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The Interview - Jordi Gallardo(Minister of Presidency, Economy and Enterprise Government of Andorra)

Andorra is positioning as a worldwide leading destination for winter and mountain sports, as well as cycling. Andorra Business and Andorra Research & Innovation created at the Andorra Sports Innovation Hub to ease and facilitate the ecosystem to go to the next level, assisting start-ups, investors and companies to generate a better framework to invest and develop products and services related to winter and mountain sports, and cycling. GSIC powered by Microsoft and SPSG Consulting are assisting Andorra in this process.

Andorra is working very hard to be positioned as one of the leading destinations when it comes to sport innovation focused on Winter and Mountain Sports as well as Cycling. Why did you choose these two sports?

Andorra is a mountain country nestled in the Pyrenees with snowy weather in Winter. Since 1950s five ski resorts have developed to attract many tourists as well as professionals and recently, we’ve been the site of many international events in winter sports such as the 2019 Audi FIS World Cup Finals, the 2020 ISMF World Cup, the 2021 ITU Winter Triathlon World Championship or the 2019 FIS Speed Ski World Cup. In terms of cycling, Andorra also has hosted many international events such as the Tour de France, La Vuelta de España or recently the Andorra Multisport Festival that among other offers a road cycling race, an MTB race, and an Ironman 70.3. To that end, our steep orography and high altitude are perfect when it comes to exigence and configures the country as a true training camp for athletes. Therefore, Andorra is home to some of the best cycling professionals worldwide. Taking this into account, it is not a matter of choosing but to promote and strengthen what we already have.

The sports industry in Andorra accounts for 7.7% of the country’s GDP. Compared to the EU average (2.2% of EU GDP), this means more than three time the weight. Sports in Andorra are not only practice, health, and values but economy. This is why the government included the sports industry in their economic diversification plan. Moreover, in our goal to keep an international competitive environment we need to boost innovation, and the sports industry is no exception on that. More and more, sports companies rely on technology to improve their business model, promotion, and fan engagement. On the other side, the innovations applied to the practice make athletes and amateurs more confident and committed to their activity. On that framework, Andorra has much potential to become a 360 destination or home for selected sports and we try to develop all the value chains in order to generate business.

What can Andorra offer to the athletes, teams, investors and fans of these two sports, in comparison with other destinations?

One of the Andorra’s main assets underlined by athletes and professionals in the sector is the fact that it gathers all the actors needed to create and to feed the ecosystem. Athletes and teams find the grounds, infrastructure and culture to train, the medical services they need and other athletes to mingle. On the other hand, companies, and investors, find the perfect place to develop products and to test them with athletes and first-class sports and innovation infrastructures. Besides they can have the services of a business-oriented government and other important organizations in the sector such us the Andorra Sports Clusters, both working and supporting their business development and projects.

As part of your 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 the Andorra Innovation Hub. What are the main goals of the hub and the main activities so far?

The Andorra Innovation Hub / Andorra Reseach+Innovation, has the aim to foster research, innovation, technology transfer and entrepreneurship in relevant topics such as Mountain and Sports in Andorra by connecting and creating synergies between public administrations, start-up’s, corporates and research and innovation institutions both national and international. Moreover, the project is working in the last years to develop Andorra as an Open Innovation Living Lab taking advantage of the size of the Country and offering an agile, flexible, and powerful environment to successfully develop, prototype, implement and test any innovative project, idea, product, or service.

Recently, you have hosted a Summit as part of the strategy of the Innovation Hub. What have been the main takeaways from the different panels that took place in your beautiful country?

It was a pleasure for the Government of Andorra, together with Andorra Business, Andorra Research + Innovation, with the support of the Andorra Sports Cluster and the partnership of the Global Sport Innovation Center (GSIC) powered by Microsoft to host the first “Andorra Sport Innovation Summit”. I believe we put a landmark in the annual calendar of events that relate sport and innovation. However, more important than the summit itself, the work done together with the GSIC during the whole year is what has made the summit a success. We had keynotes on the last market trends and how innovation betters all aspects of the industry. We were able to discuss challenges in the different disciplines and how companies are facing those defiances. Finally, we could gather with the winners of the Andorra Sports Startup Challenge to know more about their projects. Overall, it was a great opportunity to promote Andorra as an attractive business destination, a good framework to put together, investors, companies and startups and an excellent excuse to network all together. In a nutshell, the main takeaways from the summit is that the future of the Sports Industry, like many others, will be digital and sustainable. Those two concepts are perfectly aligned with the government policies and hence Andorra is one of the best places to conduct business in the sports industry.

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

Like many other industries, the Winter and Mountain Sports and Cycling industry is plunging into taking advantage of new technologies, digital transformation, big data and the use of new materials and sensors. These technologies aim to make the companies more efficient and competitive but also to work on the athlete needs and performance while being closer to their fan base without giving up in Business and environmental sustainability.

The challenge is big, and we are proud to say that Andorra has several examples of leading use of these technologies, like ski resorts that are applying sensors and bigdata to optimize resources as well as giving better user experience. We also see that the interest in Andorra is growing among material companies as they can perfectly test and develop their Winter sports and cycling gear in our ecosystem. I would encourage companies in the sport sector to approach Andorra and explore this big opportunity to jointly develop this Mountain and Sport Living Lab and grow together.

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