“With COVID-19, nothing new will happen but we will see an acceleration of many trends that were already incubating in the system”

Sessió Fòrum ASCEF

Xavier Ferràs, Professor of Operations Management, Innovation and Data Sciences at ESADE, gave a virtual lecture on June 26 to the members of the Forum of the Catalan Association of Family Business (ASCEF) under the title “Apocalypse or oasis? Opportunities in an uncertain world. The post-pandemic path”. In this, he discussed industry, innovation and competitiveness in the post-Covid era and also offered advice for family businesses faced with the new reality.

With COVID-19, nothing new will happen but we will see an acceleration of many trends that were already incubating in the system,” Prof. Ferràs began. He described the pandemic as a “Sputnik moment”, referring to the United States’ response to the launch of the USSR’s satellite in 1958, in which it placed science and technology at the heart.

Many things are happening in the scientific field that will make a big impact. Some are now highly embryonic but they will open up spectacular business fields,” the ESADE professor added at the conference for the ASCEF Forum.

Prof. Ferràs also stressed the importance of increasing investment in R+D+i, recalling that in the European Union “the target is an investment of 3% of the budget but in Catalonia it is now 1.5%. We have to double our investment, but doing the numbers is not that difficult, because the foundations have already been laid”.

The future is about technological warfare. We do not have this awareness, but many countries, corporations, are building, guiding, generating around different technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence,” he added before warning that “Europe has no data strategy: our data is now in the hands of American companies”. In a world “where the China-US rivalry will intensify, the EU urgently needs to position itself in this bipolar world.”

Prof. Ferràs said that the COVID-19 pandemic will strengthen the technology industry as we have been placed in an increasingly digitised world: “The pandemic has made us realise how important it is to have some strategic industries, or strategic technologies, such as 3D printing.”

Prof. Ferràs also had a message for young Catalan entrepreneurs: “Your challenge is to ensure that Catalonia is at this ‘high-end’ level of competitiveness. With this, we can contemplate a welfare state that is also ‘high-end’“.

Prof. Ferràs concluded with some pieces of advice for family businesses faced with this new post-pandemic scenario: “It is important to prepare companies; they must be nimble in decision-making, attract and retain talent, and possess a certain innovation process”. He added that “it is important to protect and operate the ‘core business’ with a high level of excellence, but also to devote a small proportion to exploring the ecosystem in the long term, which may now be embryonic of the business model of the future“.

The lecture formed part of the Forum, the group within ASCEF that comprises over 190 members of business families of between 18 and 45 years of age. It aims to bring the Association closer to younger people, paying special attention to the issues that concern them.