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Barcelona and its international positioning to attract foreign companies


Much has been written recently about the economic evolution of Barcelona during the last years and many of these times it has been done in its context with Madrid.

Ignoring this almost inevitable "football" comparison during the last decades, I think that what is really relevant for our city is its positioning within the exclusive club of global cities, often cataloged as Alpha or Beta Plus cities, which will be the cities that will bring together economic development and, therefore, not only opportunities in this area, but those that will also end up marking the way in social, cultural, artistic and urban development.

Barcelona has traditionally been a city with an admirable capacity for reinvention, probably partly encouraged by the fact that it did not have the tools or the gravitational force that generate the capital of a state, so private initiative in multiple areas has always been one of its most dynamic engines. Proof of this is for example the Gran Teatro del Liceu, the largest capacity in Europe for more than a century, and unlike other European cities, where the monarchy was responsible for the construction and maintenance of opera houses, in Barcelona the construction of the Liceu had to be done through the contributions of private shareholders, according to a structure similar to a commercial company.

But this is a necessary but not sufficient condition. To value the fact of having at the same time a benign climate, with beach in summer that can be accessed by metro and ski slopes in winter less than two hours away, an enviable gastronomy (the city in Spain most awarded by the Michelin Guide), a network of leading business schools and some of the Spanish universities that stand out in international rankings, An international airport with good direct connections (although this is an aspect still with room for improvement, in my opinion) and the abundant availability of young international talent.

No less important has been the almost unbeatable binomial value for money in the real estate field, which provides a very solid business case that Barcelona has been able to highlight effectively and promote it in the appropriate way in the most visible international forums. In some way, the 22@ district is perhaps the maximum exponent of this factor, generating an environment in which state-of-the-art office buildings have been combined with recreational, commercial, residential, hotel, educational and research uses, generating a very rich mix at the urban level that both users and investors have been able to recognize.

All this has provided very tangible successes in the techno-digital field and allowed the dynamic (and most numerous in Spain) universe of local startups (Glovo, Wallbox, Travelperk, Factorial, eDreams and Privalia, for example) to join a multitude of companies that were not present in the city and that have landed in Barcelona creating business units from scratch. Also, and no less important, that many of the companies with businesses of the "traditional" economy already present in the city have chosen Barcelona again to install their digital business units, creating a true ecosystem in the form of a cluster. The latter case would be that of Nestlé, Bayer, Sanofi, Novartis, Pepsico, Porsche, Roche, Zurich, Siemens, Alstom, Allianz, Lidl, AXA, Purina, Asics, Deloitte and many others.

In fact, according to a recent report prepared by Acció, in Catalonia there are already more than 9,000 foreign companies. To this extensive list have just been incorporated companies in the technological field such as Cisco and its first European chip design center in the 22@ district, the investments that Lenovo and Intel will carry out in the BSC, or the bet of the North American Monolithic Power Systems in L'Hospitalet. There have also been very relevant additions in the health sector, with the new technology center for rare diseases of AstraZeneca, the digital center of the Swiss Ypsomed and Veeva, specialized in software development for the pharmaceutical industry, which will reinforce its European digital headquarters in Cornellà where it plans to reach 500 employees. Special mention deserves the automotive sector, which with the South Korean ILJIN will carry out the largest industrial implementation in Catalonia in the last 15 years to install its first battery production plant in Europe with an investment of 600 million euros and will result in the creation of 500 jobs.


Eusebi Carles

Partner, CMG Business Space Spain



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