Puerto Rico invests in tech industry and startups
One of the ways Puerto Rico is looking to bounce back from its financial troubles is by turning to its burgeoning tech industry and incentivizing entrepreneurship. Unfortunately, despite graduating 22,000 STEM students each year from its universities, as many as 70 percent of those graduates move abroad to continue their careers or graduate studies. The question is now, not only how the island’s finances can be handled, but also how to keep the talent and energy that can make Puerto Rico internationally competitive working in the United States territory of 3.5 million people.
One organization working towards expanding Puerto Rico’s tech sector is The Puerto Rico Science, Technology, & Research Trust, a public-private trust that has already made significant advances towards its ends. The trust has established the Technology Transfer and Commercialization Office to give income tax breaks to university researchers in tech fields as well as to help research projects gain commercial entry into the market. One of the prominent tax incentives passed was Act 20 from the Department of Economic Development & Commerce. Enacted in 2012, the law allows for significant tax exemptions including as much as a 100% tax exemption on “distributions from earnings and profits,” and a 90% tax exemption for personal property taxes for particular businesses.
Perhaps the biggest step Puerto Rico is taking towards promoting its tech industry is the island’s “Science District” initiative that involves investing in infrastructure spending into advanced science research facilities and buildings around the island. At the heart of the initiative is “Science City,” a 70-acre mixed-use project in San Juan that will function as a state-of-the-art hub for the island’s tech industry. Construction on Science City is still underway.
The office has also backed Parallel18, an organization based in San Juan that helps tech startups get off the ground. Startups in Puerto Rico are a relatively new phenomenon, but are gaining ground quickly. Startups of Puerto Rico, a community for Puerto Rican startups founded in 2014, empowers Puerto Rico’s tech entrepreneurs through providing dedicated services and networking channels. Some of the startups involved with the network include: Blimp, a company that helps develop web and mobile apps, Inbify, a platform that enables businesses to have smoother lines of communication with customers, and Kytelabs, a hardware and software developer.
These initiatives show Puerto Rico’s newfound commitment to bringing its economy into the 21st century and help mitigate the effects of the fiscal crisis.