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Recipes for reindustrialization: innovation and talent

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We must re-industrialize. Over the past decades, European countries have been losing their industry: production was stopped to import from abroad, the economy was outsourced, factories were relocated. The industrial seemed somewhat outdated, something to abandon in pursuit of a hypothetical modernity of finance and services. The post-Fordist work model, far from the large factories, dispersed in SMEs and the self-employed, weakened the union structure and, therefore, labor rights. But now the challenge is that the Spanish industrial sector reaches 20% of GDP, when it is at 15%, below the European average. One of the objectives of Horizon 2030 is for each of the member countries of the European Union to reach that percentage.

“The industry is very relevant ”, says Joaquín Abril-Martorell, Cepsa's Chief Digital Officer (CDO),“ countries with powerful industrial development surf crises better, generate higher quality employment, promote more innovation: industry is essential for a country”. According to the consulting firm Deloitte, a strong industrial sector implies greater stability in times of distress, a knock-on effect on the rest of the sectors (especially the services sector) and some positive externalities: the boost from R&D and exports improves competitiveness general of the economy. For the CDO, innovation is fundamental in reindustrialization: it allows improving production processes, imagining new products, other forms of marketing and communication, etc. But innovation has certain requirements: technology and, above all, talent. “Without innovation there is no industry”, says the expert, “but without talent there is no innovation.”

The reindustrialization that is now proposed It will not have that almost nineteenth-century look of mines, railroads, large factories and lots of smoke, but it will be a sustainable and digital industrialization that, above all, takes into account people: both those who work and those who consume. In competition with great powers such as the United States or China, Europe must stand out for its innovation and its respect for the environment. It will, of course, be an Industry 4.0, notoriously automated, or even an Industry 5.0, in which deep collaboration between people and machines predominates, through Artificial Intelligence, to improve efficiency and productivity. An industry that banishes repetitive jobs but also creates concern about the future of work. Will machines replace us?

“Without industry there is no competitiveness”, says Tommaso Canonici, founding partner and CEO of the Opinno consultancy , “We have to get to the level that other countries already have in a short time. In Europe we cannot compete in terms of costs or in other areas, so the only way forward is innovation ”. A path that will not be easy. Technology is of the utmost importance, but it so happens that, although in a Europe we are great consumers of technology, and we keep up to date with the dizzying advances, we are not so good at producing it: the initiative in new technological developments has traditionally been in the United States and now also in China. “During the pandemic, two things have come to light. The first: the dependence of society on industry. The second: the vulnerability of the industry that is not agile. The only competitive advantage is agility and it is based on innovation and technology ”, says Miguel Álava, general director of Amazon Web Services Iberia.

What does innovation mean? Canonici explains it through four characteristics that innovative companies must have. One, the innovative company finds out what is happening before the others and works in an ecosystem, collaborates with others. Two, it is focused on the customer and not just the product. Three, it's agile, it doesn't take too long to bring an idea to fruition. And four, it has a leadership and culture linked to innovation. It is not important that there is an innovation department, but that innovation permeates all departments and all workers. That is the way of doing things.

The European funds that are arriving in Spain to save the serious crisis caused by the coronavirus will be important when it comes to reindustrializing. “The funds are a magnificent opportunity to accelerate the recovery, but they cannot be the engine,” says Abril-Martorell. The engine, once again, has to be talent. At Cepsa, for example, they have created a digital university, with five faculties (Data and Visualization, Artificial Intelligence, Automation, etc.) to create value and promote innovation among employees. Thus, workers acquire new skills, are more autonomous and are more satisfied in their job performance.

Interestingly, although the profiles in technical matters (the so-called STEM: science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are the most demanded in this present and in the future to come, vocations among university students are not abundant, especially among women, who have traditionally been led to choose other careers . “Digital and sustainability are two sides of the same coin: without a sustainable and digital model there is no future. But the metal that this coin is made of are people “, concludes the expert,” it is essential to bet on talent. “

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