XAVIER SALA I MARTÍN

Professor of Economics at Columbia University; author of the Global Competitiveness Index


  • The world’s leading expert on innovation and competitiveness 
  • Jerome H. and Matthew S. Grossman Professor at Columbia University 
  • Chief Advisor of the Global Competitiveness Report at the World Economic Forum
  • Best seller author of several books including: ‘Economic Growth‘ (with Robert Barro), ‘Economy in Colors’ and ‘The Robots Invasion’, as well as dozens of academic articles published in the best scientific journals in the world
  • Pioneer in analyzing the effects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in terms of innovation, employment, education and its ethical implications
  • Treasurer and President of the FC Barcelona Economic Commission between 2003 and 2010 
  • Screenwriter and anchor of “Economics in Colors”, an award-winning economics TV show in Spain

Professor Sala-i-Martin is recognized as the world leading expert on innovation and competitiveness. He is the author of WEF´s Global Competitiveness Index, which annually measures and ranks the competitiveness of all the countries. Professor Sala-i-Martin’s GCI is the most closely followed index on global economic and business competitiveness in the world (as it upgraded and modernized the former approaches to measuring competitiveness developed by Michael Porter and Jeffrey Sachs); governments and business leaders use it to evaluate and design current and future strategic competitiveness policies for their countries and corporations.

From 2003 to 2010 he was also a member of the Board, Treasurer and President of the Economic Commission of FC Barcelona and, therefore, contributed to the creation of what many experts have considered the best soccer team of all history. In 2009, FC Barcelona won all 6 championships in which it participated. No other team in history had ever achieved this impressive record. Hence, besides economic topics, based on his practitioner experience he also speaks about leadership and change.

Prior to joining to Columbia University, Sala-i-Martin taught at Yale and Harvard, and was a researcher at the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) in London. He studied economics in Barcelona and holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University. He has received several awards including the Rey Juan Carlos Prize in Economics awarded by the Bank of Spain to the best economist in Spain and Latin America, and the Arrow Prize awarded to the best economist in the world by Health International Economics Organization. Recently, he was awarded the Zapping Prize to the most innovative TV program (for his show "Economics in Colors", aired on primetime to explain economic issues that affect our daily lives).  This prize demonstrates that, besides being a great scholar on innovation, he also puts his ideas in practice. He truly walks the talk.

With a career spent teaching, researching, and consulting professor Sala-i-Martin is in the privileged position to be able to offer decision makers (wishing to do business in today’s volatile markets) essential information on how to be competitive and innovative. Additionally, being an experienced teacher, he clearly explains complex ideas in a simple and entertaining format.

Although there are many brilliant economists in the world, few can explain and analyze in such clear and passionate way like him. With a reputation for humorous and enlightening presentations, Xavier is in great demand as a conference speaker at leading events around the world.

  • Global Economic Radar:  2022 Outlook
  • Innovation and competitiveness
  • Economic development and growth strategies
  • Economy and global markets
  • Fourth Industrial Revolution
  • A.I. impact on business, economy and society
  • Globalization and its effects
  • Macroeconomics
  • Leadership and change
  • FC Barcelona business and sport success 

Global Economic Radar 2022

What are the factors that will have the greatest impact on the economy and business (especially in Latin America), in the coming months and years? Although  these factors vary according to the sector, country and moment (especially during these months of great global turbulence), these are the 7 factors to monitor:

  1. The Covid 19 virus, its successive mutations and possible new curfews. Until the virus becomes completely harmless, the pandemic will remain on the economic radar. Of special importance is the Covid-zero policy and its massive lockdowns in China, due to its implications in the global value chain, causing (among other consequences), the general rise in prices (inflation).
  2. The war in Ukraine, the sanctions against Russia and the disruption that this entails in the global supply of energy and food. The resulting scarcity contributes to global inflation.
  3. The resulting inflation can even be accelerated through expectations (e.g.: workers who do not want to lose purchasing power and ask for wage increases; companies that respond by raising prices even more). To avoid this, central banks are going to have to abandon their debt purchase policy (Quantitative Easing) and are going to raise interest rates, causing an economic slowdown. This will have dire consequences for heavily indebted economies and companies.
  4. Hyper-globalization is coming to an end, due to geopolitical and economic reasons. This is creating a new trend towards re-shoring and near-shoring to have industries geographically closer to the United States and Europe. The countries that know how to take advantage of this trend will create a lot of wealth and employment. Latin America has a unique historical opportunity.
  5. The Chinese economy shows signs of weakness, especially in the financial and construction sectors with the possible bankruptcy of large companies and banks sunk in debt. The Covid-zero policy creates doubts that the Chinese economy is infallible. A crisis of confidence could usher in the first recession since Mao, and will have an impact on countries that depend on their exports to China.
  6. The cryptocurrency bubble is showing signs of a possible implosion. The leading currency, bitcoin has lost 60% of its value since November. Algorithmic “stable” currencies (such as TerraUSD-Luna) have crashed leaving thousands of bankrupt investors. Is the crash going to infect the crypto universe? Would this possible general collapse also affect the financial system and traditional banks?
  7. The technological revolution that already existed before the Covid (the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution) is following its course and new technologies (from bio-technologies to artificial intelligence through fintech, nanotechnologies, robotics, 3D printing , or disintermediation) will continue to shape the future of our countries and our industries.

The Roaring Twenties

Moments of disruption have never come without precedent and the crisis generated by Covid 19 is not an exception. The example of the Spanish Flu shows us that, even when the future seems doomed, there are reasons to be optimistic. The crisis of 1918 gave way to a true economic boom and an era of progress: the world we know today was forged in the famous decade of the Roaring Twenties. What lessons can we learn from the Spanish Flu as we are about to bounce back?  Xavier Sala-i-Martín analyzes the current context and invites us to take advantage of the inevitable economic, social and cultural rebound that is coming. Those who understand and make the most of it will be leaders for the years to come. 

Five reasons to be optimistic:

  1. Global productivity will increase as a result of the acceleration in the introduction of digital technologies related to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
  2. The pandemic demonstrated the power of the “global brain”: for the first time, millions of interconnected scientists and thought leaders found the solution to a great global problem with surprising speed.
  3. The successful development of Covid vaccines showed the benefits of public-private collaboration, as a powerful instrument for global action.
  4. The acceleration of the decoupling process (or deglobalization), in which some economies will remain in the Chinese orbit and others in the American, will represent a great opportunity for those countries in Latin America.
  5. Humans are social beings; when the pandemic ends, the economic sectors that have suffered the most (those that live off human contact) will recover at high speed.

Fourth Industrial Revolution: How to better understand AI and new technologies

Xavier Sala-i-Martin is recognized as the world’s leading expert on innovation and competitiveness. As Director of the WEF´s Competitiveness Index, he is one of the pioneering intellectuals who has most studied the possible effects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution at an individual and business level. His vision and focus on the opportunities brought by this new era and on how to successfully adapt to the changes (never seen before), allows us to better understand this moment.

An underlying concern to world leaders, CEOs and business executives is that amid the fourth industrial revolution, the acceleration of innovation and the speed of disruption are hard to anticipate (and fully understand). Across all countries and industries, there is clear evidence that the new technologies are having a major impact on our lives and reshaping our economic, social, and cultural environments. Thus, we are all called to understand the rapid changing environment, and now –more than ever– relentlessly innovate.

In this conference, Xavier begins by explaining the Hummingbird Effect (when an innovation that occurs in one sector ends up having enormous effects in sectors that have no evident correlation), and the consequences of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (where developments in the physical, biological, digital and mental worlds are converging from the appearance of dozens of new technologies in fields such as robotics, AI, big data, disintermediation, nanotechnologies, uberization of capital, fintech, among many others). Finally, he explains how we can adapt from a micro level (as individuals) to a macro level (at a business and government level).

Innovation & Adaptation: Pivoting into a New Model

In this conference Xavier Sala-i-Martin analyzes the keys to success of a leading S&P 500 company in a very competitive sector, as well as its adaptive capacity throughout the years. Based on this case study, he will emphasize on those attributes that are transferable to other companies that want to keep up with competition, new technologies, reinventing its business model, enhancing talent, and developing new skills. 

Innovation & Adaptation: Insights from the WEF´s Global Competitiveness Index Author

In this conference, Xavier Sala-i-Martin analyzes how the best business ideas in history came to life, explaining what companies (in all sectors and countries), can and should do to avoid being left behind in the innovation race. Likewise, he demystifies the idea that innovation only occurs in rich countries or in cutting-edge sectors that formally invest large sums of money in research and development (R&D) and exposes how some of the best recent innovations in history have occurred in traditional sectors, generating new business models, such as Netflix (in the entertainment industry), Nespresso and Starbucks (in the coffee industry), Zara (in clothing and retail), among many others. others. In this keynote, he places special emphasis on how educational systems must be transformed to guarantee the creativity of workers and how companies must manage their human resources to optimize their innovative capacity.

Due to his experience at the World Economic Forum as the author of the Global Competitiveness Index, Sala-i-Martin has had the privilege of monitoring (for almost two decades) the economic growth of all countries and industries worldwide. Consequently, he has a unique perspective on innovation and competitiveness, being able to identify the successful practices of those who have made progress, as well as the practices and policies of those who have lost competitiveness. His conference is an invitation to capitalize on new business opportunities to achieve real economic growth.

FC Barcelona: a success case. Four business lessons.

The story of FC Barcelona depicts one of the most extreme, impressive and successful organizational transformations in sports history; after half a decade of economic and competitive drought, a new board of directors led by Joan Laporta took over the club in 2003.

Seven years later, the club had won four Spanish Leagues, two UEFA Champion Leagues, three Spanish Supercups, a European Supercup, a King's Cup, and a World Club Cup; by 2010 it was "the best sports club in the world" for second consecutive year, and had an accumulated economic surplus of over 131 million Euros.

In this powerful presentation, Professor Sala-i-Martín explains how the most important and controversial decisions made by the club in the last few years -such as hiring Frank Rijkaard and Pep Guardiola, making a strong bet on the low-tier teams, and the "crazy" decision to be the only club without a commercial sponsor on its shirt- turned out to be the right ones.

Four Leadership Lessons

This entertaining 60-minute conference explains the four key leadership lessons from Sala-i-Martin´s experience at FC Barcelona. The first lesson is renew to succeed. The first move Pepe Guardiola did as couch was to remove Ronaldinho (Barça´s previous star) from the team. For ongoing success people and companies should renew. Nokia, Blackberry and Kodak are best examples of companies that failed because they did not renew.

The second lesson is teamwork. The success of the best Barcelona team in history was that everyone worked as a team and how all the members were thrilled with it: the way players got paid, the way the team built confidence, etc. This is why talent management is so important. The third lesson from Barcelona FC is to have confidence in the DNA. The mission and vision statements are not empty phrases to be included in a business plan; they are actual guides that help people make difficult decisions. When business schools analysis indicate the opposite Joan Laporta (Barcelona’s FC former president), decided to take the sponsor from UNICEF instead of BetandWin, likewise he decided to hire Pepe Guardiola instead of Mourinho as couch for Barcelona. Finally, the fourth lesson is, to be competitive you should innovate!

"Colombia´s Annual Banking Conference is without a doubt the most demanding event (in the country) in terms of speakers. At this event, Sala-i-Martin masterly spoke to more than 1,500 national leaders, managing to delight them with an extraordinary conference in which he managed to skillfully combine intuition with academic rigor. This balance, allowed him to relate day-to-day funny examples with solid academic insights, as well as bold political approaches with practical business advices. He is, undoubtedly, one of the best speakers that we have had in recent years".

Asobancaria (Colombia´s National Baking Association)
Jonathan Malagón, Vice-president

“Xavier Sala-i-Martin is truly inspiring. Certainly, if we have a second chance, we would invite him to entertain us and teach us about competitiveness and innovation.”  

Alquería (Dairy Company)
Carlos Enrique Cavelier, CEO

“Having Xavier Sala-i-Martin as the keynote speaker at the 2017 Industrial Forum was the most positive and enriching experience. He explains novel and complex concepts, in such a clear, simple and illustrative way that he manages to widely spread his concepts, generating a noticeable impact on the audience. It's a real pleasure to work with him.”

Sociedad Nacional de Industrias (Peru´s Industry Association)
Rosa Asca, Director