Gustavo Santana, Government of the Canary Islands: “The islands have a unique ecosystem for startups in the mobility sector, a perfect laboratory”

Gustavo Santana, Deputy Minister of Infrastructure and Transport of the Government of the Canary Islands

Impulsa Startups / Enrique Fárez


Gustavo Santana, Deputy Minister of Infrastructure and Transport of the Government of the Canary Islands, stated that his area “has responsibility for infrastructure and transport. Within the infrastructures, there are the roads, the ports and then there is the transport aspect of them and each of these can have many opportunities regarding entrepreneurship, but working in different areas. The administration is often not the most innovative, but in this legislature we have tried and there we can already count the work that we have developed from the Ministry to pursue objectives aligned with what this nation strategy wants.

“Within the vice-ministry we have the Laboratory of Quality and Technology of Public Works and Building. This service carries out actions that, perhaps, we can qualify as an institutional undertaking that is based on the use of, for example, the ash of the volcano to generate, for example, blocks for construction. There is an obligation in the law that in those buildings, where the waste materials are more than 50 tons, they must be recycled. Some projects that we are carrying out are with the waste of construction materials: rubble, concrete, tiles...”, says Gustavo Santana.

“Doing this type of testing is very expensive for a start-up and we believe that from the administration, although it is not going to pursue a commercial purpose, it can work in the sense of investigating if that is possible and then, there are other ways to not oblige or encourage private sector companies to introduce it through improvements or scores in specifications and that these aspects of the circular economy are already being introduced, ”says Santana.

“Other of the projects that we are doing, also from the laboratory service, related to the circular economy, is the use of NFU (out-of-use tires). We are going to make a law for the use of asphalt and not have to export it, but in that circularity that is pursued in this Community and as an objective, in addition to this Government also, it can be able to start using this type of material and other uses ”, the vice-counselor points out.

Registry of transport operators for data management

“Then there is digitization or data generation and this already connects with the transportation area. It is also necessary to take into account the particularity that the Canary Islands have, both at a competence level and at the level of uses of modes of transport. In this community there is a fairly powerful and habitual relationship, one can say even daily in some cases, with the modes of air and sea transport, because it is our neighborhood, so to speak, since we move either using the boat or using the plane in an intensive way in that air, sea, inter-island transport”.

“In the Canary Islands we have a different level of competence regarding who is responsible for these modes of transport compared to air. The person in charge, of which we are aware in the Ministry, is the General State Administration. Regarding the Inter-island Maritime, the person in charge is the Canarian Autonomous Community. Regarding the Maritime with Peninsula, the General Administration of the State. Then we go down to land transport and there we already have a level to a competition at the island level. I wanted to make this introduction because one of the fields where I am aware that there is much improvement both in the use of the infrastructure, from a management point of view as well as in terms of information for the user, is in the use of data. generated by transport”, recalls the Deputy Minister of Infrastructure and Transport of the Canarian Government.

“Speaking both of people, passage, air, sea, land mode, as well as freight transport, VTC, taxis, collective transport and other softer modes of transport (scooters, bicycles…). All this requires a lot of data and one of the initiatives that we have had, also taking advantage of European or state programs, is to request help to create an operator or as we call it: ”a registry of transport operators“, which until now we did not have, because the least we have found is that all this data is not unified”, highlights Gustavo Sanata.

“It is true that at the island level, the discretionary land transport operators that are here have their data, but their data is not shared. I think that one of the strategies that are linked to the vision of Spain as an Entrepreneurial Nation but is also a strategy of the Government of the Canary Islands, in this case of the Ministry of Public Administrations, is open data, data management. We at the Ministry fully agree in that sense, but we are aware of the difficulty of being able to capture all this data with those levels of competence that exist, both in land, air, and maritime transport”, considers Sanata.

“We can say that we have some of the island maritime data because we have access since we manage it directly, but we do not have such easy access to data of an insular nature on passenger transport. That is what is to be achieved, to correct with the registry of operators, a project that is about to be put out to tender and a long job that will probably see its effectiveness in a few years, not in this legislature, but it has to be started , because not having that data management that later serves to also integrate other modes, air, sea...”, assures the deputy minister.

Innovation in the transport sector

Given the arrival of 5G and the scenario of cars with intelligent driving, Gustavo Santana indicates that “international tests are being carried out at the automation level, which takes more or less to arrive, I do not think it depends so much on the public administration . It is a topic that moves a lot in companies. What the public administration has to do is adapt the regulations, which often go much slower than the impulses of this sector and of any other startup sector.”

Given the fact that the implementation of the signage of the estimated time of arrival in Municipal Guaguas in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria had significantly increased the number of passengers, Gustavo Santana asserts that “from the Ministry and the General Directorate of Transport we are focused on municipal and insular, interior and then interurban. But given that we also want to involve the town councils in carrying it out, we see in the sustainable urban mobility plans an instrument that is essential for mobility purposes and for winning also in cities and their inhabitants and towns. One of the requirements that is also included in the higher-level regulations is to be able to contribute money with respect to low-emission zones and also transportation projects, speaking of skateboards, bicycles…”

Management and the role of startups

When speaking of the role of the public administration in being a lever for promoting startups in the initial phases within the sector covered by the Deputy Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, Gustavo Santana declares that “we have not been doing this activity nor was it done before. We all know where the transport sector is. It is an essential sector. In addition, in this other part the Government of the Canary Islands has different ministries and although I agree that the promotion work of startups in the sector should be supported and carried out by the ministry in question, it is the Ministry of Economy that is leading this issue ”.

Dialoguing about the peculiarities of mobility and possibilities that the Canary Islands have, which is especially conducive to an ecosystem of startups in the mobility environment, Gustado Santana affirms that “here you are going to have to integrate the different modes of transport with rural mobility, the tourist mobility and others. In the Canary Islands we live in an obligatory intermodality in the sense that a person who goes from Gran Canaria to Tenerife today may have used: the bus, the plane and a taxi, or a boat, a car... and also in a more everyday way. With which, for what is related to the issue of mobility, but also with the issue of materials, due to the special conditions that exist in the Canary Islands, the islands have a unique ecosystem for startups to develop, it is a laboratory perfect”.

“To this he already adds other instruments, both fiscal and of another type, the Canary Islands Special Zone, for a startup that often has to do with innovation and R&D. There are tax exemptions for R&D, which here are especially encouraging compared to what is on the peninsula. We have the climate, the perfect ecosystem. We have a better ecosystem compared to the peninsula for mobility”, highlights the deputy minister.

For Santana, “other things that can innovate and create startups -also related to mobility-, is the generation of ecological fuel and electro-fuel. Aspects of hydrogen that are going to have to do with industries that are virtually the mobility sector and that here, due to the distance we have, would be a very good place to investigate”.