Keys to build a highly competitive and resilient technology ecosystem 

Keys to build a highly competitive and resilient technology ecosystem 

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The success of Barcelona’s digital economy is the result of a commitment to a formula characterized by diversification.

The ability to generate startups (more than 2,000 according to the latest report from ACCIÓ); a network of top-level research centers, with infrastructures such as the Barcelona Supercomputing Center or the Alba Synchrotron; or the organization of major global technology events like the MWC, are some of the factors that have accelerated our technological ecosystem.

An ecosystem in which, in recent years, the attraction of global technology hubs has also gained prominence. Increasingly, multinational companies are choosing Catalonia to establish their technology centers. In the last decade, we have gone from hosting 25 technology hubs to having 140, 14 of which were created in 2023, as revealed by the Tech Hubs Overview report driven by Mobile World Capital Barcelona.

Startups, research infrastructures, conferences, hubs… The advantage of having a diversified digital economy, along with the synergies it generates, is that it makes it less dependent. If one area slows down, others can compensate and act as drivers. A specific case we have experienced this year: while across Europe, investment in venture capital and startups has halved, Barcelona’s technology hubs have been able to generate over 5,000 new jobs in just one year.

The size of the hubs is increasing in Catalonia because there is available talent. This is evidenced by the fact that, between 2022 and 2023, their average staff increased from 168 to 203 workers. Sectoral diversification is also a characteristic that explains their continued growth: from gaming to technologies applied to health, enterprise software, mobility, or manufacturing. If circumstances cause investment in one sector to slow down, others take the lead.

Evolving towards projects with higher added value

The capacity to innovate and attract new projects is crucial for the competitiveness of the hubs. The digital economy is very dynamic; technologies that are considered cutting-edge today will become commodities that anyone can develop in a few years.

In this context, Barcelona has been repositioning itself for several years to attract high-impact and high-value-added projects. Shared service centers or other low-value-added hubs have ceased to be competitive, as it is more cost-effective for companies to locate them in countries with lower wages and production costs. Instead, the city is attracting R&D centers like those of AstraZeneca or Towa Pharmaceutical, newly arrived in 2023. These are the types of hubs where the most cutting-edge technologies are developed, requiring highly qualified and well-paid professionals. Along this line, Deep Tech is also gaining prominence: 68% of the centers are already working on technologies in this field such as Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, or Robotics.

This reinforces Barcelona’s technological ecosystem, but above all, it ensures its present and future competitiveness.

The case of Bangalore: from low-cost factory to unicorn territory

International hubs are financed with foreign investment. They generate skilled jobs and taxation in the country, but the profits of these companies revert to their countries of origin. So, does this foreign investment really have such a big impact on our society and our economy?

The answer is yes. And this is because, beyond jobs and taxes, this foreign investment generates know-how at the local level that eventually capitalizes into local projects.

The cases of China, with electric vehicles, or some cities in India with software (Bangalore, a low-cost factory of Silicon Valley, now has 43 technology unicorns of its own, as many as Germany and France combined) are well known.

If countries that were providers of low-cost products to the world have become leading economies in these sectors, this transition is even easier to occur in a territory like Catalonia, which starts from a position of specialization in high-value-added technologies.

Barcelona occupies an important place on the map of technological capitals, and, most importantly, we have the talent, vision, and capacity to continue growing much more in the coming years and providing value to our society through the digital economy.

 

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