Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
BCN Ciutat Digital

Barcelona moves into the top ten most attractive European cities for digital entrepreneurship

Barcelona has strengthened its position as a global competitive environment, and in terms of drawing in the highest number of foreign investment projects in the last five years, it has been ranked in eighth place for urban areas, according to the Barcelona Observatory 2016 report, released today.

The report states that Barcelona is now positioned among the top cities in the world, and its potential to attract investment and talent keeps on growing, especially in the field of technology.

The study found that Barcelona is the ninth most attractive European city for people developing an entrepreneurial project in the field of technology, in an index topped by London, Stockholm and Amsterdam.

The Barcelona Observatory report is an annual publication produced by Barcelona City Council and the Chamber of Commerce, which provides for the capital of Catalonia to be compared with major cities all over the world, across thirty indicators.


A hive of economic-activity

Barcelona has climbed the tables and is now ranked among the top twenty most competitive cities in the world. According to the Institute for Urban Strategies of the Mori Foundation, it has risen six places upon the previous year, partly due to changes in the indicators used such as research and the environment – where it has climbed from 31st to 26th place in both categories – and cultural interaction, for which it holds tenth place.

Moreover, Barcelona has managed to position itself among the fifteen cities with the best reputation globally, above European capitals such as Madrid, London, Paris and Berlin, as well as international benchmark cities, such as New York.

According to KPMG, Barcelona is ranked among the top eight urban areas in the world for attracting foreign investment projects in the period from 2012-2016, with over 500 projects. In this regard, it represents around a third (36%) of the foreign investment projects in the whole of Spain, the same figure that London represents in the entire United Kingdom.

As a hive of economic activity on an international scale, Barcelona holds third place among the world’s cities in regard to the number of international congresses organised and the number of representatives in attendance in 2015, topped by Berlin and Paris.


Guaranteeing social cohesion, a priority for the city

This is the first edition of the Barcelona Observatory that has incorporated two new indicators related to inequality and the risk of poverty and social exclusion, aspects that reflect the impact of the economic crisis in recent years.

For example, despite the fact that the distribution of income in Catalonia is more equal than in other regions of Spain such as Madrid, the indicator for the level of inequality in Barcelona is only slightly above the average provided by the OECD.

The risk of poverty or social exclusion rate stands at 19.8% in the region of Catalonia, and remains below that of Spain and the European Union (23.5% if calculated using the specific Catalan threshold).

Regarding other aspects associated with quality of life, the report found that Barcelona is among the fifteen safest cities in the world, in a broad sense of the term, and fourth in Europe, according to The Economist. It also holds a particularly remarkable position in areas related to health, such as access to the healthcare systems, environmental quality and life expectancy.

Meanwhile, Barcelona is placed among the 25 most sustainable cities in regard to the environment, according to the Sustainable Cities Index 2016, which compares one hundred cities across the world regarding factors such as environmental risk, green spaces, energy, air pollution and waste management. 

In this field, Barcelona scored the highest for the access to drinking water and sanitation indicators, and lower in terms of air quality.


Barcelona has a qualified labour force and surpasses the European average

Regarding the labour market, the indicators compiled in the report – based on 2015 – indicate an improvement in line with economic recovery and a decrease in unemployment, although the employment rate in Catalonia remains below the European average for the seventh year running while the unemployment rate remains noticeably above it.

Progress in the first three quarters in 2016 confirms this favourable trend, based on data for the third quarter showing that the unemployment rate stands at 14.6% in Catalonia and 12% in Barcelona, after having recovered 60% of the jobs in the city that were lost during the recession.

Barcelona stands out for the amount of talent it has available, given that in 2015, 44.6% of workers in Catalonia had studied at university level. A percentage which, for the first time, women take the lead with just over half of the total (51.1%). Thus, the Catalan capital is above the European average in this respect (35% of all workers and 38.7% of female workers).

The city continues to be a benchmark in terms of educational excellence in the business sector. In 2016, it was the only European city with two educational centres (IESE and ESADE) among the top ten business schools across the continent, according to MBA indexes produced by The Financial Times (2016) and The Economist Intelligence Unit (2015).


A competitive environment for the launch of technological projects

In the move towards economic recovery, opportunities to compete in the future and the subsequent generation of quality jobs will depend, to a certain extent, on the city’s ability to repurpose the economic model and attract high value-added and knowledge-intensive investments.

One of the most significant figures noted in the study was that Barcelona is now the ninth most attractive European city for entrepreneurs in the digital sector.

In just one year, it has risen five places as an environment that offers the right conditions and support required by the developers of new technological projects in the digital sector, according to the 2016 European Digital City Index. An example of this includes the municipal bodies that are backing entrepreneurial initiatives such as Barcelona Activa. Or, the range of acceleration spaces for emerging or recently-created projects, as well as the events calendar created to connect the city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Similarly, with 17,024 scientific publications, Barcelona is ranked fifth in Europe and seventeenth worldwide for scientific production, according to Knowledge Cities Ranking 2015, produced by the UPC's Centre of Land Policy and Valuations.

In terms of volume, it continues to surpass cities like Los Angeles, Singapore, São Paulo and Oxford, although competitors like Moscow and other North American cities (Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Cambridge and Philadelphia) have started emerging.

Regarding the knowledge economy, it is necessary to highlight the critical mass of the Catalan job market in high added-value sectors. According to the 2015 Eurostat data, Catalonia is the seventh European region in terms of the number of workers in the fields of science and technology, with over 730,000 people employed in these sectors. And, it is the ninth in terms of generating more employment in leading knowledge and technology services. In addition, it holds fifth place among European regions for the number of people employed in high- and medium-high intensity manufacturing sectors.


Favourable conditions to attract economic activity

To the potential held by the field of knowledge, professional skills acquisition and the attraction of digital companies, other factors may also be added that make the city a competitive environment to continue drawing in investment.

 Thus, despite the fact that the rental prices for offices, commercial premises and industrial land began increasing in 2015 as a result of the economic recovery, Barcelona has managed to hold onto its competitive position in attracting activity in relation to other cities in Europe and the rest of the world, which benefits the attractiveness of the city as a business environment.

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