Technology has become one of the biggest points of focus for investment and development in the business world. With the arrival of emerging technologies such as 5G or machine learning, it has become essential for companies to attract talent in fields such as engineering or programming, leading the changes that will mark the 21st century.
The concentration of investment and creation sources has transformed certain cities into true technological ecosystems. Spain is no exception: the Startup Heatmap Europe study already places Barcelona among the three best tech hubs, while 22@ in the Catalan capital has become the main talent hub in Europe.
On the occasion of the next Mobile Talk, we’ll take a look at what a tech hub actually is. We’ll also explore how Barcelona has managed to lead the rankings of tech cities at a global level, as well as the challenges it faces in the future.
What is a tech hub?
Tech hubs can be defined as concentrations of companies whose activity is directly or indirectly related to technology. These business concentrations usually occupy a specific geographical area, such as a city or district.
The key to tech hubs is that both start-ups and large companies share the same space, creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem. Tech hubs often have shared office spaces, which are offered at relatively low cost for business projects related to technology.
As a result, tech hubs promote collaboration and the circulation of talent from several different fields: from programmers and engineers, to marketing and advertising experts or designers, to name a few. The cooperative environment contributes to generating common strategies and supporting risky initiatives.
The best known model of tech hub by far is Silicon Valley, on the West Coast of the US. Over the past fifty years, this region of California has been transformed into a technology park that houses many of the largest tech companies in the world.
Barcelona Tech Hub – What’s it all about?
But Silicon Valley is not the only tech hub with an important role on the global stage. Other cities, such as New York or London, also attract notable amounts of private investors for the development of tech start-ups. At the European level, roles such as analyst-programmers are steadily gaining prominence, but it’s in Spain where they have experienced the largest growth.
In particular, Barcelona is already being positioned as one of the European cities with the highest number of developers, and one of the main technology venues on the continent. In addition to hosting the Mobile World Congress, it’s already home to the European headquarters of leading multinationals such as Amazon and Facebook, attracting even more companies with technological innovation as their main objective.
The increase in demand has spurred the creation of a tech hub in Barcelona such as the 22@ district. Located in the Poblenou neighbourhood, this hub has welcomed countless communication, culture and tech companies, strengthening the ties of collaboration between the business community, research centres and academic institutions.
There are several reasons behind Barcelona’s success as the capital of technological progress. Of course, great weather and high quality of life should not be underestimated. In addition, as indicated by Jordi Arrufí, Digital Transformation Director of MWC Barcelona, there are three key elements of the city’s business fabric that contribute to making it a place of reference: joint investment through collaboration between public organisations and private companies, the emphasis on the creation of tech hubs and, closely linked to the latter, the commitment to training and the support of specialised local talent from universities and the academic sector in general.All these factors have led more than 4,000 companies to set up offices in the city of Barcelona. These include household names such as Casio, Yahoo!, Microsoft, eBay, and Mediapro. The city’s success has made a notable contribution to economic growth and job creation. It has also transformed the appearance of Barcelona, turning it into a capital adapted to the latest digital advances and opening space for local tech projects such as Barcelona Tech.
The growing presence of companies in the city has led to the need for an association to promote the creation of joint projects. Barcelona Tech has been responsible for hosting new projects and extending collaboration networks.
The association was founded in 2013 under the name Ecommerce & Tech, and was later renamed Tech City to encompass a broader spectrum of companies. Today, Barcelona Tech is fully consolidated as a point of reference for technology entrepreneurship in the Catalan capital. It represents more than 1,200 companies and collaborates with around 70 partners to strengthen Barcelona’s innovative talent.
The association is organised around various facilities, immersed in the centre of the city’s tech hub. On the one hand, the Pier01 hub-building was inaugurated in 2016 to combine the efforts of member companies. In future phases of development, Barcelona Tech will expand its scope and develop the Urban Tech Campus, the nerve centre of its network of hubs that will encompass the entire technological ecosystem of the city.This will be one of the upcoming challenges for the Catalan capital. With the help of the public sector, associations such as Barcelona Tech will transform the architecture of the city and integrate technological innovation in the city. The development of new tools such as the Internet of Things and advanced services will allow citizens to be involved in technological progress, projecting abroad an image of Barcelona as a leading voice in the field of digital entrepreneurship.
Disseny Hub Barcelona
In parallel to the development of business innovation by associations such as Barcelona Tech, the city also strives to preserve and disseminate its culture through projects such as the Disseny Hub. Along with the international projection of the city as a development scenario, the Disseny Hub Barcelona promotes creative industries such as design, audiovisual, architecture and crafts.
If the 22@ District is the main tech hub of the city, the Disseny Hub stands as its creative nucleus. Similarly, it collaborates with training centres, creators and local and international companies to promote economic development and consolidate Barcelona as the European capital of creativity.
The Disseny Hub’s work is divided into three main areas of focus:
- It carries out informative and educational work through exhibitions at the Museo Hub Barcelona or the Museu del Disseny, as well as festivals and conferences.
- It works closely with universities and schools to promote talent and research.
- It promotes research in design and the decorative arts through institutions such as the Documentation Centre.
The Disseny Hub is a key tool to reinforce the idea of Barcelona as a city with its own idiosyncratic image, and with a particular cultural heritage. Its promotion of the culture of design in the Catalan capital helps to position it as a focus of tourist and business interest. Together with the creation of tech hubs, they make it possible for Barcelona to top the lists of the world’s most attractive cities for investment and business growth.