TechnologyTech fears it won't be able to digest the barrage of EU...

Tech fears it won’t be able to digest the barrage of EU aid

Appearance of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last June.Joan Cros (Corbis via Getty Images)

Catalan technology companies are concerned about whether they will have the capacity to manage the Next Generation European recovery funds that will reach Catalonia. The president of the Cercle Tecnològic (CTecno), Joan Ramon Barrera, points out that the bureaucracy required by public tenders – to which “only 60% of the sector has access” – respond to “systems of the past that the administration will not be able to streamline in a year ”, which is why he considers that technology companies will have to“ make an enormous structuring effort in the private sector in order not to lose ”part of the almost 3,400 million that the Generalitat expects from Next Generation funds, a large part of them related to the digital transformation of the economy.

CTecno has opened a working group for companies to organize themselves to access aid, given the barrage of public bidding expected in the sector in 2022, as well as indirect hiring. One option is to present themselves as temporary joint ventures (UTE). Transformation through technology is one of the pillars of recovery funds, along with projects for a greener economy. The general direction of European Funds of the Generalitat estimates that Catalonia will receive 1,947 million from REACT-EU funds between this year and next. This figure is added to the forecast of another 1,436, until 2026 of the Recovery and Resilience Mechanism (MRR).

Barrera foresees that a high percentage of these amounts will end up impacting on the technology sector, through direct business or through services to other companies. “The money will also serve to transform economic and social models, but technology will be present in a transversal way,” he argues. He gives an example: “A Next Generation project that consists of installing solar panels will also need a app, a technological service behind ”.

The director of the international department of Foment del Treball, Kilian Garcia, explains that the employer has been asking “for a long time something basic, the scheduling of calls, which are still scarce.” Garcia underlines that for companies of all volumes to be eligible for the aid, it is necessary to know the bases in advance: “It cannot be that the specifications are published in the BOE tomorrow and you have only three weeks to prepare the project,” he concludes.

The Generalitat’s strict technological purchase is channeled by the Center for Telecommunications and Information Technologies (CTTI), which has refused to make statements about how it is preparing to conduct the tender linked to European funds. A study published by the consultancy Ernst & Young revealed in November that public managers lack the information to run European funds. 42% of the survey participants complained that the information provided to them through the sector conferences about the NextGeneration program is insufficient and only 7% consider it adequate.

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The director of Barcelona Digital Talent, Jordi Arrufí, believes that “there will be a lack of talent in general” in the sector, “because the economy is increasingly digital.” Arrufí predicts that the “a priori eventual shortage of talent will be compensated by the one generated thanks to the investment of the Next Generation” in training in digital skills. “During the pandemic we need technological profiles to digitize environments that are easier to solve, now the challenge will be to find higher profiles, to manage the internal transformation of organizations”, reflects Barrera.

The Department of Vice Presidency and Digital Policies has budgeted for 2022 some 1,000 million destined to technological projects. In its global accounts – of 2,364 million – Puigneró’s portfolio expects to receive 298.99 million from Next Generation funds.

The Government wants to allocate 85 million to the expansion of its own fiber optic network, the Xarxa Oberta. Another item of 18.9 million of its accounts will be used for advanced digital technology programs, such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing, and 17 million for cybersecurity. The Vice Presidency will allocate 26.9 million in 2022 to the digital transformation of administrations.

Technological companies already contribute 10% to Catalan GDP

The barometer of the Catalan ICT sector for 2021, presented by CTecno, estimates the weight of technology companies in Catalan GDP at 10.26%, with a planned turnover for this year of 23,000 million euros. The contribution to GDP has been growing progressively since 2016, when it was 7.49%, with a turnover of 16,600 million. 65.5% of the 1,104 companies participating in the report stated that during 2020 they maintained or increased their results, despite the health crisis.

The CTecno study projects that the technology sector will surpass 17,000 companies this year, 2.5% more than in 2020. However, it registers a “provisional” drop in the number of workers: from 129,000 to 114,000, which the CTecno attributed to the hiring of lower-ranking professionals to weather the needs of the pandemic. The profiles most in demand today are web developer (40.1%), cybersecurity (37.8) and cloud computing (34%).

61.5% of the study participants expected to close the year with an increase in the team. The CTecno report points out that the lack of talent is one of the main concerns of technology companies, especially the flight of specialists to other companies. The main causes, according to the study, are uncompetitive wages (56.7%) and worse working conditions than in other countries (52.8%). To alleviate the situation, 73.5% of the companies have started training and team retention plans. The barometer also points out that 72.5% of non-technology companies with an ICT department will improve their numbers this year.