Raúl García Brink, responsible Technical Coordinator of Economic Development, Energy Sovereignty, Climate and Knowledge at CABILDO DE GRAN CANARIA shares insights in some of the main ambitions and goals of the Cabildo of Gran Canaria.
Raúl is responsible for the implementation and identification of new projects for sustainable development. Gran Canaria offers a whole range of innovative and dynamic approaches and programs that are very interesting for international investors and thematic conferences and allow a completely different view of the island.
Rául, how has the political awareness for sustainability developed on the island in recent years?
I consider myself as a mirror for this story -when I started at the Cabildo 6 years ago, I was alone, now we work through 4 different public agencies plus my department, and with a total of about 70 employees.
We have an environmental policy and, overall, developed many innovations on the insland. This includes our own working environment, for example we now use alternative energy sources here.
Talking about the energy segement as a case, we promoted the creation of a company dedicated to renewable energies and climate: the Island Energy Council, from scratch – it did not exist when I started to work here.
As part of TreeMAC, which is led by Gran Canaria (we are lead partner of MAC-CLIMA, a project dedicated to improving climentat change adaptation policies in Macaronesia*), an observatory for climate change was built and an associated training centre is planned.
The UN Agency for Climate Change operates several such training centres around the globe and Gran Canaria will be home to one of them. Whatever we recognize as a relevant project within the scope of the possible funds and funding, we will tackle it. The research and impact of alternative energy sources such as wind farms, maritime energy solutions and hydropower also belong to this area.
We would like Gran Canaria to evoke many more associations in the future than just being an island for sun and holidays, and that this new image will spread quickly and be imitated.
Some time ago I was a participant in a congress for Blue Economy in Norway, where I presented our projects in Gran Canaria. A Norwegian researcher spoke to me after my presentation and said “We have a holiday flat in Gran Canaria and go there every year. From the airport to the apartment and back again. I had no idea that there were such great projects from my direct professional environment to be discovered there.”
This should not happen any more in the future if possible….
The Cabildo is very active in applying for EU funding for various projects. Which project is particularly important for the necessary adjustments relating to the conference and the tourism industry?
The utilization of EU programs are particularly important for small and remote destinations in order to be able to initiate necessary changes.
As part of the EU Green Deal Call, Gran Canaria applied for one of a total of 5 possible projects in the context of the circular economy. This project, called CirTourLab —Circular Tourism Laboratory aims to make the island’s tourism industry fit for the future.
The main focus here is on water and wastewater management, alternative energy sources and, above all, the increased use of local agricultural products. Food grown or produced by us is of high quality and makes the island less dependent on imports. Therefore, food cultivation will be promoted more strongly and the purchase of the products by restaurants and hotels is to be ensured. This is the only way to move from currently 85% imported food to a more climate-friendly solution through more self-sufficiency.
The path to climate-neutral e-mobility is another important point in the project, for which around 12 million euros are set. The EU funding pot for a total of 5 projects to improve the “circular economy” is a total of 100 million euros, and we apply for it together with other projects from across the EU.
And what exactly is the “Gran Canaria Smart Island” Initiative?
The Smart Gan Canaria initiatvive is promoted by the Cabildo de Gran Canaria and seeks to imprvoe public management and to proide new services to citizens with the use of technologies.
At the moment we are implementing projects in different areas such as transportation, emergency management (especially fires), water management and mobility. We want to turn Gran Canaria into a reference laboratory in which new solutions are tested in the fields of ITC, Big data, IoT, AI, Blockchain, Cybersecurity and Cloud Systems.
The SPEGC is the society for the economic development of Gran Canaria — it channels all official efforts for new economic development on the island. In all initiatives, the SPEGC must take into account that these lead to job creation and contribute to the development of a value-oriented economy and society.
As mentioned — beyond tourism, Gran Canaria offers many opportunities in various knowledge clusters.
As an island, our competitiveness depends on creating a favorable environment for investment and promoting innovation.
We are working here with various instruments that, in short, focus on promoting business innovation, supporting entrepreneurs and business growth, and generally aim at attracting investments, companies and skilled workers here.
With the SPEGC, we want to provide support for the specific requirements of local and foreign companies, sectors and specialists. Also, Investments are made in infrastructure and services that promote sectors with potential growth on the island.
What other initiatives are currently of particular importance for the Cabildo?
Here are some of the areas that were touched on last week at the President’s press conference and that have particularly great future potential for us:
The Bioasis Initiative (Blue Biotechnology, microalgae and aquaculture)
The Film Commission website with information on tax breaks etc.
Also very interesting here is The Canary Islands Special Zone (ZEC) — a free trade zone that was founded to promote economic and social development and to diversify production, and an important building block for our post-pandemic development and the island government’s new strategies.
There are numerous other initiatives, I think the Convention Bureau will continue to provide information and by attracting international conferences to the island, it will help to network knowledge and attract new investments.
Text: Johanna Fischer, tmf dialogue Knowledge Destinations
The Convention Bureau of Gran Canaria supports conference planners to identify and include
sustainable projects in their programs in the island of Gran Canaria – follow us on:
Sergio Maccanti, Convention Bureau of Gran Canaria,
*Macaronesia consists of four main archipelagos. From north to south, these are:
- the Azores, an Autonomous Region of Portugal
- Madeira (also including the Savage Islands), an Autonomous Region of Portugal
- the Canary Islands, an Autonomous Community of Spain
- Cape Verde, an independent West African country
(taken from Wikipedia)