Technological innovation at the service of the circular economy: interview with Cristina Vázquez, COO of TEIMAS, on esRadio

The growth of the technology sector in Galicia and the role of digitization of the waste value chain have been the focus of this esRadio interview with Cristina Vázquez, COO of TEIMAS, expert in traceability and waste transfer. We share the transcript of the interview, recommended reading to learn more about the work of TEIMAS.

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Click here to access the audio of the interview on esRadio.

esRadio (ER) - For some years the technology sector -hardware, software, etc- has been developing in Galicia a very important business area that gives us prestige, wealth and highly qualified jobs. We are going to talk about this with Cristina Vázquez, operations manager of TEIMAS. Good morning.

Cristina Vázquez (CV) - Good morning, Ignacio.

ER - What do you do at TEIMAS and since when?

CV - In TEIMAS developing, since 2008, software that helps to digitize the waste value chain and thus be able to boost the circular economy and protect people's health. Our customers are both companies that produce large quantities of waste and also companies that work in the management and treatment of waste. The waste sector is very bureaucratic and it is very important to trace all waste shipments correctly. It is a key sector for sustainability and circular economy policies.

ER - Besides, the regulations governing the activity of these companies is tremendously complex and changing, isn't it?

CV - Indeed. Since 2015 we could say that we are living a "regulatory tsunami". On the one hand the norms coming from Europe, then Spain's own and as the competences in environment are transferred to the autonomous communities, there are also regulations at autonomic level. That is why our products are constantly evolving. We currently work with some 800 waste management centers in Spain and with more than thirty large business groups, which means thousands of waste production points.

ER - You guys have a platform called Zero, right?

CV - Yes, our Zero software helps companies in their circular economy policies. It measures the amount of waste they produce and controls its traceability. Based on this, companies can plan and improve their sustainability and circular economy policies. There are companies that already have everything very controlled and audited, but many others are still at the beginning of the road.

ER - I guess also the consultancies to know the impact of your carbon footprint, right?

CV - Yes, the carbon footprint is an environmental indicator that attempts to represent the impact that a given activity has in terms of greenhouse gas production. The new version of Zero includes, among other new features, the detailed measurement of the carbon footprint. This generates an immense amount of data and we have resorted to blockchain technology to record it. Verified traceability makes it possible to know the route of the waste generated and where it ends up.

ER - In addition, I understand that complying with the regulation means economic savings, is this correct?

CV - That's right. Digitalisation, no matter the sector, always results in cost savings. And specifically in our sector, if a company is able to measure the economic impact that your waste has - how much it pays the company that takes it away or how much it charges for certain materials - it will be able to improve that ratio. These are sources of revenue or, if I may say so, sources of "no cost" that many companies have completely forgotten about.

ER - It has come to my attention that the technology sector used to sell product but now sells services. I see that you do too. With this the customer is guaranteed service delivery but also saves on maintenance costs, right?

CV - Exactly. It is a fairly widespread model. It is known as "Software As A Service" or Pay Per Use. Today it is very widespread but when we started in 2008, not so much. This formula has very great benefits for customers: they do not have to make an initial investment too high, they do not have to worry about backups, data protection, etc., because all this is part of the obligations of the supplier, in this case TEIMAS. On the other hand, this obliges us to be constantly aware of providing that value and meeting the customer's needs.

ER - I see that the vast majority of those who work at TEIMAS are young, well-trained people... Is there a strategy behind it or did it come about spontaneously?

CV - Well, I think that here in Galicia we have a fairly powerful industry, I would say, although a bit hidden, of issues related to software in general and also of issues related to the environment. So, I think that both things are... I don't know if we can call ourselves a pole... I don't know if we should call ourselves a pole, but there is a lot of movement in Galicia to put on the table the potential we have here, and I think it is part of a movement that is perhaps a little bigger.

ER - Sure. Hey and how many of you are in TEIMAS? More or less.

CV - Well, at TEIMAS, at this moment, we are 45 people.

ER - Yikes!

CV - And we are dedicated only to making software for the waste part, so the specialisation is high.

ER - It is very clear. Hey, is it happening to you as, at least, those people I talk to in your sector say, that there is a deficit of qualified people?

CV - Well, I think there are a lot of prepared and qualified people. I mean: I think that the new generations do come prepared and qualified, but the truth is that in many sectors, both ours and in many others, you need quite technical profiles.

ER - Sure.

CV - ...And they are not the most common because we also have a lot of competition abroad. Outside I mean not only in Madrid and Barcelona, which is typical, but also abroad. So, it is true that, sometimes, it is a bit difficult to find those profiles. But well, there are very qualified people.

ER - That's for sure, I have no doubt about that. What happens is that always, the demand in your sector is infinitely superior to the supply.

CV - Yes, yes, at the moment it is complicated. We have been complicated for a few years now.

ER - And on top of that, since you can now relocate, as you say in the business world, and you can work from anywhere for any company in any part of the world, the competition is much higher, as you were saying.

CV - Sure, that's why I say that, in our sector specifically, we are not talking about such a local environment, because yes, hiring can be anywhere in the world, but also our people trained in Galicia are taken to any part of the world, so to speak, working from their homes.

ER - Of course. Hey, and is there enough awareness in our companies, and I'm not just referring to Galicia because surely you also work a lot outside Galicia within the scope of Spain, is there awareness of large companies that you have to devote both economic and personal resources to comply with these regulations if we do not want to get a fine that will crunch you?

CV - I think that more and more. That is to say: here sometimes things seem to be imposed, don't they, because there is a rule that establishes it and, obviously, the rules help this impulse. But for some time now, from a few years ago, I do detect a genuine concern within the corporations because many other factors have an influence. People's own awareness, their image in the eyes of investors, their image in the eyes of clients, the regulations themselves.... There are a lot of factors that are influencing us to move from the "greenwashing" that we have heard many times to a real concern and dedication of resources. And this is obviously very favorable for us.

ER - Of course. And how are we, Cristina, compared to our colleagues in the European Economic Community? Are we far behind? Are we at the same level? How are we?

CV - I would say that in terms of regulations we are more or less the same, even often a little more demanding in Spain than in other countries that we may have as a reference. What is true is that in digitization we are a little behind, but I do see in recent years, as I said, a change in this trend, and I am sure that this change will not stop, because all the signs indicate that there is a concern about it.

ER - And that brings me to my last question, Cristina. Let's see: all this type of actions on the part of the companies - to hire you, to comply with the regulations in force, regulations that are very agile in their variation - costs money and it is necessary to dedicate economic resources to it. To what extent, compared to other countries where this is not done, and I am mainly referring to countries outside the European Economic Community, to what extent can it hinder our competitiveness?

CV - Well, one of the reasons for the creation of these standards and the promotion of new materials is precisely because of dependence on other countries. Here we have two ways: the first, that a lot of waste ends up in places where it should not end up.... -We have all surely seen in some television programs, well, landfills in third countries whose waste treatment is very bad for people's health, and on the other hand, the dependence on materials, which Europe also has in other third countries. So, part of the grace of all this use of materials and waste is, precisely, to stop depending on third parties as far as possible, and to be able to guarantee processes that are in accordance with the environment and with people's health.

ER - Ya.

CV - So, in that sense, I believe that Europe, normatively is ahead, but implementation is demonstrated, as you rightly say, by investing.

ER - Of course. And especially because, moreover, we should not be so, shall we say, contemplative when it comes to allowing imports of products into Europe from countries that do not, by far, comply with these regulations nor intend to do so.

CV - Of course, there is in the materials production chain, and there has been a lot of progress for many years, in the waste part, the road we are starting to run now.

ER - Oh, how much we need it. Well, Cristina Vázquez, operations manager of TEIMAS. Thank you very much for joining us. Congratulations on this Zero platform and keep working because we are good for nothing else.


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