The BioRegion of Catalonia: a unique life sciences hub in Europe

September 2016.- The BioRegion, the healthcare and life sciences cluster in Catalonia, is the most dynamic bioregion in Spain and one of the most active in Europe. With a population of more than 7.5 millions and territory comparable to that of countries like Belgium, the Netherlands and Israel, Catalonia is among the top four European countries in terms of number of life sciences companies per capita. One new life sciences company is born in Catalonia every 10 days.

According to the Biocat Report 2015, the BioRegion of Catalonia brings together 734 companies and 89 research organizations, including 41 research centers, 15 university hospitals, 11 universities offering life sciences studies, 13 sciences and technology parks with activity in the life sciences and large research facilities like the Alba-Cells Synchroton, the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) and the National Center for Genomic Analysis (CNAG).

With these numbers, and despite being one of the smallest countries in Europe by population, Catalonia has more pharmaceutical companies per capita than any country in Europe except Belgium. The Spanish pharmaceutical industry is mainly concentrated in Catalonia, where 40% of the sector’s laboratories are located. Catalonia is the origin and headquarters of large corporations in the sector such as Almirall, Bioiberica, Esteve, Ferrer, Grifols, Lacer, Reig Jofré and Uriach. Barcelona is also home to the world’s top biopharmaceutical companies, such as Amgen, Novartis, Roche, Sanofi, Bayer, B. Braun, Boehringer Ingelheim, Chiesi, Hartmann, Lundbeck or Menarini.

Catalonia is also ranked fourth among European and European Research Area countries included in KPMG & Venture Valuation report in terms of biotechnology companies per capita (behind Sweden, Switzerland and Israel) and also fourth in medical technology companies (behind Israel, Sweden and Switzerland). Only from 2013 to 2015, more than 100 new life sciences companies were created in the BioRegion. In other words: 1 new venture is born every 10 days.

Quadre biotech

Source: Impact Metrics Biocat (2015) based on data included in KPMG & Venture Valuation Report (2015)


According to the Biocat Report 2015, the BioRegion has 40 companies active in digital health, working on areas such as bioinformatics and computational research services, medical visits or appointments, monitoring and following up with patients, medical imaging, virtual reality, platforms for personalized cognitive services or communities of patients, among others. In the coming years we will see growth in this segment of companies with Barcelona being considered the mobile world capital, as a site of the Mobile World Congress.

The companies in the life science sector employ more than 42,000 workers and post yearly turnover of €14.36 billions, 7% of the GDP of Catalonia. The main therapeutic areas in which biotech and pharma companies work are cancer (often focusing on rare diseases) and neoplasms, dermatology, infectious diseases, and diseases of the nervous system and the respiratory system.


Between 2013 and 2015, companies in the BioRegion attracted more than €100 millions in investment, more than half (€55 millions) over the past year, with large operations like the Oryzon-Roche and Palobiofarma-Novartis deals. This figure has already been surpassed during the first semester of 2016, with €62 millions in investment between January and July 2016. 

The BioRegion has 26 investment bodies, noteworthy among which are 8 venture capital firms -4 of which specialize in the sector with significant investment volume: Caixa Capital Risc, Ysios Capital, Inveready and HealthEquity-, 7 associations of business Angels, 4 corporate investors, 1 institutional investor and 3 new crowdfunding and crowdequity initiatives.

Scientific excellence model

In terms of scientific excellence, Catalonia is among the top regions in Europe in quality and quantity, thanks to a model based on the autonomy of centers, results-based hiring, independent peer assessment and a commitment to programs to attract and retain talent. Under just 10 years of history, some of the Catalan research bodies are among the most prestigious in the world, includingCenter for Genomic Regulation (CRG), ranked 6th in the top health research institutions in the world by Scimago Report 2015, Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ), ranked 1st world institution in Chemistry by Max Planck Institute 2014) or the Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO), ranked 1st world institution in Physics by Max Planck Institute 2013.

Despite Catalonia represents only 1.5% of the EU’s population, researchers in Catalonia produces 3.15% of all scientific production in Europe and 0.99% in the world, and 29% of publications in Spain. Catalonia is ranked second in the EU in number of grants per capita received from the European Research Council (ERC).

The 11 Catalan universities that offer health and life sciences degrees graduate 5,500 students each year. Three of these universities (UAB, UPF and UB) are among the top 200 in the world (Times Higher Education ranking, 2015-2016).

Catalonia has 15 university hospitals and 9 associated research institutes, where 5,000 researchers work. Six of these hospitals are Spain’s top science research producers out in the field of clinical research and human health research, such as Hospital Clinic of Barcelona or Vall d'Hebron University Hospital. Catalonia performs more clinical trials than any other region in Spain, mainly in Oncology, and in Phase II (17%) and III (44%). The recently launched Barcelona Clinical Trials Platform maximizes the potential of the region providing a single point of access to some of the main university hospitals and to national primary care network. As of January 2015, the centers that belong to the platform totaled 2,740 participations in trials, with 13,498 patients recruited.


Biocat acts as a strategic agent and catalyst in the construction of the Catalan health and life sciences ecosystem. Created in 2006 at the behest of the Government of Catalonia and theBarcelona City Council, its mission is to dynamize all the stakeholders of the BioRegion (companies, research groups and entities, hospitals and innovation support structures) to transform knowledge and technology into economic growth and to create a social impact

Biocat coordinates and promotes the healthcare and life sciences sector in Catalonia.

In terms of life sciences companies per capita, Catalonia is among the top five countries in Europe

Catalonia represents only 1.5% of the EU’s population, researchers in Catalonia produce 3.15% of all scientific production in Europe and 0.99% in the world

Catalonia in Business