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The Interview - Vanesa Arroyo, Executive Director at Andorra Research and Innovation

Thanks indeed to Vanesa Arroyo, Executive Director at Andorra Research and Innovation (ARI) for her generosity in sharing with SPSG Consulting clients and friends her robust experience in the sport industry from an innovation perspective. ARI, along with Andorra Business (AB) created three years ago the Andorra Sports Innovation Hub, as part of the strategy to position Andorra as one of the leading destinations when it comes to sport innovation focused on Winter and Mountain Sports as well as Cycling,. The Andora Sports Innovation Hub benefits, since its conception, has benefited from the experience and technical guidance of SPSG Consulting and GSIC powered by Microsoft.

This year you have been appointed as the new Executive Director of Andorra Research & Innovation (ARI), a private foundation of the public sector. The small, modern and beautiful country of Andorra is working very hard to be positioned as one of the global leading destinations when it comes to sport innovation focused on Winter and Mountain Sports as well as Cycling. What are the main activities that ARI is developing? Certainly, Andorra is a country with certain peculiarities with challenges but at the same time many opportunities, to contextualize, is important to understand some basic information about Andorra, which has 468km2, with more than 80,000 inhabitants and receives about 8M visitors a year.  

Specifically, sport is one of the priority and strategic sectors of the country, and speaking in terms of numbers, it generates around 8% of the GDP and most of this amount comes from mountain sports and cycling, in particular skiing, we have more than 300km of ski slopes and which has been considered since 1965 sport of national interest.

From Andorra Research + Innovation (ARI), our main objective is to promote knowledge, provide innovative solutions for development and sustainable development and contribute to the diversification of the economy of Andorra, but above all promote the knowledge economy. We promote different innovative projects that contribute and promote the sports sector, for this reason, the different actions that we develop allow us to create national and international connections that generate new opportunities for our ecosystem and generate a differential value.

Some examples of projects that we impulse are through collaboration with strategic partners, the main example is the collaboration with GSIC and SPSG Consulting in which we created the Andorra Sports Innovation Hub.   One of the main strategic projects is Andorra Living Lab, promoted by ARI in which we position Andorra as the first living lab at a country scale, where the startups and innovative projects can co-create, explore, create MVPs and test different products and technologies, in an agile environment. We are certified as a member of ENoLL (European Network of Living Lab)

What can Andorra offer to the athletes, teams, investors and fans of these two sports/activities (Cycling / Winter and Mountain Sports), in comparison with other destinations? In Andorra we offer a 360º experience, as I commented in the previous question, the sports sector was declared of national interest in 2021 and for that reason, many strategic projects have been developed to position and promote this sector.  

Andorra is an environment that offers possibilities for athletes throughout the year, we are seeing this from different perspectives such as the number of sporting events that are held in the country as the Ski World Cup (Audi FIS Ski World Cup Andorra), the UCI BTT World Cup, Ironman and different top-level competitions.

Another perspective is the number of new projects that are starting up in this area, both at the level of infrastructure creation, companies and startups. From ARI we are seeing this thanks to the number of projects and startups that want to develop projects and pilot tests in the Andorra Living Lab. Just a year ago we launched the Andorra Startup platform, where we see more and more projects that help to boost this sector. Also, one of the strategic projects from Andorra Research + Innovation is Andorra Living Lab, which positions Andorra as the first test environment on a national scale and allows us to test different startup technologies. As part of the strategy to position Andorra as one of the leading destinations when it comes to sport innovation focused on Winter and Mountain Sports as well as Cycling, you have created, along with Andorra Business (the Andorra’s economic promotion and development agency , lead by Judit Hidalgo), and with the technical support and guidance of SPSG Consulting and GSIC, the Andorra Sports Innovation Hub. What is the origin of the Hub? And what are the main goals of the Hub? Exactly, together with Andorra Business, we started visioning an environment where all the value chain of the sports sector would be covered from the idea to the final product or service, that vision was developed to finally, consolidate the Andorra Sports Innovation Hub. Together we have been partners with GSIC powered by Microsoft and SPSG Consulting for more than three years, and this union allows us to connect with the international ecosystem of the innovation-oriented in sport sector and allows us to connect with other international ecosystems, companies and startups.

We created the Andorra Sports Innovation Hub as a result of the union of the four institutions (Andorra Research + Innovation, Andorra Business SPSG Consulting and GSIC) to encompass and work in a specific and focused way in innovation projects in the sports sector. Some of the projects that have been promoted are open innovation challenges, innovation summits, industry reports and scaleup programs.

Andorra as a pioneer in the living lab ecosystems on a country scale, has launched friendly regulations for the sector: Law on digital economy, entrepreneurship and innovation, where Andorra is specified as a testing environment and sandbox regulation.

This last year we have worked on different pilot projects, among them with startups that come from this collaboration (Evix, City Legends, FanPrime and Etelatar among others). Some of those startups are now repeating new experiences that allow all of us to continue learning and improving our procedures.  

As a result of the collaboration with GSIC, we have the support of SPSG Consulting, which allows us to have a deeper and more concrete vision of the sector thanks to its expertise in sports. The Andorra Sport Innovation Hub, that ARI is part of, has already undertaken and develop many different activities and initiatives: Start-Up Challenges, Scale-Up program, Sport Innovation Summits, Sport investment guide, reports on Cycling and Winter&Mountain sports innovation, etc.. What are the main activities moving forward? And how the hub is instrumentally contributing to the successful development of Andorra, specially from a research and innovation perspective? Yes, the fact is that many projects have been promoted during these last years thanks to the impulse of actions such as the Andorra Sports Innovation Hub. We have launched 3 editions of startup challenges in which different pilot tests have been carried out, this year we have carried out the first edition of the scale-up program project, different Sport Innovation Summits in the country, the investment guide and different reports.

As a perspective for next year, we are already preparing different actions that will contribute to further boosting the sector, and in particular, we are preparing initiatives that will contribute to impact on the sports sector in the country.

Finally, according to your understanding of the sport and innovation ecosystem, what are the main trends and opportunities that the sport industry is facing, especially focused on innovation on Winter and Mountain sports and Cycling?

We must take into account that we are in a completely changing environment, where agility, anticipation and adaptation to changes are essential to contribute to the development of an environment.

From Andorra Research + Innovation we are seeing increasingly innovative technology-based projects that are approaching the sports sector. During the last few years, we have developed different pilot tests that combine sport, health and new technologies. This has only been a starting point, but we are seeing how totally different sectors are getting closer and closer and synergies and tests are produced between them to obtain better results.

We are focusing now on developing new synergies around genomics that offer very valuable information for the health management of the athletes helping them to make better decisions before, during and after competition.


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