The Smart City sector takes root in Catalonia


Barcelona tops the rankings of smart cities in the world

Barcelona tops the rankings of smart cities in the world. The Catalan capital is the second smart city in the world after Singapore (Juniper Research, 2016). Catalonia, over and above the activity in its capital, is itself a pioneer in the adoption of smart solutions for urban management; with public and private initiatives developing internationally recognised strategies and municipal projects.

A smart city, according to the EU Parliament, is “a city seeking to address public issues via ICT based solutions on the basis of a multi-stakeholder, municipally based partnership”. Barcelona is the Mobile World Capital and has a powerful ICT sector that connects, facilitates and empowers all the multiple smart solutions, ranging from efficient energy systems and smart transit solutions (parking, public transport, etc.) to predictive security models or water usage solutions, not to mention telehealth and m-Health, improvement in tourism and commerce (computer systems, payment methods) or management in terms of learning and education.

Smart City Expo World Congress

The Smart City Expo World Congress is the leading worldwide encounter on today’s urban issues and the technological revolution. Since it was first held in 2011, this event has managed to become a leading platform for ideas, networking, experiences and international business agreements, and it brings together the world’s top decision makers in the context of urban development.

Barcelona will hold the ninth edition from November 19th to 21st, 2019, expecting to gather over 700 cities worldwide as well as 840 exhibitors, more than 400 speakers and 21,000 attendees. Under the theme 'Cities made of dreams', it will feature major capitals such as Berlin, Brussels, Kyoto, Moscow, Paris, Seoul or Tel Aviv.

The smart ecosystem of smart cities in Catalonia

A recent study elaborated by ACCIÓ (2016) gives for the first time an in-depth look at the economic activity generated by smart cities in Catalonia. The sector in Catalonia is made up of 270 companies, with a workforce of 116,163 people (2015). Their collective turnover, solely linked to the smart city sector in 2015, came to 6,968.33 M€. This figure represents 3% of the Catalan GDP, proof of how important this sector is for Catalonia’s business environment. 

The three areas composing the largest critical mass for companies working in the smart city sector are waste management, mobility and lighting. The sector is largely made up of small and medium sized companies (82% of the companies are SMEs) extremely internationalised: 51% of the Catalan smart city companies export and 17% have branch offices abroad. The companies with greater international presence are those producing equipment and products, those working in big data services and those manufacturing IoT elements.

Sectors and opportunities for investment

The existence of clusters, technological centres and universities that have specialised in smart cities, play an important role when explaining the motives behind the development of business activity in this sector in Catalonia in recent years. In Catalonia there are 64 municipalities with over 20,000 inhabitants, creating a testing ground for the new technologies developed by sector companies, not to mention the public administration’s commitment in this area.

Catalonia has opportunities for foreign investment in the smart city ambit for those companies without a smart presence in Catalonia, but with a high technological development profile and which have carried out international projects over the past four years.

The smart city technologies the European Union are giving priority to – via the Horizon 2020 projects – are those connected to energy, mobility, ICT integration in infrastructures and data management; in other words, those that show greater opportunities for innovation.

In Catalonia there are various initiatives and entities concerning smart cities: such as ACCIÓ, that is promoting projects and initiatives in the public administration, organised clusters, universities, technological centres and other key players, trade fairs and international networks. 

Examples of smart city projects in Catalonia


Together with Stockholm and Cologne, Barcelona is one of the three lighthouse cities of the GrowSmarter project in the first Smart City and Communities call for submissions, with Horizon 2020 funding. The European GrowSmarter is one of the European Commission’s firmest commitments regarding common development of urban areas and has the ultimate goal of promoting research and implementation in innovative processes as well as solutions in the development of sustainable and environmentally smart cities. 

Modular Open Big Data Energy

Optimising Framework The Future District (Modular Open Big Data Energy Optimising Framework) is a three-year project co-funded by the Small or Medium-scale Focused Research Project (STREP), within the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7), centred on the increase in automation, detection and interoperability capabilities in districts, increase the efficiency of urban energy management and reduce response time.

Solar HUB Open Collaboration Program

The Catalan company SIARQ, specialised in the integration of solar energy in urban areas, has developed an innovative, zero emission and smart solar streetlight, designed to incorporate different smart city sensors according to the needs of different urban environments. The company foresees a turnover in 2017 of some €500,000 as well as great future growth prospects.

SIARQ has launched this product on the market together with an open innovation programme named Solar HUB Open Collaboration Program (SHOC), which operates via shared work process between local administrations, technology companies and citizens. Thus, via different workshops, the different key players can decide which technologies or solutions should be incorporated into the solar streetlights, depending on the specific requirements of each municipality (for example, sensors for tracking transit, pollution or sound).

SIARQ has the support of the telecommunication company Cellnex, which plans to install two SOLAR HUBs in its Smart Zone next month, beside its corporate headquarters in Barcelona’s Zona Franca neighbourhood.

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Smart Cities in Catalonia

Document presenting the state of the art of Smart City sector in Catalonia and International opportunities.

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