Javier Sotil

President of MONDRAGON Corporation

“It would be a mistake to try to boost industry in all of Spain’s autonomous regions. We have to plant the right flower in fertile soil”

Do we need less industry in general and more clusters?

The concept of the cluster also has a sectoral aspect. It consists in the development around a certain sphere or activity of enterprises that seek to find their place and their way of participating in the sector. So in the end, the whole of the value chain ends up situated in this sphere or activity. The Basque Country has experience of this, and although clusters aren’t always going to work just by definition, they have yielded some very interesting results, such as the car component cluster in the Basque Country, which is a global landmark in its field.

Should we focus on certain sectors and regions when developing our industry?

A good understanding, industrial culture and years of experience in each and every one of the activities that make up the value chain of any particular sector cannot be achieved merely through investment. There are regions and nations that are particularly well-prepared for industry to proliferate. It would be a mistake to try to boost industry in all of Spain’s autonomous regions. Industrialization cannot just be a political objective: it requires a culture and infrastructures that take a long time to build up. We have to plant the right flower in fertile soil. If we invest all our efforts in places where there is no industrial fabric or culture, 50 years might pass before we achieve a solid starting position from which we can compete.

Meanwhile, if we focus on any given industry without training the professionals that we need and without the appropriate industry culture, it will be very difficult for us to be competitive. We must focus our efforts on developing industry in places where there is an industrial fabric, supporting and specializing in those sectors in which we are or can be competitive, working to move up the value chain. We are the world’s biggest olive oil producing country, and yet Italy is the country with the best sales figures. Each region has to carry out an in-depth analysis of its value chain and think about how it can move up the scale by playing to its strengths.

Should we place a greater emphasis on technical and science degrees?

Of course. In Spain there are no engineers to hire, and it is generally difficult for us to find the professionals that we need. If I need 200 engineers and they give me 200 lawyers, it’s a bad start. What is needed is further development of dual vocational training, as well as efforts to align the professions we train students in with the needs of our businesses. Such alignment would help to improve employment rates and the level of training achieved In this sense, better contact between universities and businesses would be a good thing, given that in order to obtain professionals in the jobs required we first need to provide a professional perspective, allowing students to gain an idea of the job itself. And this is achieved when they go to work in a company and get experience of the job up close.