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 the study Life Sciences in Catalonia, for 3.4% of Catalan GDP, have an annual turnover over €17,802 M, and employ some 53,731 people in over 1,060 companies.

The global life sciences industry includes biotech, medtech, pharma, digital health and investing organizations. In Catalonia, this industry has a company creation rate of about 1 new company per week.

Catalonia is a great place for international pharmaceutical companies

There are 125 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 are established here, such as Novartis, Sanofi, Boehringer-Ingelheim, Bayer, Roche, Menarini, Pierre Fabre, Pfizer, Intas Pharmaceuticals-Accord, AstraZeneca, Synthon, Angelini, Zambon or Merck to mention just a few.

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

There are 176 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 hosts a dynamic biotechnological industry, with 280 biotech companies (2017), that is 40% of Spanish biotech companies. 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. 

Catalonia ranks top among Spain’s autonomous communities in terms of internal expenditure on biotech R&D activities, reaching €454.7 M in 2015, which represents the 29.5% of total Spanish R&D expenditure within the sector.

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

According to Biocat Outlook, Catalonia has 89 research institutions 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), one major tech centre (Eurecat) 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.

A world leader in clinical trials

Spain was the first European country to pass national legislation on clinical trials since the new European regulation was published. In fact, Spain ranks second in Europe in number of clinical trials, and the 78% of approved trials involve at least one centre located in Catalonia. Likewise, 55% of clinical trials conducted in Spain are submitted to Ethics Committees in Catalonia.

In Catalonia there are more than 2,740 sites participating in clinical trials, featuring 2,000 experienced clinical-trial researchers, with more than 13,400 patients recruited (2015).

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 Biotech companies.

As for foreign direct investment, between 2014 and 2018 Catalonia concentrated 37.5% of FDI projects in Spain and 42.6% of FDI capital investment in Spain.

Life sciences exports reached a record of €5,689.6M in 2018 -representing 7.9% over total Catalan exports- 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:

    • Digital Health

      Catalonia and Spain are early adopters in IoT devices (world’s 8th) and high-speed networks (Europe’s 1st). This innovative culture is also demonstrated by the Catalan strong startup ecosystem. Barcelona is considered the 4th tech city in the world and 5th Tech Hub of Europe.

    • Medtech

      Catalonia is the 4th European country in medical technologies company density, with a growing turnover of a 25% CAGR (2011-2014). These companies are mainly of high technology and personalization (47.4%), and those of mid-high technology and long duration represent the 47.5% of the Catalan’s medtech turnover.

      The world renowned state-of-the-art Catalan hospital system is a major client for the medical devices companies established in Catalonia.

    • Silver economy

      Catalonia Trade & Investment identified a strong Catalan silver ecosystem, composed by 545 companies, with a total turnover of 9,003€M. Catalan women have the highest life expectancy in Europe and, at the same time, the crowded baby boom generation (38.5% of population) is reaching the silver age interval in Catalonia, standing for more than 2.8M people.

    • Big data

      Catalonia is leading big data in Europe, above UK and Germany in number of big data projects, according to a recent European Commission study. Catalonia has a top big data ecosystem full of big data startups, conferences including the leading Big Data Conference, and Industry giants like HP, Oracle and IBM.

    • Oncology

      In Catalonia oncology is the therapeutic area to which more R&D resources are allocated, concretely the 36% of the total biomedical investment in innovation. In fact, Oncology is defined as a top research area of the Catalan bioregion. Furthermore, Catalan extensive clinical trials are mainly focused in oncology treatments (35% of all clinical trials).


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