Made in Spain

Madrid Metropolitan takes a look at some of the less-well known things that Spain excels at, and that were the Spanish a less modest brunch, would be subject of a lot more bragging.

We know about its food, its football, the art and architecture, stunning landscapes and beaches, and the welcome it gives to millions of tourists. But there’s a lot more that Spain does well which receives less attention.

Take healthcare. Bloomberg ranks the Spanish health system as the most efficient in Europe, and third in the world, after Hong Kong and Singapore. That’s partly why people here live longer than in most countries.

Spain is the best country in the world to be in if you need a life-saving organ transplant, and has been for the last 25 years. In 2016, 4,818 transplants were carried out from 2,018 donors. That’s equivalent to 43 transplants from deceased donors per 1 million inhabitants – more than three times what the German´s manage. It’s all about organization – a trait that, unfairly, is not usually associated with Spanish and yet the end result is shorter waiting lists and more lives saved.

Few countries can boast a better transport infrastructure. Both Madrid and Barcelona have excellent integrated underground and commuter train systems, while the high speed train network is the second largest in the world behind China. The quality and extent of its motorway network generates envy abroad.

In business education, Spain has three schools – IESE, Esade & IE – among the best in the world. They are also famed for being the most entrepreneurial. That helps sustain the vibrant start-up scene, with Madrid at the fore. In a recognition of the talent in the capital, Google chose Madrid to locate its 4th Google campus after London, Tel Aviv and Seoul; Amazon established its Southern European tech-hub here; and earlier this year Ernst & Young inaugurated its Artificial Intelligence Excellence Centre for Europe, Middle East, India & Africa.

Spain also has some great companies. Inditex, owner of the Zara brand, needs little introduction, but its achievement in transforming the global fast-fashion business shouldn’t be underestimated. It continues to set an example for the sector as rivals struggle to imitate its model.

Many may be surprised to learn that Spain is the second biggest car manufacturer in Europe after Germany; quite a feat given that there are no Spanish-owned marques, and all thanks to having some of the most efficient factories and an unusual degree of flexibility on the part of the car workers and unions.

The country has also carved out a good niche in aerospace. It’s a leader in composite aero structures, low pressure turbine engines, and air traffic management systems, as well as military transport aircraft – the C295, designed and built by CASA (now incorporated into Airbus), is in service with 26 different air forces, while the bigger Airbus 400 is assembled in Seville. Airbus make tail-wings here for all its models, and manufactures helicopters in its Albacete factory. Boeing chose Spain to locate its first R&D centre outside the US.

Where Spanish business really flexes its muscles is in Infrastructure. Its companies are involved in building railway and metro systems, highways and energy plants all over the world. As one of the globe’s biggest construction company, ACS is also first for managing infrastructure, with Abertis 3rd and Ferrovial 4th. Acciona is the world’s biggest renewable energy company, with Iberdrola and several others not far behind.

That’s not all: Sol Melia is the world’s biggest holiday hotel operator. Freixenet produces more sparkling wine than anyone. Viscofan is the biggest global manufacturer of sausage skins (its market value of €2.3bn shows that the world eats a lot of sausages).

It should serve to remind us that there is so much more to Spain than the good life, and that Spanish business is capable of competing with the best of them. In a post Brexit landscape Spain has a unique opportunity to move up a notch – it´s business is capable. One wonders of its political class.

Roger Pike

WH Advisers – Helping International businesses understand Spain

Winter Hill Advisers
Winter Hill Advisers

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