60% of Catalan companies innovated in 2023, three points higher over the previous year

Catalan Economy · Tech & Digital Transformation

27 Jun 2024

According to ACCIÓ-Catalonia Trade & Investment's Innovation Barometer, Next Generation funds have accelerated the innovative activity of Catalan companies in 2023.

59.8% of Catalan companies innovated in 2023, up from 56.4% in 2022, according to the Innovation Barometer and Green and Digital Transformation in Catalonia (document .PDF) (catalan version) released by the Government through ACCIÓ-Catalonia Trade & Investment. This report, published on Wednesday, is based on a survey of 1,200 companies with more than nine employees, representing the entire region of Catalonia.

The study attributes the surge in innovative activities among Catalan firms largely to the impetus provided by the European Commission's Next Generation funds. While only 5% of innovative companies secured financing from this instrument in 2022, the figure rose to 23.5% in 2023.

“Innovation is not only a major transformative asset, but also the seeds planted for the industry we will see in ten years”

Albert Castellanos, Secretary for Business and Competitiveness and CEO of ACCIÓ-Catalonia Trade & Investment

Albert Castellanos, Secretary for Business and Competitiveness and CEO of ACCIÓ-Catalonia Trade & Investment stated, "It is evident that structurally, Catalan companies are becoming increasingly innovative, and the impact of innovation on increasing revenue, boosting productivity, and creating skilled jobs is clear". Castellanos emphasizes that "innovation is not only a major transformative asset for both the business and social sectors but also the seeds planted for the industry we will see in ten years". He believes these figures "reinforce the trend noted by the European Commission, which for the first time classified Catalonia as a 'strong innovator' in the 2023 European Innovation Scoreboard".

What is an innovative company?

The Innovation Barometer indicates that 69.7% of innovative companies have focused on product innovation, 53.7% on information and communication systems, and 41% on business process development. Additionally, significant proportions of companies have innovated in the production of goods or services (40.1%) and in marketing and sales (28%).

As a result of these activities, companies anticipate increased efficiency (62% of innovative firms), higher revenues (59.8%), and improved productivity (54.1%) in 2024. Furthermore, 34.4% expect to reduce the average cost of their product or service, while 18.4% plan to create new jobs. The Innovation Barometer also underscores a strong link with internationalization: 58.1% of innovative companies exported in 2023, compared to just 28.4% of non-innovative companies selling their products abroad.

Age trends remain consistent with previous years: innovation is concentrated among the youngest companies (73.4% of firms up to 9 years old innovated in 2023) and the most established ones (67.4% of firms over 50 years old engaged in some form of innovation).

More R&D, more impact

The Innovation Barometer also reveals that 26.5% of Catalan companies engaged in R&D activities in 2023, up from 18.3% in 2022. The vast majority pursued R&D to introduce a new product or service to the market (82.9%) or to implement a new business model (31%). Additionally, notable proportions of companies expect to apply for a patent as a result of their R&D efforts (13.5%) or to register a new trademark (10.6%).

AI use increasing

The study highlights the growing use of artificial intelligence within Catalonia’s business ecosystem. According to the report, 12.6% of Catalan companies incorporated AI technology in 2023, up from 8.4% in 2022. Much of this growth is attributed to the use of generative AI.

Overall, the report indicates that the percentage of Catalan companies investing in digital transformation rose from 35% in 2022 to 38.6% in 2023. The most adopted technologies include the Internet of Things (13.6% of Catalan companies), big data (12.1%), artificial intelligence (12.6%), 5G (6.3%), and adanced computing (4.7%).

Finally, the Innovation Barometer indicates that 41.4% of Catalan companies invested in green transformation in 2023, up from 38.8% in 2022. Notable investments include renewable energy (20.2% of Catalan companies), the use of recycled materials (17.7%), sourcing new materials (17.5%), eco-design (17.1%), and investments across the entire product or service cycle, business model, or production process (13.3%).

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