Innovation is a HiT in Spain

The first HiT World Innovation Summit has been launched in Barcelona this week, with IT developers in mobile technology, green IT and healthcare IT fighting to grab the venture capitalists brought in to view the technology beauty contest taking place.

The first HiT World Innovation Summit has been launched in Barcelona this week, with IT developers in mobile technology, green IT and healthcare IT fighting to grab the venture capitalists brought in to view the technology beauty contest taking place.



The summit will become an annual event in Barcelona and is taking place at the same venue used by the growing 3GSM Mobile World Congress.

As mobile innovation makes up one of the three streams deemed by the organisers as the most important for ICT vertical market growth, mobile industry body the GSMA is backing the event and putting forward possible targets for venture capitalists.

Other companies in health and green IT are similarly competing for funding by being given scheduled pitch time in front of the hundreds of delegates.

No mobile UK presence

Disappointingly for the UK though, no companies from these shores are being given the opportunity to show off their mobile wares in this way.

This might be surprising for some, considering the UK spawned key mobile players Vodafone and O2. The GSMA judges have selected no UK firms as part of the 10 pitching in the European contest.

Andy McGuire, vice-president for mobile innovation, told Computer Weekly, "We received a total of 75 entrants for the competition, but no UK companies made it."

He said 15 of these entries were weeded out by the GSMA before being passed to the judging panel, on the grounds that they were not thought out properly or did not have any business case. But from the 60 remaining, no UK firm was allowed to step up to the pitching and funding platform at HiT.

Mobile innovation competition

Two winners from the process will be entered into a world mobile innovation competition at next year's 3GSM Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The winners will be announced tomorrow.

The UK has not fared much better in the Global Entrepreneurship Competition also being held at HiT. Just one company from the 24 final entries is from the UK - drilling and refinery oil clean-up firm Surface Active Solutions.

In the Green IT competition category Liberty Electric Cars is pitching its zero emission 4x4 luxury vehicle system, the Range Rover Vogue, as one of 12 competitors.

Green technology gaining popularity

One of the busiest sessions at the conference addressed the current investment market in green IT, or "Cleantech" to give it its proper show moniker.

Douglas Lloyd, CEO at Venture Business Research, told session delegates, "In 2009, investment levels are bleak. The size of finance is down and there is a reduction in risk taken, with greater numbers of companies forming consortia together to spread risks."

Of those sectors still attracting green IT/Cleantech finance, Lloyd said wind energy, energy storage, smart grids and energy efficiency were the prime markets to be in for venture capitalists.

Nigel Grierson, managing director of Doughty Hanson Technology Ventures, said, "It is a series of ups and downs in a still growing market. The politicians have done a good job in getting public support for green technology."

When asked why utility firms were so slow in introducing smart meters in customer homes, Grierson said, "Smart meters would be better if they could be used to measure exactly what power was being used by which appliance, so consumers could make decisions on how to cut power.

"Just reducing the number of times a man has to come to the house to read the meter is not going to change the world."

He said itemised phone billing was a good example in how to give consumers the power to change usage. He said, "Years ago, I would get one basic bill for around £130, then when my son became a teenager it went up to about £400. But I could not stamp on the usage until I had an itemised bill."

Healthy UK healthcare representation

The UK is relatively well represented in the healthcare pitching competition, with Diabetology and ValiRx getting a potentially valuable platform among the 14 companies chosen.

Diabetology has developed a proprietary oral delivery system to administer known bioactives and novel compounds for the management of diabetes. ValiRx develops technologies for the analysis and treatment for cancer and other diseases.

Spain an innovative country

Barcelona is understandably delighted with its selection for the HiT event, and is using it to parade its current city-wide technology innovation projects as an opportunity to aid further growth.

Barcelona mayor and HiT president Jordi Hereu, said, "The ability to get out of this economic crisis lies in the market's ability to generate new areas of growth in emerging sectors, such as biotechnology, telecoms and clean energies.

"HiT brings together experts in innovation, entrepreneurs and investors to drive this aim forward."

Research by Forrester has revealed the attractiveness of Spain as a destination for IT services work. Spain's IT services industry accounts for around 250,000 IT professionals, and has one of the highest European growth rates for senior IT staff.

More than 16,000 IT companies already operate in Spain and over 11,000 foreign companies have established offices in the country to take advantage of its benefits.

Forrester said, "Many of Spain's large firms, such as Grupo Santander, Iberdrola and Zara, punch above their weight internationally and are known for their innovation, efficiencies and world-class technology."

Labour costs in the IT sector in Spain are around half those in the UK, and almost on par with Indian rates when factoring in the corporate governance costs of working in India, said Forrester.

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