear definition for it. This new legal framework will also provide startups with a series of fast-track fiscal, socio-economic and workforce-boosting benefits.

Q: What input have you contributed to the law and what do you think has been a big win?

A: We called for the definition of ‘emerging businesses’ to be wider/larger so more companies could fit within the framework, and that has been partially improved. Our request to remove barriers blocking companies from applying for the benefits more than twice, has also been improved, so companies can now apply multiple times. Overall, this is a first good step in the right direction, but we need to continue working towards an ambitious regulatory framework at the national and European levels. We need to boost competitiveness.

Q: One of the goals of this law is to attract and retain digital talent. How can that be done? Is Spain on the right track?

A: Spain wants to be a magnet for technological talent and this law partly targets digital nomads who want to work from anywhere in the world. We are well positioned in terms of connectivity, ranking 3rd on the Digital Economy and Society Index [DESI, EU digitalisation ranking report], but to attract talent across the tech sector we need to simplify immigration laws and processes, and boost the scaleups environment. Ultimately, more incoming talent will translate into more innovation and higher employability for future generations.

“Our vision is that by 2030, 40% of Spain’s GDP
should come from digital”

Q: Apart from the Startups Law, how fast is digital transformation going in Spain and how is it contributing to the growth of businesses, and particularly SMEs?

A: We have gone a long way in the past few years, with many tech businesses emerging, international investments and the growth of digital hubs. Spain has climbed two positions (from 9th to 7th) in the DESI Index, which makes us among the most digitalised countries in Europe. Digitalisation is indeed contributing to the growth of SMEs, making them more prosperous and resilient. Our report on Digital Economy showed that digital businesses grew by 5 to 6% during the Covid crisis, while the rest of the economy fell by around 15%.

Q: Looking ahead, what’s the next big thing for Spain in terms of digital?

A: Innovation is still far from where it should be, we can and need to do more. Our vision is that by 2030, 40% of Spain’s GDP should come from digital. We are moving now towards artificial intelligence (AI), with a regulatory framework for AI and algorithms being defined soon. We are also playing a major role in AI on a European level: Spain will be the first EU country to host an AI Supervision Agency and the European Commission has launched a regulatory sandbox on Artificial Intelligence in Spain.

Q: What about Europe? What should be the focus?

A: We have to digitalise the economy. By 2030, the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that European companies could lose up to 4 trillion euros if they cannot ride the wave of innovation, so the digitalisation of our economies is vital if we want Europe to compete on the global stage and be as competitive and innovative as markets elsewhere. This is no longer a choice. Right now, we have to think and talk about how to do it. Digitalisation can (and will) undoubtedly transform Spain and Europe for the better.

For more information, please contact:
Samia Fitouri
Senior Communications Manager
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