The Balearic economy is missing some pieces if it wants to change the model

The Balearic economy is missing some pieces if it wants to change the model

PalmaBit Park was opened in 2002 with the aim of becoming the Silicon Valley of the Balearic region, encouraging innovation and the development of technological projects in a society that gradually abandoned the countryside and industry, and contented itself with cultivating tourism. At the time, it was not known whether this was one of Jaume Matas’s megalomaniacal tricks or whether he would truly play an important role. 22 years after its premiere, walking into Parc Bit causes contradictory feelings. There is everything from cutting-edge companies providing services in over 30 countries, to buildings in an almost ruined state and many plots of land in which no investment seems to be expected. This bittersweet panorama somehow reflects the problems that the Balearic Islands face when it comes to leaving the comfort zone, namely the tourism trade, which is in question nowadays mainly due to its excessive dominance and the negative effects it generates when it floods.

Parc Bit currently has about 115 companies and more than 3,800 workers. It is not a desert, but a large portion of companies cannot be considered strictly related to innovation. There are high-profile projects, but when compared to other similar areas in the Mediterranean region, the numbers are small. Sebastian Gonzalez is the director of the Bit Foundation, the organization that holds the park together and also provides all the technology services to the government itself. She arrived nine months ago and does not hide a very realistic view of the current situation. Suffice it to say that he is the fourth manager in five years. He admits: “We must speak clearly. The park really has two sides: the entrepreneurship of some and the success of first-class companies, and general neglect, which means that there are even buildings that suffer from maintenance problems.”

This is confirmed by the majority of companies that use public facilities. “The staff at Parc Bit are always willing to help, but they must be provided with the resources needed to provide good service, such as office facilities, bar and cafeteria services, and the equipment needed to solve everyday problems, such as air conditioning and parking. There are a lot of things that don’t work sometimes.” We are short-staffed, and we cannot put our teams in buildings and spaces that are not in the right conditions,” explains Irene Gomez, People and Culture Director at TravelgateX.

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Highly oriented to government service

The history of the Bit Foundation, which currently has 280 employees, is the history of an organization that brought together three different organizations – Bit Park, Bitel and Ibit – which now balance to carry out all functions: providing technology services to the government, managing Bit Park, encouraging innovation and attracting talent. “What happened is that the burden shifted towards taking care of the technological needs of the government, and priority was not given to making Parc Bit a more vibrant, powerful and truly more innovative space. But now we have 48 projects underway under orders from the government itself,” said Sebastian Gonzalez, who confirmed that “The current team of the Ministry of Economy, Finance and Innovation is fully aware that this reality needs to change and because the sector and the regional public play an important role in driving innovation.”

It is very difficult to analyze the state of innovation in the Balearic Islands, because there are no specific indicators – some companies do, but they do not appear in any register. But according to a study by Codet on Next Generation Funds investing specifically in R&D, the Balearic Islands rank penultimate with €56 per inhabitant, while the national average is €170. “It is essential that they have hands to process, manage and support companies, especially small ones, to develop innovation programs which they often do not have access to due to lack of structure,” explains González.

Despite this risky innovation, and with Parc Bit having more empty plots of land than assembled projects, the truth is that there are great success stories. The WDNA Group is a union of three technology-based business ventures that, 11 years after its birth, already has partners such as Vodafone and is carrying out a systematic audit of Mexico’s main telecom operator, ATT. They know very well what it means for tech entrepreneurs to take off in a society oriented exclusively towards tourism: “You go to the bank to ask for financing and they don’t understand you, they don’t see the potential. Potential clients for the Balearic Islands are small businesses that don’t have the budget for your services. “You have to go out practically from the minute The first,” explains the group’s general manager, Tomeo Ghiscaffiri.

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WDNA has managed to go international from Parc Bit, and its managers share the most common criticisms in this area. “There are serious deficiencies in maintenance, but the new team has conveyed its intention to improve. Above all, what is missing is a strategic plan through which public officials commit to creating more companies, more talent, and creating a climate here that does not exist now. Our workers are young and in demand.” We work remotely because often there is nowhere to go for coffee after one hour,” laments Guiscaffire.

The former Director General of Innovation who spoke to ARABalears believes that this company and infrastructure “ended up becoming a company providing services to the government.” “Just see him call center, which occupies a large part of the staff. The heart of innovation in the islands cannot be people answering the phone. It is an important service, but we cannot say that this is not innovation. He pointed out that the second mistake was not allowing housing construction there. Charter changed the plan to build homes in Pitt Park years ago for fear that, in the name of innovation, it would end up as just another housing project.

“Since the pandemic, we have not brought people from abroad because no one is willing to afford the cost of living in Mallorca,” laments Irene Gomez.

success stories

  • Travelgatex has just manufactured the international robot

    Companies are demanding more promotion of their milestones. “Much of it is already an international success story, and we have just announced that we have joined forces with Travelsoft. It is a source of pride for the Balearic Islands to know that companies that started on Parc Bit have been able to reach so far,” says Veronica Rossello, TravelgateX Communications Director. “We must know that Mallorca is a place where companies from other sectors besides tourism are present,” he says.

  • WDNA considers it essential to create a technology ecosystem

    Parc Bit “was not a catalyst for innovation,” WDNA officials explain. “There is still time if things become clear,” says general manager Tomeo Ghiscaferi. “A clear project must be led, resources must be invested to attract talent, investors must be obtained and companies must be supported intensively when they really need it, and that is at the beginning. We have to create a technology ecosystem for Bit Park, which is now abandoned.”

“We will support companies and stop talent.”

The coincidence meant that on the same day that ARA Balears interviewed Parc Bit’s director, Sebastián González, to talk about the lights and shadows of innovation in the Balearic Islands, its president, Antonio Carmona, tendered his resignation as Regional Secretary for ‘Innovation’, precisely because She is considered to lack support. Now Sebastian Gonzalez will also assume a significant part of these powers as General Director of Innovation. This engineer is convinced that “we have a great opportunity because there are European funds and a firm commitment from the government to create an investment and innovation center in the Balearic Islands.” “We will support companies and attract talent,” Gonzalez emphasizes.

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