top of page
  • Writer's pictureJohn Favaro

A New Future for Tenerife – a Knowledge Huddle in Four Sessions

Updated: Apr 14, 2021

TENBEL environment, Tenerife Island © Ruth Mateus-Berr

The coronavirus pandemic has touched millions of people in all parts of the world. There are very few places where the pandemic did not change people's habits and lifestyle. Moreover, in many countries the local economy has particularly suffered because of limitations imposed by governments on companies and on the free movement of people, in order to limit the spread of the virus. This also the case of Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands, which has suffered greatly from a dramatic loss of tourism in 2020-2021.

In this context GRASP Network, in cooperation with the Humboldt Cosmos Multiversity, located in Tenerife, organised a so-called Knowledge Huddle (or simply “K-Huddle”) with the title Reimagining Tenerife, together with Prof. Dr. Andreas Müller and his students in the Master course on Global Business Development at Kempten University of Applied Sciences in Germany. The objective of the K-Huddle was to actively reflect on the main question “Which Sustainable Business Ideas Could Help the Canary Islands in Post-Tourism Times?”.

Structure of the Knowledge Huddle

The specific questions addressed during the K-Huddle were:

  1. Which enablers and hurdles will business ideas suggested for discussion be facing? (Three out of five proposals were in two groups)

  2. What would be completely new business ideas?

  3. How to create a culture for new creative business in Tenerife?

The participants in the K-Huddle were the students, members of GRASPnetwork (who acted as moderators), and local insiders of Tenerife and residents of the island who are well-versed in its business situation. The overall session, after an introduction, was split into these four breakout groups:

  • Group 1: Two business ideas combined: (1) Plastic-free beaches and plastic recycling; (2) Agricultural cultivation through Seawater Greenhouse

  • Group 2: Business idea on transferring “Working from Home” to “Working on the Island”

  • Group 3: Question: What would be completely new business ideas?

  • Group 4: Question: How to create a culture for new creative business in Tenerife?

GRASP decided to document this event in four separate reports authored by the moderators of each group.

Group 1: Two business ideas in view of the ocean

Author: Günter Koch; Student Reporter: Olena Kosiachenko

1. Plastic-free beaches and plastic recycling

One of the great disasters endangering the oceans is pollution with plastic. Not only the water, but also beaches (all over the world) are polluted with plastic waste. These unappetising images also influence the willingness of tourists to visit such coasts. The business idea is to clean beaches and waters surrounding the island from plastic waste and at the same time use this waste as raw material for recycling, for which there are already facilities in Tenerife.

The idea (not yet fully worked out) is to collect plastic waste from mainly the rocky coastal sections and to recycle it. Other sources of collection are public places, streets, parks, but also supermarkets or catering establishments.

One economic consideration that currently prevents recycling is the fact that recycled plastic is more expensive than new plastic produced from raw materials. Part of the cost is due to the fact that the collection of plastic waste, especially on land, is not yet possible by machine. It must still be done by human labour – which incidentally provides work for unskilled workers (e.g., from the migrant community). The cost of recycling plastic is an issue of economy of scale: the more plastic waste to be processed, the cheaper this process can become. Thus, the question is whether the island can serve as a collection point for plastic waste from the sea.

2. Agricultural cultivation through Seawater Greenhouse

The second idea is to have sufficient and constant fresh water available for irrigation for larger, agricultural areas. Desalinating seawater uses a lot of energy: here, the combination of solar and wind energy - both of which are available in sufficient quantities - can be put to best use.

The availability of water on the one hand, and the creation of new plantations and greenhouses on the other, can be designed in such a way that this can also create incentives for eco-tourism. A major consideration will be the construction of new greenhouses as "alternative plantations".

The discussion of both ideas revealed that, apart from general limitations, optimal scales are not achievable due to the relatively small size of the island.

A further obstacle may be that the society of the native islanders has developed a stable social cohesion and that therefore the introduction of new business ideas may meet with social and administrative resistance.

The K-Huddle Experience - Student Reactions

The students commented on the method of the K-Huddle as follows (quotations from their report):

“The participants find the K-Huddle useful, as due to the current status of the project some unknown hurdles became more visible and some new interesting insights directly from the citizens of the island were communicated. The variety of the instruments used for the K-Huddle was new for us, the students, and helpful to look at the problem from another angle. We also enjoyed the possibility to talk to local residents, who communicated insider information. The information about the landscape conditions on the island was very helpful. The “disruption” in using art as instrumental for getting new ideas was very welcome”.

Some quotations from the discussion on art objects, which were selected by the participants from the Tenerife Art Museum (TEA) collections:

  • “...Think twice, never take everything for granted, things are not as they seem, look closer, not just pass by. It is an unconventional setting and raises another perspective on the subject…” (Gert Büttgenbach)

  • “…Picture, like the business ideas, is not finished, not yet well wrapped, not well structured and a bit chaotic. Space for improvements…” (Günter Koch)

  • “…It looks like clean water with no plastic in it, which is the goal of our business idea. Under the water new things could be discovered. This might be seen as the metaphor for the input we received today…” (Isabell Hermann)

  • “…Picture is connected to our idea of a seawater greenhouse, where you can grow plants better…” (Oliver Schoch)

  • “…The picture represents collaboration, teamwork and interhuman communication, which is important not only for our project, but also for the people in Tenerife in these days…” (Melanie Eizenhöfer)

  • “…It is a colourful, creative and motivating picture with the little person inside. It gives you the feeling of happiness. It reminds us of our business ideas, as they are confronted with many different aspects and issues on their way…” (Verena Bareiß)

  • “…The fish represents the connection between the two business ideas. It has a connection to marine lifeforms, to the water for the greenhouse, and to the plastic in the ocean…” (Samuel Müller)

Participants in this group were:

Students (in alphabetical order):

- Verena Bareiß

- Melanie Eizenhöfer

- Isabell Hermann

- Olena Kosiachenko (Recording)

- Samuel Müller

- Oliver Schoch

Tenerife Resident:

- Gert Büttgenbach

GRASP members

- Günter Koch (Moderator)

- Christina Merl

Group 2: Business idea on transferring “Working from Home” to “Working on the Island”

Author: Anja Puntari; Student Reporter: Arne Riegert

Notes from Group 2 in the K-Huddle Reimagining Tenerife

This business concept is based on the idea of creating an internationally engaging combination of services that would attract knowledge workers and digital nomads to Tenerife to visit, stay and work for a time period ranging from a few weeks to several months. Working from Home Island would offer clients an interesting mix of a home-like place to stay and co-working facilities with good internet connection, using the empty spaces of the abandoned tourist hotels, and with the added value of a social context in which to network and meet interesting people in person – including other knowledge workers using the service. The business idea consists also in offering clients a series of services in their own home countries (like renting their apartments while they are away) in order to optimise their overall balance sheet. (For further context, see also this inspiring article in the Spanish newspaper El Pais.)

Emotional and social challenges. Even though the Canary Islands are known for their ability to welcome foreigners in a positive manner, staying abroad for longer times can be especially challenging emotionally and socially. Settling down in the new context involves bureaucratic formalities, finding schools for the children, becoming familiar with new cultural behaviours, and much else. The challenge is: How to help people enter quickly and easily into the local life of the island and help them become an active part of the local community with a strong social context?

The K-Huddle made the idea emerge of how this aspect could be of value for potential clients. The company could help clients with travel organisation, and advise on how to handle formalities. It could also give guidance on how to handle the “emotional side” of living in a new country. What are typical challenges for foreigners in this context? How to handle the difficult emotions that people often feel while abroad, far away from their own country?

During the K-Huddle, participants suggested the creation of a network of local families that could serve as contact points to the foreigners, helping them to settle in and organising activities like local cooking courses that bring people together.

Great team and coronavirus as an opportunity. During the K-Huddle it became clear that a great team can have a significant leverage effect on any business idea. People and teamwork in fact are crucial to success in business. It is important to value different skills, and that everyone does their job properly. An emotionally mature team deals also with critical moments and difficult emotions in an intelligent way and communicates effectively. Everyone should be engaged and drive the team forward. This leads to the following thought that should not be forgotten: it is important to use the different skills of each team member also in this project.

The coronavirus crisis is both an obstacle and leverage for this business idea. One obstacle is that the remote work culture is still in its early stages. It is a new and therefore immature market. Many questions can be asked and many problems need to be solved. It is an undisputed fact that the coronavirus year has taught thousands of organisations and their people to work in remote and there will be also government support for ideas like this. Therefore, this kind of innovative business ideas could really be one part of the future of the Canary Islands in the post-Covid era. The GRASP Network wishes the best of luck, courage and will for the group working with the business idea Working from Home Island.


Anja Puntari


Arne Riegert (student)


Nico Bretträger (Student)

Klaus Deniffel (Student)

Malte Höner (Student)

Carolin Smarzoch (Student)

Romen Rodriguez-Gil (local contributor, Tinerfeño)

Group 3: Question: What would be completely new business ideas?

Author: Ruth Mateus-Berr; Student Reporter: Julia Zeller

The objective of Working Group 3 was to Think weirdly/Think crazily about a Business Idea and concentrate the idea into one word in order to co-develop a radical new business idea for Tenerife. In a Phase 1, the preliminary ideas were scribbled down; in a subsequent Phase 2, the reflection process was deepened with the inspiration of an individually selected art work from the Tenerife Espacio de las Artes (TEA) collection and exhibition in Santa Cruz.

Crazy Business Idea (Phase 1)

  • Ideas and motivation:

  • Films and commercial as a new sector

  • Underwater restaurant – Attract tourism

  • Palm trees at night

  • Explore soil biology for sustainable agriculture

  • Protein industry – Bugs for growth → Insects as a competitive advantage

  • Harvesting pigments: Insects on plants for producing natural colours

  • Restaurant for one night: Bringing the chef to private homes

  • Full autonomous “shared-cars” fleet – New and efficient and flexible way for mobility

  • Placement – Making Tenerife a Development-Hub

  • Storing CO2 in Vulcanite

  • Submarine metropolis – Living in the sea in the far future – Tenerife as the pioneer-country

  • Rent your pet

  • Volcano BBQ

Inspiration of an Art Work (Phase 2)

Deepen the reflection process with the help of artwork by selecting an art work from the Tenerife Espacio de las Artes (TEA) that can be best associated with our chosen stories / ideas and writing about it, using the approach, “Let the art work talk to you”.

The following are impressions written down by the participants during the session, based on their respective chosen art works.

  • Underwater Restaurant – Picture with direct connections like a fish but also colour/diversity/light that is expressed

  • Further impulses: Inside and outside perspective of the idea

  • Shared car fleet – Picture that represented what would be happening if we couldn’t make a sustainable transformation happen

  • Further impulses: Status Quo vs. future association

  • Placement – Forms, colours, perspectives, shapes, tools that come together → Collaboration; Growing, harvesting → Relaxation and Focus, food reflects different cultures and contents

  • Submarine Metropolis – Picture reminds us of a tunnel to the new underwater world; colours that represent the topic; lines and forms representing the environment; combination of something normal and something sub-natural; picture representing the entrance; light, energy, organic structures

  • Soil biology for sustainable agriculture – Picture represents the “unexplored” and an unknown ecosystem and the potential of the “to be explored”

Group 4: Question: How to create a culture for new creative business in Tenerife?

Author: Paula Kuusipalo-Määttä; Student Reporter: Sofiya Misenko

Notes of Group 4: how to create a culture for new creative business in Tenerife?

In this session, on the one hand, the participants discovered the importance of first understanding the culture of Tenerife. For the inhabitants on the island, foreigners must approach with sensitivity and patience. Understanding the real needs of the locals is crucial before developing a business model. Creating relationships with the locals and learning the language to enable communication and a more profound understanding is also important. Besides connecting with locals, the group agreed that there should be inclusion and synthesis of the traditions on Tenerife with new business ideas.

On the other hand, creativity can only flourish by leaving the comfort zone and exploring new horizons. Curiosity is also an essential factor. In addition, developing a mindset of “Everything is possible” and thinking outside the box could help the locals to discover new ideas and to generate their own unique ideas, which go beyond the ordinary.

Teamwork and diversity would help to connect old and new, tradition and innovation, locals and foreigners to develop new creative business ideas together in collaboration. At the beginning of this section is the snippet of the padlet where the participants connected their ideas to the paintings from the Tenerife Espacio de las Artes (TEA).

When discovering a culture for new creative business in Tenerife, it is very important to have sensitivity and patience in creating a mutual understanding of how culture should be discovered. Connecting with people is needed to find common ground for inclusion of new ideas and innovation. Knowing the needs of people will help us to understand how changes should be implemented in Tenerife. In order to develop clear but expressive ideas you have to listen carefully to the local people and get their feedback, which gives them motivation for co-creation and innovation.

You should have enough courage to leave your comfort zone to create something new. It gives you a lot of energy when you let your thinking out of the common way of thinking. Letting your curiosity lead you helps you find out so much more.

Teamwork and diversity in forming co-creation teams helps to get different opinions and ideas together, resulting in better innovations when processing ideas. A mix of various thoughts builds a colourful overall view. Small ideas form the big whole.

It’s always a matter of perspective. If you truly believe in something, things will sooner or later work out. It’s all about mindset whether you see possibilities or not. You need Startup Thinking, a mindset of “everything is possible”.

The need for a new business atmosphere leads us to reach out with words, gestures and the vision of the people on the Island. Creativity and design reflect a way to colour and light up your life and give you a connection to new ideas and innovation.

While there may be a lack of common understanding in the beginning, step by step the new creative culture is growing through misunderstandings as well. The need for a new business atmosphere is to reach out with words, gestures and the vision of the people on the Island. It is essential to communicate in the same language to start creating bonds with local people. Learning the language gives us the opportunity to understand each other better.


bottom of page