The Race for Talent in Emerging Technologies: Positioning Ourselves in the Quantum Revolution or Artificial Intelligence 

The Race for Talent in Emerging Technologies: Positioning Ourselves in the Quantum Revolution or Artificial Intelligence 

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Alberto Iglesias Fraga, journalist specialised in innovation and digital economy

Reality sometimes imposes very clear and evident dissonances on us, but with more complex causes and even more difficult perspectives to understand. Let’s take the case of a country, say Spain, with 26 million unemployed people (117% of the active population), where, at the same time, alarms keep ringing, announcing job vacancies in key sectors for our present and future development. 

It does not come as a surprise that the specialized talent that is so difficult to generate and retain is the same engine that drives innovation, technological progress, and economic growth. Even at its most basic levels, we find this gap in the digital skills of citizens: according to the ‘Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) 2023’ report by the European Commission, only 61% of European adults have basic digital skills. In Spain, the ‘Employability and Digital Talent Report 2023’ by Infoempleo and UNIR reveals that 72% of companies have difficulties finding qualified professionals in areas such as cybersecurity and artificial intelligence. 

It is obvious that there is a serious problem that directly threatens the possibilities that both the Old Continent and our country have to take advantage of the current digital revolution. And if we focus on the emerging technologies with the greatest potential for the coming years – such as quantum computing, cybersecurity, or the so-called NewSpace – both the opportunity and the talent challenge become extraordinary. 

According to the ‘Tech Nation Report 2023’, the tech sector in Europe has experienced a 15% growth in hiring professionals over the past year, with a special focus on profiles related to emerging technologies. In Spain, another survey by Ticjob from last year shows that job offers in these same areas have increased by 35% compared to the previous year. It is clear that Europe and Spain are in a race to train and attract the professionals necessary to lead in these strategic fields. 

Perhaps the most well-known and talked-about of all emerging technologies is quantum computing. This innovation promises to revolutionize sectors such as cryptography, artificial intelligence, and the simulation of chemical and meteorological processes, in sectors such as banking or industry. No one is oblivious to this potential: the European Commission’s ‘Quantum Technologies Flagship’ strategy plans to invest 1 billion euros over the next decade to promote the development of these technologies. Spain, in particular, is positioning itself as an important hub with renowned research centers such as the Institute of Theoretical Physics (IFT) and the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC), in addition to the installation of the first quantum computers in Galicia, the Basque Country, and Barcelona. 

The profile of professionals in this field includes theoretical physicists, mathematicians, and experts in quantum algorithms. The demand for these specialists is high and will only grow as companies begin to explore and find practical applications for quantum computing. Companies like IBM and Google are already hiring talent in Europe for their quantum initiatives, while Spanish startups like Multiverse Computing are emerging as leaders in the use of quantum computing for financial optimization. 

Much more immediate and urgent, however, is the demand for profiles in the field of cybersecurity. The (ISC)² Cybersecurity Workforce Study 2023 reveals that Europe needs more than 350,000 professionals in this field to close the talent gap. In Spain, the demand for cybersecurity experts has grown by 40% over the past five years, according to data from the National Cybersecurity Institute (INCIBE). 

The most sought-after profiles include security analysts, network engineers, and risk management experts. Cybersecurity training is expanding with universities and online platforms offering specialized programs. Companies like Telefónica and BBVA are leading the hiring of cybersecurity talent in Spain, while initiatives like INCIBE’s Talent Program aim to attract and train new professionals. We are talking about professionals with national and international projection who face one of the greatest risks for companies and public organizations: the growing wave of cyberattacks and their increasing sophistication. 

From the most striking to the most urgent and exciting demand: NewSpace. This term encompasses all the commercial exploitation of space that is taking place with the incorporation of the private sector into the space adventure. Nowadays, we find numerous companies specializing in miniaturized satellites or space tourism. Europe is investing heavily in this area, with the European Space Agency (ESA) allocating more than 14 billion euros to space innovation projects in the 2020-2024 period. Spain, with companies like Satlantis and PLD Space (which made history last year by launching Miura, a 100% national reusable rocket), can also play a key role in this new ecosystem. 

Professionals required in the NewSpace field usually have training in aerospace engineering, physics, and computer science. The demand is focused on systems engineers, satellite designers, and propulsion experts; some of the most crucial and critical points of any space adventure. 

In any of these emerging technologies, we can see how new job positions are being created and how the most interesting skills for the labour market are being modified. According to the World Economic Forum’s ‘Future of Jobs’ report, it is expected that by 2025 more than 50% of all employees will need significant training due to the adoption of new technologies. 

In Spain, initiatives such as the National Digitalization Plan and the Digital Spain 2025 Plan are designed to promote training and attract talent in many of the key sectors of our economy – also in these emerging technologies. Moreover, this plan has the financial umbrella of the European Union’s NextGenerationEU funds – 30% of which will be allocated to the digital transformation and technological reinvention of the economy in our country. 

The impact of these government policies is notable. The ‘Digital Spain 2025’ program has allocated more than 20 billion euros to boost digital transformation and attract talent in key sectors such as artificial intelligence, semiconductors, and NewSpace. For now, and relying on data provided by Randstad, these initiatives have contributed to the creation of more than 200,000 new jobs in the tech sector in Spain, with a growing demand for specialized profiles. 

The employers’ association Ametic confirms that investments in emerging technologies have increased by 28% compared to the previous year, with a significant focus on training specialized talent. Therefore, all that remains is to reaffirm and enhance the commitment of companies and institutions to developing advanced capabilities that allow leading technological innovation in Europe and Spain. 

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