Innovation in Spain: A Porta Gayola

A porta Gayola

Spain is often referred as the “Bull Skin” (Piel de Toro) because of the shape of its territory. To be fair, I have heard that expression once and again since I was a child and I have never understood why that comparison. I must admit I am not very familiar with bull skin shapes. Nevertheless, I suspect that the reference has a lot more to do with the fact that bulls and bull fighting are one of the country’s cultural hallmarks and therefore the bull skin is rather used as a metaphor and a connotation of the Spanish character(1).

InnovationSpainBirdEye2013 - Comparative Position

If that’s the case, I think that Spanish Innovation Territory can even more properly be referred to as a Bull Skin (see figure above) Taking advantage that OECD and World Bank have very recently released the latest versions of their “Science Technology and Innovation Scoreboard” and “Ease of Doing Business Reports”, I have reviewed and updated my own particular Bird’s Eye View of Innovation in Spain (see table below) and taken the time to represent my main indicators in a new radial graph that, you see, might well be seen as a… bull skin?

InnovationSpainBirdEye2013 - Data

No, seriously, I do not see my country making a lot of progress in what I think are its main drawbacks: the go-to-market for innovative ideas. We are receding in our “Ease of Doing Business” comparative position and we score absurdly low in “Venture Capital Availability.” It is worth taking into consideration that those particular indicators are synthetic ones and they are built out of aggregated individual figures that, in many cases, lag 2 or 3 years behind these reports’ current publication date. So I want to be optimistic on what the future will bring after things like the new “Ley de Emprendedores” and the fact that what you see at ground level is more people willing to become entrepreneurs.

But for the time being, let’s be cautious and admit that what we are actually good at in Spain is what we could refer to as “a porta gayola.”(2) innovation.


(1) As a matter of principle, I am not a bullfighting aficionado. Far from it, and maybe for that reason I cannot avoid thinking of the fiesta when I reflect about Spanish more entrenched faults and problems.

(2) A porta gayola: whereby the bullfighter receives the bull out of the paddock into the ring on his knees in a mark of respect to the bull and at the same time flaunting his courage and self belief. (Definition by courtesy of @Frank Healy)

Featured Image: A Porta Gayola, Lola Romero


  1. […] A few months ago I had the opportunity to enjoy that enriching experience during a master class by Joanne Scillitoe. She was explaining to EIT alumni what a PESTEL analysis is, and she used Spain as an example. In just 10 minutes, what a beautiful bird’s eye view! […]

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