Barcelona, European innovation benchmark

December 2016. – Barcelona –and its metropolitan area– has become one of Europe’s innovation capitals, according to the latest report from the Brussels consultancy agency Science|Business. “Barcelona classifies as the fourth best city in Europe for scientific production” declares the document, titled Ten Tech Hubs, which picks ten European cities that are leading the way in innovation. Not only does Barcelona have scientific leadership, but also “a global reputation for an early adoption of digital and wireless technologies”, it adds.

The European Commissioner for Education and Culture, Tibor Navracsics, affirms in the study’s introduction that “innovation happens where ideas and experiences collide – in the interaction of different branches of sciences and where people with entrepreneurial skills work side by side with those who have frontier knowledge“. In this sense, the report highlights that Barcelona has positioned itself as a place where “business and academia can test new concepts and technologies in a real urban environment and at scale".

Key factors

A determining factor has been both the city’s and the Catalan government’s steady and constant support over the past two decades. Proof of this is the publicly-funded €180 million 22@Barcelona project, which saw 100 hectares of industrial land on Barcelona’s seafront transformed into a business district between 2000 and 2010; and which is now home to more than 3,500 businesses and has almost 100,000 employees working there.

The administration’s active role has also helped in attracting major ICT events such as the Mobile World Congress, the biggest mobile industry event in the world – which the city will host until 2023 –  and the Smart City Expo, with over 15,000 visitors and around 560 cities showcasing solutions.

Other key players worth mentioning, according to the report, are the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre with its Mare Nostrum Supercomputing Center; Telefonica’s I+D headquarters; the company Fractus, which developed an award-winning geometry-based antenna technology that is now in all the mobiles in the world; and the Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO) which stands out for “industry collaboration initiatives in field sensors, energy efficient buildings, cancer diagnosis and other areas”.

The Ten Tech Hubs report also highlights Catalonia’s strong talent pool and university research environments, thanks to its 12 universities and 17 international schools, with more than 44,000 science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) students. This leads to not only local, but also largely foreign knowledge since one of the city strengths is the Barcelona brand, says Mateu Hernández, general manager of the think tank Barcelona Global. “We have a city with a positive image, linked to lifestyle quality, which attracts creative and restless professionals”. As a result of this, investor attention grows. Barcelona has won several EU fundings for its smart city projects and Catalonia attracted 71% of all foreign venture capital investment in Spain in 2015, according to the Spanish Venture Capital & Private Equity Association.

Ten Tech Hubs

Science|Business’ Ten Tech Hubs report, commissioned by Huawei, examines 10 spots in the EU which provide case studies on the integration of information and communication technologies (ICT) into an economy and of a region into the wider world. The study is not intended as a ranking. Its objective is to highlight some especially bright spots in the European digital landscape either because they are already big and powerful or because they are rising fast.

Ten Tech Hubs profiles ten clusters, analyses their success factors and draws lessons for both national and EU policy makers. To that end, each profile scores the tech cluster on five areas of policy, drawing on Science|Business research, the relevant rankings of the World Economic Forum and data from Invest Europe tracking the extent of public sector involvement in private equity. The cluster profiles also feature snapshots of key local players and relevant statistics, such as the proportion of the working population employed in high-tech jobs, enabling readers to compare one hub with another across a range of metrics. Finally, each profile includes an interview with a local visionary, yielding valuable insights into where Europe’s tech hubs are headed.

Barcelona classifies as the fourth best city in Europe for scientific production

Catalonia in Business