The present paper analyses the link between firms’ decisions to innovate and the barriers that prevent them from being innovative. The aim is twofold. First, it analyses three groups of barriers to innovation: the cost of innovation projects, lack of knowledge and market conditions. Second, it presents the main steps taken by Catalan Government to promote the creation of new firms and to reduce barriers to innovation. The data set used is based on the 2004 official innovation survey of Catalonia which was taken from the Spanish CIS-4 sample. This sample includes individual information on 2,954 Catalan firms in manufacturing industries and knowledge-intensive services (KIS). The empirical analysis reveals pronounced differences regarding a firm’s propensity to innovate and its perception of barriers. Moreover, the results show that cost and knowledge barriers seem to be the most important and that there are substantial sectoral differences in the way that firms react to barriers. The results of this paper have important implications for the design of future public policy to promote entrepreneurship and innovation together.Obstacles to innovation, industrial policy, innovation system.