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How the Strategy for Spain as an Entrepreneurial Nation will benefit startups and SMEs

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Spain has set itself the challenge of becoming an attractive country for emerging companies through the Strategy for Spain as an Entrepreneurial Nation. The purpose of the strategy is to promote and boost their formation and development through four milestones: investment, talent, scalability and public sector support for entrepreneurship.

The recently launched Estrategia España Nación Emprendedora (Strategy for Spain as an Entrepreneurial Nation) is aimed at boosting Spain’s business fabric, which has been suffering for more than a year due to the pandemic. “This strategy advocates for a change in the country’s productive bases and aims to tackle the challenge of productivity as a guarantee of greater resilience to situations of crisis, and to strengthen economic growth”, highlights the plan’s objectives.

To achieve this, it seeks to make Spain an attractive place for entrepreneurs and startups from around the world, in order to attract international investment and make Spain a location where these emerging companies can be established, financed and scaled globally. The goal is that by 2030 Spain will be the nation of startups.

The starting point provides reasons to be optimistic, with options for improvement. In pre-Covid-19 times, 6 out of every 100 people had formed a company, according to 2019 data from the GEM Spain Report. The internationalisation of these companies in the early days was modest – only 7% of Spanish startups earned more than 25% of their turnover from overseas markets, which is notably lower than the European average of 18.8%. Also, Spaniards were not particularly inclined to become entrepreneurs – only 36% of the Spanish population believed that there were good business opportunities to be had. Elsewhere in Europe this figure was 52%.

In view of this new strategy, Ainhoa Campo Nieto, Global Head of Open Innovation at BBVA, underlines the importance of this drive: “We have to be aligned and collaborate because we’re all set to win here, it’s about supporting the national economy and it’s being addressed from many angles. That’s why at BBVA we’re going to be there and be supportive”.

“We have to be aligned and collaborate because we’re all set to win here”

50 measures over the next 10 years

The plan, in place until 2030, includes 50 measures split into five major groups, depending on the area or objective to which each one is linked. Here are some of the most relevant ones for the fintech ecosystem.

  • Creation of the National Office of Entrepreneurship (ONE). The purpose of this body will be to organise and coordinate entrepreneurship support services in collaboration with all state organisms and public-private agents in the ecosystem. The ONE will have various responsibilities focused on the same objective – to be the starting point for innovative entrepreneurship in Spain. Hence the ONE’s work will include being a bank of resources, creating an intensive training programme for SMEs, seeking international funding for innovative national projects, promoting the inclusion of Spanish entrepreneurs in European projects and coordinating and managing Entrepreneurship Information Points in universities.
  • Law on the Promotion of the Startup Ecosystem. The aim of this law is to recognise the specificity of emerging companies as companies with high growth potential that are likely to create jobs, wealth and innovation. This law therefore looks to facilitate the administrative side of things (for example, by simplifying how emerging companies are established), to attract and retain specialised talent in startups through a more favourable taxation system, to encourage closer ties between vocational training, universities and emerging companies, and to ensure the efficacy and coherence of the state system of assistance for entrepreneurship. As far as Ainhoa Campo is concerned, this point is essential so that “companies can flourish more quickly and corporations can drive open innovation with them”.
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  • National Plan for Social Entrepreneurship. This part of the programme is focused on seeking the social impact of economically sustainable and viable business models over time. For this reason, the desire is to promote entrepreneurship policies that are based on what is known as the triple bottom line (social, financial and environmental) to have a transformative impact on society and the enviroment t the same time as generating economic prosperity. This vision sits well within the green and sustainable future towards which the European Union is heading, with initiatives like the European Green Deal, and with BBVA’s outlook. “It is imperative that all businesses have their sights set on not just environmental but social sustainability, and this includes diversity of gender and age”, says Campo. In this regard, the strategy also includes the implementation of an international programme to attract female talent.
    • Attracting company headquarters to Spain. Another relevant point leaves to one side the matter of talent creation to focus on the other side of the coin – attracting talent from elsewhere to our country. To this end, the objective is to intensify the active policy of attracting innovative international companies to Spain, creating a package of assistance for opening local offices and centres of development and innovation. So it’s about attracting as well as creating.
    • Investment of family assets (‘family offices’). Traditionally, families in Spain who have assets with which they can invest generally invest in property and traditional sectors. One of the measures of this initiative is to attract that investment towards innovation in order to stimulate innovative entrepreneurship. For families with the means to invest, this presents itself as an opportunity to diversify their investment portfolios and potentially earn attractive returns.
    • ‘Sandboxes’: public testing environments. The use of sandboxes by different sectors helps innovation, allowing a reliable method of trial and error to be used to regulate public policy. With the creation of a compatible legal framework, the strategic plan involves experimenting with new products and business models in a real environment for a limited time and under strict supervision, to test whether each model will work. Under Spanish legislation, the sectors that could benefit from the sandbox model would be housing, transport, energy and taxes, as well as the classic financial sector, the main reason for implementing this regulatory framework.
    • SMEs innovating in public tenders. Although already legislated in 2017, the strategic plan is intended to adapt the procedure for public competitions and tenders to encourage the participation of innovative small- and medium-sized enterprises. To do this, the manual explains that it will be necessary to adapt the legal requirements (financial solvency, for example) and the assessment criteria. In this way, public administrations will become one of the financial pillars of innovation in Spain.

    Once the programme has been presented at the national level, the executive’s intention is that throughout this decade, and with 2030 as the horizon, the measures and the projects presented will be approached in an orderly and collaborative manner. The government, corporations, small businesses and startups will work together to turn Spain into a nation of entrepreneurs.

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