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Xavier Azemar, Cisco: “We want Barcelona to be Cisco’s major chip design center within the European Union”

26 Jan 2023


Business Investments · Tech & Digital Transformation

​​​​​​American multinational Cisco recently announced the opening of a semiconductor design center in Barcelona. This will be the first of its kind in the European Union, and it will position Barcelona alongside the other Cisco sites in the US, India, Armenia and Israel for semiconductors centers.

The project received the support of Catalonia Trade & Investment and will significantly impact the ramping up of R&D activity in Catalonia linked to semiconductors. The new center will be located in Cisco’s innovation center, already operating in Barcelona’s 22@ district. We talked to Xavier Azemar, Head of Cisco Barcelona’s Innovation Center.

Why did you choose Barcelona to locate the new chip design center?

In fact, it’s the second time we’ve chosen Barcelona. Four years ago, we opened a Cisco innovation center and now we’re installing a chip design center there. There was a selection process to choose the best place for this investment, and Barcelona won again for three reasons.

One is the significant support received from the public sector. The Spanish Government, the Government of Catalonia, as well as the Barcelona City Council, have supported us a lot and helped us pitch the place to the decision-makers in the United States.

Barcelona’s ecosystem is another reason: there are huge corporations, research centers and laboratories, and also startups. Having a good ecosystem is fundamental for Cisco.

And the third reason is talent. There is a lot of talent in Barcelona. But make no mistake: in  Europe, there is a lack of talent, and in Barcelona, Catalonia and Spain, too. But what can we find in Barcelona? Very powerful universities from a technical perspective, and really powerful business schools.

Therefore, talent is generated here. And it's easy to ask someone to come to work in Barcelona. If you can't find the talent here and want to bring it in from elsewhere, it's easy to do it.

These three variables (government support, ecosystem and talent) were analyzed four years ago and have now been positively reassessed.

Do you consider Barcelona to be a worldwide innovation hub?

I think so. Recent announcements by companies setting up in Barcelona back this up. Barcelona is an extremely powerful European hub and it will become even more so. We decided to locate the chip design center in Barcelona after analyzing the ecosystem and seeing that there was already one in the chip area. We expect to see double or triple that in five years.

Thanks to the new investments entering Barcelona, new projects are created which will fuel us and vice-versa. This is the idea: for major corporations to come to Barcelona, like us, because this will stimulate new projects and have a knock-on effect.

“Talent is generated here, and it's easy to ask someone to come to work in Barcelona”

Xavier Azemar, Head of Cisco Barcelona’s Innovation Center


What activity will the new center focus on?

Cisco has several chip design centers outside of Europe, and this will be its first in the European Union. We want Barcelona to consolidate itself as Cisco's major chip design center in the European Union.

We want to continue with the design and prototyping line of new generation chips. They are high-performance chips with very low energy consumption. These chips, the Cisco Silicon One, are placed in the large routers and switches in the boxes that control internet traffic. These boxes consume a lot and these new, powerful and energy efficient chips, would be designed for them.

How large will the workforce be?

We will start with a team of engineers that we hope will grow quickly. The center is already underway and we are looking for the right person to lead it. Initially, they will be located in Ca l'Alier, in Barcelona, where our innovation center is also located. 

What is being done from the Cisco innovation center in Barcelona?

We do three things, largely. The first is to think about the technologies of the future: what should Cisco have in 3-5-10 years? Disruptive things, for example, the chips of the future.

The second thing we do is perform research with universities and research centers in the country. We fund universities to carry out research.

And thirdly, we ask customers in the country what challenges they have and we look for a solution, a prototype, a proof of concept, etc. of a new technology. We do this alone or with other agents in the ecosystem.

That’s why the ecosystem is so important, right?

Yes. At Cisco, we run projects with local startups, for example, because they have a piece that Cisco doesn’t. That's why we talk about co-innovation: we don't want to do it alone. We are aware that nobody can do everything. For us, it is essential, always, that there is a client. We want to hear clients tell us their problems and then we can solve them.

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