The public sector, a key player for impact investment in Spain

28 May 2024

  • Public and financial institutions, impact investment managers and social enterprises have analysed the situation of the impact investment ecosystem in Spain at a conference organised by Impact Bridge, AXIS (ICO), IE University and SpainNAB
  • The impact investment industry in Spain, which grew by 58% in 2022 compared to the previous year, agrees on the need for public-private collaboration to generate systemic change
  • The Impact Bridge-IE Chair has presented a report on supporting and fostering public bodies such as AXIS (ICO) for impact investment

Impact investment in Spain is at a turning point. First, because of the exponential growth shown by the data, which makes it an unstoppable trend in asset management. On the other hand, because of the interest of institutions in impact investment, such as public bodies, which have encouraged the creation of funds specialising in projects with a positive and measurable social and environmental impact. 

This was the focus of the event The role of the public sector in the development of the impact economy in Spain, which was held this morning at IE on the initiative of the university and Impact Bridge, through the Impact Bridge-IE Chair in Social Entrepreneurship and Impact Investment. To this end, the event was attended by transversal and key institutions of the impact investment ecosystem, such as public (AXIS-ICO, FEI and COFIDES) and financial institutions (MicroBank, with the participation of its CEO, Cristina González Viu); SpainNAB, the Association for Impact Investment; impact investment managers (Impact Bridge, Q-Impact and Creas); social enterprises (ILUNION and Talento y Experiencia) and academic institutions (IE University). 

The conclusions of The public sector in the construction of impact investment in Spain report were presented at the conference. Social Impact and Sustainability Initiative - AXIS, which highlighted the commitment of ICO Group, through AXIS, its venture capital subsidiary, to support impact investment in Spain with the creation of this initiative in 2018. 

At that time, AXIS was a trailblazer with the creation of the Social Impact and Sustainability Initiative, with an initial endowment of €50 million, which in 2023 was increased to €100 million due to the positive evolution thereof. Since its launch, nine funds have been approved for investment and currently have €358 million earmarked to invest in social and environmental impact companies. These funds have already invested €92 million in 73 companies. The AXIS initiative has a strong innovative component in terms of strategy and instruments used and targets small and medium-sized enterprises.

In his speech, Guillermo Jiménez, CEO of AXIS, said that “public-private collaboration is key to consolidating a solid impact investment industry that contributes to sustainable economic growth, responding to social and environmental challenges”.

AXIS currently manages €12.15 billion, and has become a key player in fostering alternative financing channels and boosting the private equity sector in Spain. Through the four funds it manages, it pays special attention to operations that generate a positive social and/or environmental impact. In fact, 90% of its new operations in 2023 met sustainability criteria. 

From an academic perspective, Rachida Justo, director of the Impact Bridge-IE Chair in Social Entrepreneurship and Impact Investment, explained the importance for such a nascent industry of being supported by a Chair, which strives to identify and examine the main challenges of social entrepreneurship and impact investment and whose mission is to bridge the gap between academia and practical experience to conduct research that contributes to building a better world. In his speech, Justo underlined that “public-private collaboration is fundamental for impact investment to unfold its potential and generate systemic change”.

Arturo Benito, CEO and co-founder of Impact Bridge, said “Public entities are of utmost importance when it comes to building a strong impact investment industry in our country and allow for addressing social and environmental challenges effectively while fostering sustainable economic growth. In this regard, the work of organisations such as the European Investment Fund (EIF); COFIDES, in particular through the Social Impact Fund (SIF); and ICO Group, which was a trailblazer in 2018 in supporting impact investment in Spain, is worth highlighting”.

Industry developments

“The importance of impact investing seems to be increasingly adopted in government agendas and, in particular, the social impact and sustainability initiative of AXIS and ICO Group has been instrumental in the development of impact investing in Spain, as trailblazers in supporting our industry”, said José Luis Ruiz de Munain, CEO of SpainNAB, the Advisory Board for Impact Investing. Ruiz de Munain reviewed the latest results of the impact investment industry in Spain, which has undergone remarkable growth, reflected in a significant increase in assets under management. Compared to the previous year, impact investment grew by 58% in 2022, well above the average in its sector. In fact, five years ago, the assets under management amounted to €92 million, whereas in 2022, the managers as a whole accumulated €874 million dedicated to impact investment. 

About Impact Bridge 

Impact Bridge is a Spanish collective investment scheme manager dedicated exclusively to quality impact investing and focused on projects that generate genuine, intentional and measurable impact. Founded in 2018, its team is made up of professionals with extensive experience in the most prestigious asset management, sustainable investment, impact investment and academia firms. Its investor base consists of public and private institutional investors, such as pension funds, foundations and family offices. Impact Bridge is a B Corp company as of March 2023.

About AXIS

AXIS is active in public-private partnerships with the private equity industry in all areas of activity and currently has commitments to manage up to €12.15 billion across its four funds: Fond-ICO Global, Fond-ICO Next Tech, Fond-ICO Pyme, and Fond-ICO Sustainability and Infrastructures. These commitments will jointly mobilise public and private resources of more than €24 billion over the next five years, depending on the private sector’s capacity to absorb resources and deliver projects.

About SpainNAB

SpainNAB, the Advisory Board for Impact Investment, is an alliance of 45 leading organisations from the investment community, business, third sector, government and civil society to foster and promote impact investment in Spain. It represents our country in the GSG Impact, to which 44 countries and the European Union already belong.

About IE University

IE University promotes positive change through education, innovation and research. The institution offers a technology-based learning ecosystem for leaders who make a difference in the world through innovation, global vision, entrepreneurship, sustainability and a unique focus on the humanities. IE University is made up of five schools: IE Business School, IE School of Science and Technology, IE Law School, IE School of Architecture and Design and IE School of Politics, Economics and Global Affairs, which offer undergraduate, postgraduate, executive education and doctoral programmes. The institution has more than 8,000 students from 140 countries attending its Madrid and Segovia campuses, and the institution’s platform of 75,000 graduates is present in 180 countries.