Foreign investment attraction policy in Catalonia celebrates 30 years of positive impact

April 2015.- Catalonia has traditionally always been a manufacturing country with an open and competitive economy. Therefore, foreign investment was at the heart of its early industrial development gave rise to the presence of important companies such as Fabra i Coats, the Barcelona Traction Light & Power Company, or Miquel Vincke i Meyer (later Armstrong Cork).

And what was true then still remains relevant today. At present, there are 5,700 foreign companies in Catalonia. They have forged strong links with local businesses and represent a significant impact on the economy, accounting for 18% of total employment and 41% of total exports.

Thirty years turning figures into future

In the mid 1980s, when Spain entered the EU (known then as the European Community), the Catalan Government decided to create a public agency to guide and channel its business and industrial strategies, while boosting the presence of foreign companies in Catalonia. There was no other foreign investment attraction policy in Spain at that time. The Centre for Innovation and Business Development (CIDEM) was founded in 1985, representing the first building block of what over the following three decades would become Invest in Catalonia: initially it was the division for industrial relations with Japan, then in 1990 it became the area of international businesses, and finally after CIDEM and COPCA merged (COPCA was in charge of promoting Catalan exports) it adopted its present name of Invest in Catalonia.

Today, 30 years later, Catalonia has become a European reference in terms of trade and investment policies and has succeeded in positioning itself as one of the most attractive locations on the mainland Europe. Catalonia is strategically located in the Mediterranean and in the natural passage to France and the rest of Europe, and is seen as a competitive market for foreign companies. Its industrial tradition, trading spirit, talented and well-trained workers make it an attractive location for international companies. Furthermore, foreign companies have fostered local companies, improved quality and productivity standards, and introduced innovation and technology transfer.

Managed projects, investment decisions, jobs created

Between 1985 and 2014, there have been 844 foreign investment decisions directly linked to foreign investment attraction policy. 2014 was a record year: Invest in Catalonia brought 54 projects to life, a record number in its 30-year history. Almost 5,000 projects have been managed in thirty years: from between 50 and 60 projects a year at the end of the 80’s and beginning of the 90’s to around 400 a year in recent times.

Since 1985, all these projects have brought about €8.143M investment - an average yearly investment of €280.8 M - and have created 40,000 jobs.

Industrial investments

Foreign direct investments inflows in Catalonia are far more industrial and manufacturing oriented than the Spanish total. With 2010-2014 data, 17% of the total FDI inflows into Spain and 32% of the total manufacturing FDI inflows into Spain go to Catalonia, where industrial FDI accounts for 32% of total FDI.

Exports have doubled in the last fifteen years, from around €30,000M in 2000 up to €60,200M in 2014. Foreign companies in Catalonia account for 6% of total export companies and create 43% of total exports.


Among the international companies Invest in Catalonia has worked with, we can find a diversity of countries and sectors, from the more industrial ones - chemical or automotive industries - to those already important in Catalonia such as pharma or food & drink, or those newer and more service related, such as SSC or ICT. 

Companies worth mentioning are Nissan, Nestlé, HP, Boheringer Ingelheim, Computer Associates, Fujitsu, Sanofi-Aventis, Procter&Gamble, Schneider, Henkel, Bayer, Louis Vuitton, Vistaprint, King, Denso, Air Products, Magna Donelly, Ricoh, H&M, Colt Telecom, Fox Head,, Kao, Rakuten, Dow Chemical… and many more.

The globalization of business is unstoppable, and helping companies to find the best location in which to operate, to innovate and to expand will continue to be one of the most important roles for governments. So, this 30 year-old public-private cooperation to foster investments -this “public-private partnership”- will undoubtedly become even more important in the coming years.

FDI statistics

Catalonia in Business