Tech Barcelona is a key institution promoting Barcelona-Catalonia's technology sector, recently reinforced by new announcements of digital hubs being set up by Festo, Microsoft, and PepsiCo. A sector undergoing constant growth already represents 35.7% of Catalonia's total foreign investment projects in 2020.
Tech Barcelona created its flagship building in the Catalan capital five years ago, Pier 01, where a hundred companies, startups, and other organizations coexist next to the Port of Barcelona in a public–private collaboration model other cities are trying to replicate.
We spoke with Miquel Martí, CEO of Tech Barcelona, about the technology sector's strengths, Tech Barcelona's plans, and November's upcoming big event for digital entrepreneurs, Tech Spirit Barcelona.
This week we've learned that Barcelona is the fifth European city regarding tech investment attraction. So what’s your view on the state of the Catalan tech sector today?
Post Covid-19, it is evident that Barcelona's tech sector is running at a record-breaking speed. Moreover, compared to 2018 and 2019, which were excellent years, Barcelona now has increasingly more heavyweight and mature projects, so consequently, it's pretty standard that the city attracts international investment.
There's been recent news on the investments of Microsoft, Festo, Veriff, and Nestlé in digital hubs here in Catalonia. What do you think attracts these global companies to set up here?
Barcelona, as a destination, is top of mind for large international companies wanting to create technological and digital hubs. This is because Barcelona has the necessary talent and infrastructures and the global ecosystem, making it attractive to develop them.
Above all, what attracts companies the most is talent. Large tech and business schools are here, which is an important aspect. In addition, there's a lot of great local talent here.
On the other hand, Barcelona is an exciting city and thus able to attract international talent, too. In addition, the quality of life is excellent here, and exciting projects surround you. So, this combination of local talent and the ability to attract international talent are vital factors when locating a hub in a specific spot.
"Barcelona, as a destination, is top of mind for large international companies wanting to create technological and digital hubs."
What is Tech Barcelona doing to help the technological ecosystem?
We think that Barcelona and Catalonia will be more competitive if we can be technology based. That mostly depends on the talent and talent we have.
Other factors to make this happen are good infrastructure and good entrepreneurship support entities, both public and private. Within the private sector, our job is to bring together stakeholders to align interests and support the industry and its entrepreneurs.
Tech Barcelona does three things: connect, generate knowledge, and develop strategic projects. First, as regards connection, we respond to the needs of entrepreneurs, companies, and other stakeholders. We try to concentrate the maximum intelligence of the ecosystem, thus making it easier for entrepreneurs to find solutions.
Secondly, we generate knowledge to strengthen talent. Tech Barcelona complements universities and business schools by providing sectoral knowledge. Our activities program focuses on giving trends in technology, business models, experiences, etc.
"Barcelona and Catalonia will be more competitive if we can be technology based. That mostly depends on talent, and talent we have"
And the third branch of activity of Tech Barcelona is its strategic projects. Can you give us some examples?
We are developing projects to make Barcelona a relevant technological space internationally. We have, for example, a network of ambassadors around the world and a network of international investors.
Another of the projects is the Urban Tech Campus, which seeks to articulate innovation through interconnected spaces. Pier 01 is the first space. Seeing the country's potential in specific sectors, we will develop piers in certain sectors: our priorities are sustainable mobility, sustainability, retail, health, and FinTech.
What stage are these piers at now?
The FinTech pier is currently under construction in the Barcelona Stock Exchange, and we hope it will be ready before the second quarter of 2022. As regards the health pier, it will be operational in the first quarter of 2022.
We're finalizing our decision on where to situate the mobility pier because the place is significant to us. We want it to be very centric and visible within the city, to send a clear message about Barcelona's commitment to technology as a differentiating element. Moreover, talent tends to be highly attracted to those centric, iconic spaces with a particular history.
How many companies are there now in Pier01, and what types are there mainly?
On a typical day, without Covid-19 restrictions, there are 1,500 people in more than 100 organizations. The idea behind the Pier is to combine different players in one space and act as a significant representative sample of what is happening in the Barcelona ecosystem.
Right now, in the building, we can find from the Mobile World Capital to newly created companies, the most crucial venture builder in Europe (Antai; where Glovo and Wallapop came from), spin-offs that have come out of the Barcelona Supercomputing Center or the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, a UPC acceleration program in collaboration with the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), ACCIO, company laboratories, spaces for events, and so on.
Furthermore, it is a cross-sectoral space: we mix the health sector, retail, e-commerce, etc., all under the same roof.
In a month, you'll be holding the second year of Tech Spirit Barcelona, which in 2020 was set up in only two weeks due to the canceled Mobile World Congress. So what will entrepreneurs find there?
Tech Spirit Barcelona is an outward-looking local event. We want our ecosystem to become aware of the power we have here, both locally and internationally. The leading technology and sector-level representatives will be on stage for two days.
We have many far-reaching projects in Barcelona, and we want them all to be visualized in a single space in two days. We want to showcase, for example, Wallbox, Adevinta (which piloted the purchase of eBay), Netflix (we will have the person who, out of San Francisco, directed the entire transformation phase incorporating Artificial Intelligence), as well as the ACCIÓ Startup Forum that will be connecting investors and entrepreneurs.
What are Tech Barcelona's future plans?
Tech Barcelona is a tool designed to develop the Catalan technology hub. Our priority is to achieve genuine transfer: the digital sector has grown a lot and is very solid, but we lack more technology-based companies. Therefore, we try to be as close as possible to the centers where knowledge is generated to transform research into products and services for society.
Our other priority is to continue growing and stay committed to making Barcelona an urban campus of technology and position itself internationally. Our collaboration with Catalonia Trade & Investment is essential. We want to explain what we are doing abroad and to be able to attract the talent and companies that are showing a growing interest in what is happening in Barcelona.