Is Catalonia the next American dream?
The United States stands out as one of the world’s top investors in Catalonia, accounting for 1,010 firms that represent 12% of all foreign companies established in the region. North Americans trust the talent, strategic location, competitive costs and business mindset of Catalonia and in recent years have been actively pushing Barcelona to become a leading, global Tech Hub.
The number one sector for North American companies operating in Catalonia is ICT, followed by chemicals and the food industry. In fact, if the American Dream is rooted in the ideals of opportunity for success and growth, when thinking about where to grow a tech business, then Catalonia is the place to be.
It is noteworthy that 28% of foreign tech investment in Catalonia comes from US companies, ahead of Germany, France, Japan and the UK. With Barcelona being the world’s 4th global tech city, the ICT sector in Catalonia is undergoing rapid growth and seeing global multinationals such as Amazon, Microsoft or Oracle locating their latest technological hubs in the area.
In 2018, of all US investments announced for Catalonia, more than half came from the technological sector. Los Angeles-based gaming company Scopely, awarded “World’s Most Innovative Company” in 2018, was one of them. “The talent coming out of both universities and tech in and around Barcelona is top-quality”, says co-CEO Javier Ferreira. That is why “when thinking about where to locate European headquarters, Barcelona was the perfect fit”, says Ferreira.
Other recent tech investments from the US include HP – with the opening of a 3D Printing and Digital Manufacturing Center- Cisco, Tilting Point or Cognizant.
HP established the largest research center of the company outside the United States in Sant Cugat del Vallès, as well as three global Headquarters. Recently, HP has launched a 3D Printing and Digital Manufacturing Center of Excellence in Catalonia.
US videogame company Take-Two acquired Catalan company Social Point for 232M€, further diversifying its business and significantly enhancing its position in the fast-growing free-to-play mobile gaming space.
Cisco Systems has opened the Barcelona Co-Innovation Center, a platform for technological research and improved sustainability located in the Ca l’Alier building in Poblenou’s 22@ district.
Oracle promoted the creation of a Big Data Excellence Center in Cerdanyola del Vallès. The company also has offices in iconic building Torre Glòries in Barcelona.
The videogames multinational opened a studio in Barcelona that specializes in assisting European developers.
Amazon has selected Catalonia as its Southern Europe Logistics Hub. Since 2016, it has carried out one of the most important foreign investments recorded in the region, including several logistics centres, an R&D center focused in machine learning and a seller support hub.
Cognizant, a company that specializes in adapting business models to the digital age, opened its first European customer success centre in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat.
US computer giant Microsoft has been investing in Catalonia for more than 20 years and has a unique partner ecosystem in the region. The company has chosen Barcelona to create a Quantum Laboratory that will be integrated within the Quantum Labs network the company has all over the world.
Gaming company Scopely, creators of award-winning Star Trek™ Fleet Command or Looney Tunes™ World of Mayhem, located their European headquarters in Barcelona.
Attracting foreign venture capital
The US is also keeping a close eye on the startup scene in Catalonia. The Center for American Entrepreneurship stated in its last report that Barcelona is an ‘Advanced global startup hub’; that is, it performs in the top 10 percent of startup hubs in the world.
Barcelona’s innovation capacity and entrepreneurial potential attracts tech startups to set up shop in the city, and most importantly, it also attracts venture capital. It is the case of Alta Life Sciences, co-founded in Barcelona by Guy P. Nohra, who traded sunny California for also sunny Barcelona to raise a venture capital fund. In his previous endeavors, Nohra raised 2 billion dollars for the American fund, Alta Partners.
In Barcelona, his focus is in the life sciences sector, while closely following its convergence with the ICT sector: “With a strong mobile, digital and technology side, Barcelona could be a world leader in digital health”, says Nohra. “Barcelona is the largest place where there is a lot of healthcare science converging with ICT”, he argues.
Catalonia Trade & Investment’s presence in the United States
The agency has recently launched Catalonia Exponential, an innovation program that will connect the US and Catalonia by applying the disruptive innovation processes performed in the US Tech Hubs – Silicon Valley, Boston and New York – in Catalan companies.
Out of Catalonia Trade & Investment’s office in Silicon Valley, director Marc Bonavia’s mission is to forge connections between the valley and Catalonia, showing how “Barcelona is a big tech hub: it is a place of abundance of talent, with a vibrant startup ecosystem, R&D centers, and a highly diversified and specialized market".
Catalonia Exponential will offer innovation itineraries and personalized assessment to escalate and transform business models. Bonavia says that US entrepreneurs understand and value that “Barcelona is all about work, and at the same time that you enjoy life". Another reason, indeed, to help entrepreneur’s dreams come true.