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22/04/2022

Alicia Richart: “Spanish industry is at an exciting time with regard to digitalisation”

Industrial engineer by the Instituto Químico de Sarrià and MBA by Esade Business School, Alicia Richart is general manager for Spain and Portugal of Afiniti, an American artificial intelligence company specialised in customer experience. She founded and was CEO of DigitalES, the Spanish technology sector employers’ association, whose mission is to promote the country’s digital transformation. In 2012, she was appointed Digital Champion by the European Commission, bringing the European Digital Agenda to our country. She has also worked at Cellnex, Accenture and Total as a PVDF and polyolefins process engineer. He is a member of the board of the European University and Spin, a Ford Group company in urban micro-mobility.

Industrial engineer by the Instituto Químico de Sarrià and MBA by Esade Business School, Alicia Richart is general manager for Spain and Portugal of Afiniti, an American artificial intelligence company specialised in customer experience. She founded and was CEO of DigitalES, the Spanish technology sector employers’ association, whose mission is to promote the country’s digital transformation. In 2012, she was appointed Digital Champion by the European Commission, bringing the European Digital Agenda to our country. She has also worked at Cellnex, Accenture and Total as a PVDF and polyolefins process engineer. He is a member of the board of the European University and Spin, a Ford Group company in urban micro-mobility.

Alicia Richart chairs the digital transformation working committee of Expoquimia, Eurosurfas and Equiplast, the sector’s benchmark trade fair events that will take place from 30 May to 2 June 2023.

Based on your extensive experience in this field, what is the current status of digitalisation in Spanish industry?

Spanish industry is at an exciting moment with regard to digitalisation. However, there are big differences between different companies. There is a very high level in large companies in Spain, and a promising ecosystem of technology start-ups, but large needs to be covered in medium and small companies, where Spain is still below our neighbours in Europe. This can be seen in the reports published by the European Commission. The Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) is a composite index that summarises five indicators of Europe’s digital performance and tracks the evolution of EU Member States in digital competitiveness.

What are the main benefits of digitising industrial processes?

They are countless, from business to efficiency, but I would like to give a particularly interesting example in industrial environments. Artificial intelligence is very efficient in pattern detection, which has a strong impact on processes such as preventive maintenance, fault detection, demand forecasting, and optimisation in manufacturing schedules, logistics routes and other processes that are very complex to optimise manually.

Taking into account that Spain is a country with a high number of SMEs in its industrial fabric, how can the implementation of digitalisation in our industry be accelerated?

Generally, SMEs need a reliable supplier to make their life easier, and I believe that suppliers in Spain are doing a good job, and that European funds are going in the right direction. The main limitation in many cases is in aspects such as training. SMEs have to understand what benefits digitalisation has for them, what the business case is, and have the internal staff that can absorb these new ways of working.

Artificial intelligence, Big Data, robotics… is it science fiction or a consolidated reality?

It is a consolidated reality! Not only is it already being applied extensively, but it is a career where time is critical for two reasons. The first is the competitive race itself, where the best prepared companies win and the rest are left behind, but the second -less obvious- is because these processes accumulate data and learn over time, and, therefore, companies that have been around longer have a competitive advantage that is difficult to replicate. Those who have trees already bearing fruit have an advantage over those who are starting to plant now, as the results are exponential and take time to have an impact.

In this sense, what role can events such as Expoquimia, Eurosurfas and Equiplast play in promoting the digitalisation of the industry?

They have two fundamental impacts. One is the dissemination of use cases to increase awareness of the development possibilities for the industry. The other is to facilitate a meeting point between digital service providers (telecommunications operators, technology companies, consultancies) and industrial customers.

What actions does the committee you chair have in mind to touch on digitalisation at the next edition of these three shows?

We are currently reaching a consensus with the working group on what we are going to present. So as not to give away any secrets, stay tuned, as we are sure it will not disappoint. We must not forget that the chemical sector in Spain is the leading sector in R&D&I investment, with technology transfer being one of the fundamental pillars.

What actions does the committee you chair have in mind to be able to touch on digitisation in the next edition of these three shows?

We are currently reaching a consensus with the working group on what we are going to present. So as not to give away any secrets, stay tuned, we are sure it will not disappoint. We must not forget that the chemical sector in Spain is the leading sector in R&D&I investment, with technology transfer being one of the fundamental pillars.

Finally, do you think that the current context is facilitating or hindering the expansion of digital technology?

The current context is accelerating an already existing trend. The pressure on demand, the disruption of logistics chains, the volatility in input and output prices, the shortage of talent, the increased pressure on costs… not forgetting that chemical industries are critical infrastructures and, therefore, cybersecurity is also a priority. They all go in the direction of accelerating digitalisation to remain competitive and efficient.

Barcelona, April 2022

Edu Pérez Moya
93 233 21 66
eperezm@firabarcelona.com