Jan. 21, 2021

Elisa García Grande


Elisa García Grande

Executive Director, ICEX Invest in Spain

“Traditionally, Latin America was seen as a prominent recipient of investment, but more recently the region has become an important source of foreign investment in the world.”


Elisa García Grande is Executive Director of ICEX Invest in Spain.

How has ICEX progressed over the last year and half, and what have been some of its highlights during that period?

In the last year, we have continued to help foreign companies to establish their businesses in Spain with an extensive range of services. However, we have adapted our strategy to the new challenges that we were facing, increasing our focus on the investment retention strategy and strengthening our aftercare policy with investors. We proceeded to support those actions with a policy advocacy approach in cooperation with other areas of the public administration to overcome uncertainty. We worked shoulder to shoulder with the Secretary of State for Trade's economic and trade offices abroad to have a clear understanding of the challenges that firms were facing in Spain in order to successfully assist them. Moreover, we sustained our support of greenfield projects that will foster economic growth and sustainable and inclusive employment in Spain while facilitating its integration with the local industry. Furthermore, we continue to attract talent with our Rising Up program addressed to third countries start-ups interested in developing their businesses in Spain, we progressed helping our start-ups to get foreign financing through open innovation activities and we launched a new call of our Smart Technological Fund, crucial in supporting R&D projects. Talent and innovation are two key elements of sustainable foreign investment that will foster economic competitiveness.

What measures has ICEX Invest in Spain carried out to mitigate the COVID-19 impact and continue generating FDI?

Global FDI flows in the first half of 2020 were under severe pressure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to UNCTAD, foreign direct investment dropped 49% worldwide in the first semester of 2020. Spain also registered a drop in foreign investment, although not as intense as was observed in other countries. According to data by the Foreign Investment Register of the Secretary of State for Trade, foreign investment in Spain in the period of January to September 2020 dropped by 11% with respect to the same period in 2019. It should be stressed that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Spanish FDI figures was especially felt in the first quarter of the year. In fact, FDI received in Spain in the second and third quarters of 2020 was significantly higher compared to the amount received in the first three months of the year, and most importantly, is also higher than the amount received in the second and third quarters of 2019. Around June, many countries' borders reopened and investors resumed their activity and were able to travel and close deals. These figures indicate that, following the initial negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, investors reactivated their operations in Spain, reflecting the confidence of corporations in our country's macroeconomic fundamentals. In that context, the activity in Invest in Spain never decreased, quite the opposite. In our day to day activities, the first thing that we did to mitigate the pandemic effect was a thorough follow up of all our portfolio of ongoing projects. The Invest in Spain team has maintained constant communication with investors in an attempt to reduce uncertainty. In addition, our project managers have been very active reaching out to the potential investors and providing them with all the information required in their decision-making process. Since investment strategies are a long-term issue, most of the investors have continued with their assessment plans and we helped them in that endeavor. In addition to that and as it has happened in many other areas of the Spanish administration and among private companies, we switched the over 200 scheduled activities to an online format. Besides that, the very challenging moments that we were living have been a great opportunity to launch our new website: a more modern and functional tool that adds value to the services and programs that Invest in Spain offers and that will bring us closer to the investors. On top of this, we have strengthened our collaboration with sister agencies at a national as well as at an international level to share economic impact analysis of the sanitary crisis and discuss possible strategies to tackle this downturn. In those meetings we discussed the challenges that we were facing and the possible solutions to overcome them. To sum up, there have been three main lines of action to mitigate COVID's impact: proximity with the investors, digitalization and sharing of good practices.

FDI from Latin America has increased by more than 200% over the last decade. What are the most important markets to attract investment to Spain?

Traditionally, Latin America was seen as a prominent recipient of investment, but more recently the region has become an important source of foreign investment in the world. In Spain, Latin America is the fourth-largest investor after the US, the UK, and France. There are big companies in Latin America that are becoming increasingly important and competitive, who are looking for new business opportunities overseas. In that regard, these firms consider Spain as a platform to enter into other markets such as Europe and Africa. Spain's geostrategic situation, its cultural proximity, its legal framework, the infrastructures, the talent and quality of life that we offer makes our country especially appealing to Latin American companies. The footprint of Latin America in ICEX Action Plan is very important: we organize business fora, we assist Spanish companies to develop their internationalization strategy there and we promote among our firms business opportunities in the region. Moreover, concerning Invest in Spain , Latin America is a key element of our strategy of investment attraction that we organize around our Latam Desk. In Invest in Spain we have a specific focal point of information for and from Latin America that every year publishes the Global Latam study analyzing the trends in Latin American investment outflows. Our Rising up program, designed to attract talent into Spain, is very popular among the region's entrepreneurs too: in the last call, among the 15 winner companies, six were from Argentina and Brazil.

What would be the main highlights of the Guide to Business Spain 2020?

The Guide is a unique document available both in Spanish and English that gathers all the legal information useful to develop a business in Spain. It summarizes the main regulatory aspects governing investment in Spain, including the most important aspects of setting up and growing a company here. This year we included in the guide the majors regulatory changes that took place because of COVID-19. Among others, we covered all the financial support granted to companies and entrepreneurs. We incorporated some new issues related to intellectual property protection and an update of the 2030 Tourism Strategy developed by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism. The upgrade in tax incentives for international shoots was also included.

What sectors performed the best during the pandemic?

All the sectors in the Invest in Spain project's portfolio have continued being very active. Nevertheless I would highlight as particularly dynamic during these months: life sciences, agrifood, logistics and transport and information and communications Technologies (ICT). In all those four sectors , activity has been thriving and investors have shown a great interest.
In the start-up ecosystem, projects have not been affected dramatically but we have remarked that investors have diversified their risks and invested in more companies, though in smaller amounts.

What are your main priorities for the year ahead?

In 2021, the internationalization of the Spanish economy will continue to be part of the solution for the economic crisis brought on by COVID-19. We have to pay great attention to the changes that global value chains are experiencing. The shortening in those processes and a growing interest in some companies to get closer to their European clients, may bring new investment opportunities to Spain. In this context, we will work to develop new high value added projects that will foster potential GDP growth and sustainable job creation. At the same time, we will ensure seamless communication with the players involved in attracting and retaining those investment: network of economic and trade offices and regional directorates of the Secretary of State for Trade, autonomous regions, as well as the chambers of commerce of third countries in Spain. This public-private collaboration will help to improve business climate in Spain. But above all, we will keep working in close contact with foreign corporations to help them bring their projects to a successful conclusion.