Q&A  | 

Lluís Juncà: How to Overcome Barriers to Innovation

Tags: 'Digital transformation' 'Innovación pública' 'inteligencia artificial' 'Tecnología'


Reading Time: 4 minutes

Lluís Juncà is Director General for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Generalitat de Catalunya (Regional Government of Catalonia). With a background in telecommunications engineering and political sciences, and experience in European consultancies and institutions, he has a clear vocation for public service and an enthusiasm for transformative projects. Juncà reflects with The Collider on the role of different agents in the innovation ecosystem and reveals the key points for overcoming obstacles to innovation.

How does the Generalitat de Catalunya promote entrepreneurship and innovation and what are your objectives as Director General?

Our objective is to highlight the importance and impact of innovation in the nation’s economy and wellbeing and to explain that there are many ways of promoting innovation and entrepreneurship.  

The Generalitat de Catalunya promotes the transfer of knowledge from universities and research centres to businesses and also supports the startup ecosystem in Catalonia. 

Which other agents have to drive innovation?

There has to be an alliance between institutions, governments, companies and society. It is essential for society to play a proactive role, to ask for innovation and to be demanding; research centres and universities need to generate impactful research; and companies need to internalise an urgency for innovation and place it at the core of their competitiveness. Within this context, governments have to bring all these agents into alignment according to their common ground. 

What are the barriers to innovation and how can they be overcome?

The typical (but real) obstacle is cost. But aside from cost, courage is essential in order to step out of our comfort zone, to lower our natural resistance to change and to do things differently. 

Innovation means making changes before danger becomes imminent and we aren’t programmed to do that.  

To overcome this barrier, all the agents in the ecosystem have to help create a culture that anticipates changes and promotes action before it’s too late.

Which sectors are strategic for Barcelona and Catalonia and what role will innovation play in consolidating them?

Catalonia has a very diverse economy and various strategic sectors. The ones that stand out are: the biomedical-healthcare sector, with a large number of startups, big companies and investment funds; the Software as a Service (SaaS) sector; and the agri-food sector, which generates the highest GDP in Catalonia but has gaps in the technification and modernisation of its business models. 

How important is technology transfer for a nation with a highly skilled scientific base? What opportunities does it offer to companies?

A nation with a highly skilled scientific base has to take advantage of this trait. We do, but not as much as we ought to. We have excellent science that is funded by everyone and therefore we should also have excellent economic activity around this science that generates returns for everyone. 

What is the state of deep tech in Catalonia and what are its challenges?

Catalonia is one of the most digitalised nations in Europe. Barcelona is the most technological non-state-capital city in Europe and half of the startups in Catalonia say that they use deep tech. 

We should continue to drive deep tech in order to rank alongside the best in the world. 

What role should universities and research centres play in the ecosystem of deep tech startups?

We want startups with added value and a lot of technology, so universities and research centres have to be the nerve centre for these ecosystems. We want to promote the vision that these centres play a fundamental role in creating innovative startups and that they aren’t incidental or secondary. 

What about the role of governments?

Governments have to act as coordinators of the different agents in the ecosystem. To provide guidance on what lines to follow, to generate trust amongst the different agents and to try, from the rear guard, to bring them into alignment as much as possible. 

To achieve collaboration between startups and research centres, governments have to facilitate the connection. We do this through communication and with joint funding programmes for innovation between companies and centres. 

What other agents are needed to drive scientific entrepreneurship and to generate a deep tech ecosystem?

Research centres and big corporations. The research centres have to encourage their members and students to move science into the market. For instance, by seeking alliances with other members or professional profiles who are more business-management oriented. Scientists should have this aim in mind and receive an award if their research reaches the market. 

As for big companies, they have great investment capacity, so they can drive a scientific project to reach the market quickly and on a large scale. 

They can definitely catalyse innovation and make research have an impact. 

What do you think is The Collider’s added value?

Knowing how to act in an area of the ecosystem where the market wasn’t complete enough. The Collider brings science to the market and also does it outside Barcelona. To us, it’s really important to spread the wealth of Barcelona’s startup ecosystem across the whole of Catalonia. 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be an entrepreneur?

To surround themselves with good, qualified people, not to try and start up by themselves. Starting out is very complicated, especially if you do it alone.