The free zone consortium was the first consortium in Spain. Can you tell us a little about its evolution?
The consortium was born over a hundred years ago. At the end of the 18th century, Spain lost the colonies of Cuba and the Philippines, and a problem related to international trade arose. In addition, after World War I, trade opportunities appeared, and the Catalan society wanted to take advantage of them. There was intense pressure to rent a free port in Barcelona, a claim that was demanded in the meeting of 499 municipalities in the city of Barcelona. In the end, a consortium was created in 1916, which included the city council of Barcelona, the Chamber of Commerce and Navigation, the Chamber of Industry, and the Association of San Isidro (an association of farmers). From that moment, the consortium was created to manage this free port and has evolved ever since. Besides having this free port, there was also an interest in having a public physical space, and it focused its attention on part of the Delta del Llobregat. The state, through a concession free of charge for the exploitation of the sands of the coast, granted the exploitation for 50 years, and the consortium obtained the necessary resources to expropriate this part of Delta del Llobregat. It was no longer only a free port. In the 1950s, the first installation of SEAT marked an important step for the consolidation of the industrial estate.
This consortium is a good example of the power of collaborations between the public and private sectors. What is the role of this alliance on the philosophy and expansion of the free zone?
Its origin comes from the public and private sectors. We have the economic world of the city of Barcelona, and the town hall, and the Spanish state. The performance of the consortium since its inception has gone hand in hand with this relationship between the public and private sectors. In fact, current projects are sustained on that type of relationship. Our current flagship group is the 3D printing business incubator, which is the result of the relationship between the Consortium and the Chambers of Commerce of Spain through the INCYDE Foundation; we have received aid from ERDF funds, the EU, and the private technology center, Leitat. These three public and private entities have come together to create something new in an innovative field. In June, we held seven international events at the same time, including the world congress of the World Free Zone, the Mediterranean Summit, and the meeting of the free zones of Latin America ATSFA.
A priority for the consortium is the establishment of DFactory, a 3D printing project. What is the strategic plan for its implementation?
The project was inaugurated in April. The idea is to incubate 100 companies there over the next five years. The project was inaugurated by the Minister of Science, Innovation and Universities, Pedro Duque, as well as the mayor of Barcelona. We are currently incubating 26 companies, surpassing this year's objective of 20. It is extremely useful because in the incubator the companies can interact with each other. 3D printing works with different materials: plastics, resins, ceramics, and so on. There is one company manufacturing glasses and another that manufactures motorcycle parts. Other companies also manufacture aeronautical or automotive parts, as it is possible to manufacture more resistant pieces with less weight, which is key. We have all that here. In the next five years, we will incubate all these companies, though we are also building DFactory, a factory in line with Industry 4.0. In that factory, there will be 3D printing, AI, robotics, and aspects related to cybersecurity. Architecturally, it is different and more expensive. What we are building in this first phase will be ready in June, and the first companies will begin to occupy it after the holidays. It is around 17,000sqm with an investment of EUR17 million.
You do a wide range of international collaborations. What is the strategic plan to continue making new international relations, and what are some examples of this?
We have developed a general strategic plan for the consortium that focuses on three axes. One of them is to maintain our heritage. We do not live on the public budget but from the management of public heritage, namely the industrial estate and other buildings we have. The axis is about the long-term economic sustainability of the consortium, which is all about maintaining equity. My idea is that when I leave here, I should have left more public heritage than when I started. The second axis is about the economic and social development of the territory, namely developing the economy to be the technological hub of Industry 4.0 in southern Europe, an engine for generating talent demand, and more. The third axis is urban integration and environmental sustainability. We are making an implementation plan for the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. My favorite goal is the 17th, on alliances. Therefore, we are establishing alliances not only with the private sector but also with our neighbors such as the port, the airport, the city of Barcelona, and other industrial estates such as Pedrosa Polygon, which has created an association called Area 8. There is another aspect to consider, which is internationalization and implies creating international networks of Industry 4.0 and networks related to the issue of logistics. Third, we have an important weight in the World Free Zone organization.
Our publication is called Barcelona 2020 and will be in circulation throughout the year. What are your main objectives for the following year?
The main objectives for 2020 are those that I have already mentioned; continue with the incubator, build and launch the 3DFactory.