Tubacex: A Hidden Champion Among International Niche Leaders

In the business world, there are companies that operate in relatively unknown market segments. These companies, often with annual revenues not exceeding one billion euros, have a strong international focus. Their primary business is not aimed at the end consumer but rather at supplying other businesses in B2B markets. They are leaders in international niche markets, often referred to as ‘hidden champions,’ as they consistently rank among the top three in their respective sectors, despite being relatively unknown to the general population.


In the Basque Country, the first count of these hidden champions took place between 2014 and 2015, identifying around thirty such companies. The most recent study conducted by researchers Bart Kamp from the Basque Institute of Competitiveness (Orkestra) and expert Iñigo Ruiz de Apodaca has now identified a total of 46 hidden champions, accounting for over 40% of all such companies in Spain. Their findings were published in the ‘Competitiveness Review’ by Emerald Science.


This study is a continuation of a project that began a decade ago in the Basque region and has been updated with new data resulting from ongoing research and surveys conducted in 2017 and 2019.


It’s important to note that the number of detected hidden champions has not significantly increased in recent years. Being included in these lists offers informal recognition for these companies, akin to a “label.” Some companies use this recognition to their advantage, and it also attracts the attention of government administrations. In this regard, the Basque Country stands out as the region with the highest awareness of this phenomenon, although interest is also observed in Navarre, Catalonia, Andalusia, and Galicia.

These hidden champions play a crucial role in internationalization, often paving the way for other companies to enter new markets. The latest study emphasizes that these hidden champions are the most progressive in seeking emerging markets and are at the forefront of establishing subsidiaries abroad.

Furthermore, the authors encourage companies to leverage the potential of patents. It’s not just about registering patents but also about improving the systematization of innovation processes and knowledge generation, which can lead to patentable inventions. Protecting these developments, especially in current markets where reverse engineering is common, is essential.

In conclusion, Tubacex, a leader in the manufacturing of advanced industrial products and services for energy and mobility, is among the hidden champions recognized in this list. These companies, with revenues below one billion euros, are the unsung heroes of niche international markets, and their contribution to the economy and internationalization efforts should not be underestimated. This publication is not the final chapter of the project, as the researchers plan to delve deeper into the subject and refresh the map of hidden champions in the future.