When the worst of the pandemic was behind us and economic recovery and activity for many companies were on the way, uncertainty has once again taken hold of European society. The war unleashed between Russia and Ukraine once again casts doubt on the future, and beyond the human drama that the conflict has caused, its effects on the economy are already evident. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the backbone of the Spanish productive fabric and creators of 66% of employment in our country, know this well. “In these times of uncertainty and obvious difficulties, you are showing great strength in maintaining your businesses and, with them, economic activity,” Felipe VI highlighted at the delivery of the 2021 National SME of the Year Award.
During the ceremony -organized by Banco Santander and the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, in collaboration with the PRISA Group-, the king praised the “commitment” of Spanish SMEs, especially in these last two years of the pandemic, as well as their “capacity of adaptation, perseverance and effort with the ultimate goal of maintaining and, as far as possible, generating employment and well-being”. “You are a source of pride for all of us,” he added.
At the opening of the event, held in Madrid, the president of Santander Spain, Luis Isasi, described SMEs as a “social good in itself”, since in addition to creating wealth and jobs, they contribute to cohesion and stability from the country. Isasi recognized that the armed conflict in Eastern Europe generates global instability and translates into a new crisis “that makes the role of businessmen even harder”, whom he congratulated for their work in these difficult times in which they have been able to generate prosperity. “You have shown greatness, commitment, sacrifice and exemplary effort. And you deserve the respect and support of the whole society”, he concluded.
SMEs are the essential social shield to deal with situations as adverse as the current one
José Luis Bonet, President of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce
For his part, José Luis Bonet, president of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, praised the resilience of SMEs and their ability to excel. “You are the essential social shield to deal with situations as adverse as the ones we are experiencing,” he said. Bonet referred to businessmen as “authentic social leaders” to whom all citizens are indebted, since “with their talent, their innovative capacity, their presence abroad and their commitment to society” they have made an essential contribution to overcome the covid-19 crisis.
The event, in which the Andalusian company Seabery Augmented Training was awarded the 5th National SME of the Year Award, was also attended by the Minister of the Presidency, Relations with the Courts and Democratic Memory of Spain, Félix Bolaños.
He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.
The Government representative highlighted “the resistance and adaptability” of SMEs, which he called the “soul of the Spanish economy” in these difficult years. And he recalled that the Next Generation EU European funds, which will mean an injection of 140,000 million euros for Spain, “should contribute to the strengthening of these companies so that they add more value” in the face of the new challenges they will have to face. In fact, one of the items of this money from Brussels is entirely dedicated to small and medium-sized companies, with investments that will reach 4,894 million euros.
Meanwhile, the president of the SME Commission of the Spanish Chamber, Isabel Puig Ferrer, highlighted the efforts made by this institution, focused on “identifying and promoting measures that contribute to increasing the size of SMEs”, one of its weak points . Being businesses that are too small, they are “more vulnerable and less resistant to situations of crisis and uncertainty such as the current one”, recalled Puig Ferrer, which makes it difficult for them to achieve other objectives, such as internationalization or innovation.
Entrepreneurs have shown greatness, commitment, sacrifice and exemplary effort
Luis Isasi, Chairman of Santander Spain
Likewise, he highlighted the role of SMEs in the country’s progress and their growing social leadership. “Businessmen have become the main depositories of citizens’ trust. Eight out of ten people trust them and consider them the most reliable source of information,” she said. Finally, he called for more public-private collaboration to help SMEs get ahead.
An idea shared by the president of Santander Spain, who insisted on the need to create trust to attract investment and work. “Without trust, there is no private initiative; without private initiative, there are no SMEs; without SMEs, there is no employment, and without employment, there is no growth. In other words, without the businessmen we will not have a future”, warned Luis Isasi. Because only from the collective effort it will be possible to advance in the transformation and modernization of companies. This will achieve, said the Santander representative, a “more modern and agile, more digital and inclusive, more cohesive and more sustainable” business fabric, adapted to the growing demands (and new challenges) of the 21st century.
Made in Huelva: training for a trade with augmented reality
From a home where, back in 2010, three people worked practically locked in a room to having a commercial network with a hundred employees that spans almost 80 countries. “Ours is the story of the American dream the Spanish way,” jokes the founder and executive president of Seabery Augmented Training, Basilio Marquínez. Based in Huelva, this startup has been recognized as SME of the year 2021 by Banco Santander and the Spanish Chamber of Commerce.
In just over a decade, this company dedicated to the development of educational technologies based on augmented reality simulation has led the world market for welding training. In the last financial year it had a turnover of 12 million euros, and its growth is unstoppable. In the last year alone, the workforce has increased by 26%. Now, its most immediate objective is internationalization, one of Seabery’s hallmarks, since 99% of its sales are outside of Spain.
Marquínez, who insists on the “clear pedagogical approach” of his product, designed exclusively as a simulator to train welders, dreams of placing Andalusia at the forefront of this highly specialized training. To this end, they have proposed a project with the Junta de Andalucía to provide simulators to VT centers that teach a welding or boilermaking module. His intention is to finance this idea with European funds Next Generation EU. The head of Seabery insists that this money should be used to “advance quality training and make our economy much more competitive.”