When your clients are countries

A Catalan company is to improve the "road of death" in Bolivia, an example of how worldwide government procurement (WGP) continues to grow

The "road of death" in Bolivia is to be improved by the Catalan company after it won the tender
The "road of death" in Bolivia is to be improved by the Catalan company after it won the tender
Not long ago we learnt that Catalan exports broke a new record in 2016, with domestic companies registering a turnover of 65.1 billion euros abroad, some 2% more than last year. This growth, higher than the Spanish and European averages, again shows the international vocation of the country's economy, which for some time now has accepted that its market is the world. When we think about this world that buys goods and services from Catalonia, we usually think about private organisations, but that is to ignore clients that are increasingly important: states. In the past few years, worldwide government procurement has continued to grow -it now makes up 20% of global GDP- and there are increasingly more people who see international procurement as a business opportunity.

One such is Meteosim, a spin-off set up in 2003 after an alliance between researchers from the Astronomy and Meteorology Department of the Physics Faculty of the University of Barcelona (UB) and the US firm Meso Inc., from New York, which creates numerical models of weather forecasts. It currently has a turnover of around a million euros a year, some 60% of which comes from outside Spain.

All about the weather
Its CEO, Oriol de Tera, tells VIA Empresa that these models have multiple applications, which are often of use to the public sector. For example, they carry out consultancy studies related to atmospheric pollution that serve to forecast episodes of high pollution that require the adoption of specific measures, such as reducing speed limits or limiting the circulation of vehicles. They also develop solutions to provide technical support in taking effective decisions in the face of meteorological risks, such as forest fires, and industrial risks, such as chemical emergencies.

Within its catalogue of services, those that have gained it the most foreign tenders are related to climate change. Meteosim offers studies and climate services that are useful in making strategic decisions in plans for adapting cities and their climatic resilience, large infrastructure, coastal areas, sectors of economic activity and ecosystems. An example is the work they are doing in Costa Rica, where 80% of the power comes from hydroelectric plants and the Catalan company is carrying out studies to show the different scenarios that can take place with precipitation in the next few years. This is only one of the projects in which this company has taken part in Latin America, where since 2016 it has an office in Bogota (Colombia).

At the same time, for the past few years, it has had an agreement with Acció through Catalonia's Office of Foreign Trade and Investment in Washington, which specialises in international government procurement. "It allows us to keep track of the opportunities that arise and they pass contacts on to us," says De Tera, who points out that the dozen employees at Meteosim usually work from Barcelona. They only go abroad when it is necessary, sometimes to take part in missions organised by Acció, the Catalan government's business competitiveness agency, which allows them to find out about new business opportunities they would not be aware of from Catalonia.

Acció offers support to Catalan companies in worldwide government procurement to facilitate their access to business opportunities of multilaterally funded institutions and other foreign public authorities.

Remaking the 'road of death'
Another Catalan company that has competed for foreign government tenders is BAC Engineering Consulting Group, a multinational consultancy that came out of the merging of Bomainpasa and Cisca, and that today is present in a dozen countries.

It works in sectors related to civil engineering, structural engineering and quality control and geotechnics. It has offices in Algeria, Armenia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Peru, Qatar, Barcelona and Madrid, and public sector contracts account for 40% of its international turnover, according to sources in the company.

It recently won a tender from the Bolivian government to design improvements to the surface of 73 kilometres of what has become known as the "road of death", one of the most dangerous in the world, which is at an altitude of 4,000 metres. Built in the 1930s, this stretch of road is infamous for its inclines, unstable surface and insufficient drainage, made more complicated by unfavourable geotechnics and the uneven topography of the area, which has steep slopes and drops along most of its route.

The engineering firm, with a turnover of 15 million euros a year and 300 employees, learnt about this project through a business mission to Bolivia organised by Acció in 2015. "Acció has played an important role in the internationalisation of not only BAC but other Catalan companies. Its presence in different countries, its relationships with public authorities and its knowledge of them has helped us, on the one hand, to get multilateral tenders both in Europe and South America, and on the other, to develop our activities in countries like Peru, Bolivia and Colombia," points out the company.
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