Q&A  | 

Xavier López: towards systematic technological innovation

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


Reading Time: 8 minutes

Xavier López is Chief corporate officer and Chief operating officer of the technology centre Eurecat. An economist by training, he is a firm advocate of collaboration between players in the business ecosystem. Xavier reflects with The Collider on the challenges of systematic innovation and highlights the importance for companies to take certain technological risks to progress in their digital and green transformation.

What is the mission of Eurecat?

The mission of Eurecat is to help improve the competitiveness of businesses through technological innovation and knowledge transfer, and to provide innovative solutions for the different social challenges.

How would you define the Catalan industrial network with regards to research, innovation and technological competitiveness?

The Catalan industrial network is extremely competitive. It is diverse and fragmented, and includes very small companies from very different sectors. Catalonia is a country of SMEs, but with more small enterprises than medium-sized ones. Its technological innovation, therefore, is often not systematic enough nor does it have enough impact. Hence the reason for technology centres such as Eurecat. 

What are the main barriers faced by industry in adopting technologies and solutions with the potential to increase their competitiveness?

The knowledge barrier. Technological innovations, both in products, processes, business models and above all in deep tech, requires knowledge of different technological and scientific disciplines, and small and medium-sized enterprises find it difficult to access all this knowledge. There is also the obstacle of taking risks in investment and financing.  

Eurecat is based on a public-private model. To what extent do you think that mixed and collaborative structures are important for improving tech transfer rates?

At Eurecat, we are strong defenders of collaboration, event beyond public-private collaboration. We must seek solutions that provide more innovation, more competitiveness and more quality of life through structured collaboration between businesses, universities, technology centres, public research centres, the Authorities…. Most of the challenges we face in business and as a society require as such. 

Is there a balance between the level of scientific-technological research and the level of innovation in companies in Catalonia?

No, and not only in terms of business but also in the country as a whole. We have great scientific potential, but we are not that great when it comes to taking research to the marketplace and turning it into technological innovation with an impact on business competitiveness. 

In terms of business, there are not enough Catalan companies systematically innovating and the number of companies that not only innovate but also internalise part of the applied research is even smaller. 

Which measures must be implemented to optimise tech transfer and promote innovation in business and industrial ecosystems?

To overcome the two main knowledge and innovative culture barriers, ecosystem work among the different players of the research and technological development value chain must be promoted so that they all work like a true ecosystem, and incentives should be regularly increased. For example, promoting incentives so that companies establish permanently collaborative links with technology centres, universities, etc. would help reduce the risks taken by these companies.   

Which sectors of the business and industrial network are at the forefront of adopting innovative solutions and technologies?

The Catalan economy is extremely diversified, with very competitive situations in terms of business and technology in different sectors, although some of the leading sectors are:  Health, the foodstuff industry, the mobility industry, and the ancillary automotive and mobility industry. 

Which technologies will be most decisive in strategic sectors such as health, the environment, and industry 4.0?

Artificial intelligence, which has and will continue to have an extremely significant impact on health and the fight against climate change; the technologies linked to IoT and state-of-the-art sensors; the future generation of robotics, which is increasingly collaborative, cognitive and autonomous, and that will provide competitiveness in the industrial, health, healthcare and service sectors. 

I would also like to highlight the importance of new materials, linked to the recovery and reuse of materials, and the design of new materials to advance in circular economy schemes. Lastly, technological developments that make new energy sources more efficient and reduce the barriers for adopting them.  

What do Eurecat and The Collider give each other?

As a technology centre, Eurecat can provide The Collider with technological knowledge in specific areas and in the evaluation of the technological feasibility of projects so that technologies are developed more quickly and efficiently and with fewer risks. The Collider provides Eurecat with skills and methods in business acceleration. For example, to build the team, connect the business project to the ecosystem, to corporates, etc. The collaboration between Eurecat and The Collider is a clear example of collaboration between different players in the system that is clearly based on complementarity 

What advice would you give companies encountering challenges in innovation, digitisation and deep tech?

To open the doors and go outside. It might be difficult, but it is very important to know how to take time out from their everyday operations to spend contacting the different players in the system.  

And they should try to spend part of their technical, human and financial resources on initiatives that involve a certain amount of technological risk. If they do not interiorise this culture, they will not progress in digital transformation or in green and sustainable transformation, never mind in adopting deep tech technologies.