Life Sciences live a healthy life in Catalonia

With a pharma industry as a historical driver of the local economy life sciences activities account today, according to Biocat, for 7,1% of Catalan GDP, have an annual turnover over €15,956 M, and employ some 46,676 people in over 871 companies. The global life sciences industry, though, includes pharma, medical devices, eHealth and biotechnology.

In the last five years, 200 new companies have set up in the Catalonia’s Bioregion. Furthermore, these companies have an extremely high survival rate, given that over the last five years only one company closure is registered per year.

Catalonia is a great place for international pharmaceutical companies

There are 51 pharma companies in Catalonia (2017). Within the context of Spain, Catalonia concentrated 71.6% of Spanish pharmaceutical turnover (2017) and 43.7% of Spanish pharmaceutical exports (2016).

Catalonia, as the leading and birthplace region of pharmaceuticals in Spain, is home to the five biggest Spanish pharmaceutical companies: Almirall, Esteve,Ferrer, Grífols and Uriach. R&D spending of Catalan pharmaceutical industry accounts for 32.1% of total Catalan industry spending in R&D. Catalonia is also home of Lacer, Kern Pharma,and Isdin, and to the main API companies in the country. Furthermore many international companies have established here, such as Novartis, Sanofi, Boehringer-Ingelheim, Bayer, Roche, Menarini, Pierre Fabre, Pfizer, Intas Pharmaceuticals-Accord, AstraZeneca, Synthon, Angelini, Zambon or Merk to mention just a few.

A fast-growing medical devices industry and highly innovative eHealth projects

There are 89 medical devices companies in Catalonia (2017), which are mainly of high technology and personalization. Catalonia leads the distribution of medical devices production in Spain, with a 42% of total companies in Spain. This fast-growing medical devices industry in Catalonia accounts for 24.4% of Spanish medtech industry turnover and 37.8% of Spanish medtech exports. Health Technology industry in Catalonia combines local companies -Phibo, BioSystems, Deltalab, Stat-Diagnostica, Avinent, Grifols or Texpol- and leading medical devices companies. Among these last ones we can find Olympus, Roche Diagnostics, Hartmann, Werfen-Biokit, Dako-Agilent, BBraun, Siemens, GE Healthcare, Stryker, Boston Scientific, Hologic, Gaes, Menarini Diagnostics, Azbil, Johnson&Johnson, Fresenius-Kabi, or Zimmer.

As for eHealth industry, there are some mature eHealth companies employing more than one thousand workers as well as 126 eHealth related startups and 138 eHealth projects. The eHealth Center (UOC) is the first academic center in southern Europe in electronic health.

A leading biotech industry in Catalonia

Catalonia is the leading biotech region in Spain, holding 249 biotech companies (2017), that is 27.6% of Spanish companies, as well as 39% of Spanish biotech industry turnover. Amgen, Inkemia, AB-Biotics, Biokit, Salvat, Reig Jofre, Oryzon,Advancell, Gendiag, Readycell, Bionure, Alexion, GP Pharm, Endor or Lipotec are part of the biotech industry in Catalonia. 

The Catalan biotech firms hit investment figures of 100 million euros last year for the very first time, a figure 80% greater than the previous year’s given that in 2016 four major operations were closed with STAT-Diagnostica, Oryzon Genomics, Aelix Therapeutics and AB Biotics.

Since biotech and pharma are increasingly more interrelated industries, the importance of the Catalan biotech sector is another asset for pharmaceutical companies to set up in Catalonia. Bioengineering and nanotechnology are considered top capabilities of Catalonia's Bioregion.

Catalonia’s active research climate gives added dynamism to the life sciences sector

According to Biocat Outlook, Catalonia has 40 research centres working in life sciences or related disciplines (nanotechnology, photonics, etc.). These centres have formed over 780 active research groups and more than 360 research projects in main areas of bioinformatics, genetics/genomics and nanotechnology and in the therapeutic areas of cancer and neurodegenerative diseases (Biocat 2016). Major scientific facilities (Alba Synchrotron, MareNostrum Supercomputer and Nacional Genome Analysis Center), two major tech centres (Eurecat, Leitat) and 14 technology and science parks, are also part of Catalan life sciences system.

These research centres have a combined workforce of 11,000 people, 5,660 of which are researchers, and the 18 Catalan university hospitals and 9 hospitals research institutes have more than 5,000 researchers devoted to biomedical research. The recognition of 6 Catalan research centres as “Severo Ochoa” centres of excellence, out of a Spanish total of 14, showcases the level of the Catalan research system.

An advanced clinical trials research network

Barcelona Clinical Trials Platform (BCTP) is a strategic instrument promoted by the Government of Catalonia to improve the coordination, integration, quality, and speed of clinical trials. The initial list of member institutes includes 7 university hospitals with overall clinical research capacity of 5 million patients and 2,000 investigators to which BCTP provides a single point of access. Currently, more than 2,740 trials are ongoing, either in one site or across multiple sites. Catalonia accounts for 55% of the clinical trials carried out in Spain.

Foreing investments, partnerships, joint ventures & acquisitions

There is a growing number alliances between companies and R&D Centers. Both Catalan R&D centers or spin-off companies are becoming a valuable source of new discoveries for Pharma and Biotec companies.

As for foreign direct investment, Catalonia is the 6th western European region in capital investment and job creation, and between 2013 and 2017 Catalonia concentrated 47.5% of FDI projects in Spain and 67.2% of FDI capital investment in Spain.

Life sciences trade balance is positive in Catatalonia, with a surplus of more than 49€M (2017) mainly due to the strong pharma industries exports.


Investment opportunities for foreign companies

Catalonia offers different investment opportunities in the life science industries. By value chain R&D, logistic centers, clinical trials and pharma subsector are worth highlighting. By fields and sector these are the main trends:

    • eHealth

      Catalonia is the perfect place to either develop or implement eHealth applications. The large and innovative start-up ecosystem, part of the Catalan top R&D and tech hub (considered 5th of Europe), together with the early adopter Catalan society, makes our region the perfect place for eHealth.

    • Medtech

      Catalonia has a fast-growing (98% in 3 years) medtech ecosystem, considered the 4th most dense in Europe, and concentrating the 42% of Spanish medtech companies. Composed mainly (47.4%) by high tech companies, the medtech Catalan ecosystem has received FDI from the top sector’s global companies.

    • Silver economy

      An aged population and a strong silver economy ecosystem makes Catalonia the perfect place for these companies. More than 500 companies perform silver activities in Catalonia, which have a dedicated turnover of up to 9,000€M. Pharma and healthy food are the main silver economy subsectors in Catalonia.

    • Big data

      Catalonia is leading big data in Europe, above UK and Germany, in number of big data projects. More than 200 big data start-ups, together with top multinational companies and the leading Big Data conference makes Catalonia the most competitive location for Big data hubs, as the ones established by Nestlé or Roche. Spain has been a pioneer in the inclusion of information technologies in the life sciences industry, as the electronic health records system and the digital prescription. Big data research projects on diseases as diabetes and Parkinson have been carried out in the BSC and CRG, and published in important journals.

    • Oncology

      Defined as a top research area for the Catalan bioregion, oncology concentrates the 36% of the total biomedical investment in innovation in Catalonia. Its leading research centers and personalities focus the 35% of all Catalan medical trials in the oncology field. Catalan innovation and R&D is conducted by its world renowned oncology leaders, as well as the top-notch Catalan university hospitals and research centres. For example, IRB has recently discovered a new colon cancer treatment.


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Catalonia’s active research climate gives added dynamism to the life sciences sector

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