Monthly Archives: March 2014

Barcelona: first European innovation capital, why and what for?

Barcelona has just been recognized as European capital of innovation (iCapital). The city received majority support at the Innovation Convention held in Brussels, in a close competition with the other finalists, Grenoble and Groningen. Unlike these cities, whose proposals were focused on specific subject areas, Barcelona’s plan is comprehensive. It presents innovation as a hub for cross-cutting development that involves universities, research centers, companies, public organizations and, of course, the general public.


To select a winner from the 57 cities that participated in the first stage of the competition, the following aspects were taken into account, among others: open data projects set up by institutions, public organizations and private companies; sustainable growth initiatives associated with the use of green vehicles; energy savings and efficient lighting; the development of ICT at different levels, to improve communication; and the joint work of the different entities that participate in activities associated with innovation.

The European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghean-Quinn, summed up in the following words: “Barcelona is a deserving winner of the first iCapital award, for its dedication to using new technology for the benefit of its inhabitants. Still, there were many other great initiatives and proposals, and I want cities and regions to join together and share their experiences. Outstanding initiatives at the local level will contribute to keep turning the European Union into an Innovation Union”.

The award arrived just a month after the city had yet again hosted an edition of the Mobile World Congress, with immense success. The images of tens of thousands of people from hundreds of countries participating in one of the most important global ICT events must surely have helped.

Along with the title, the city receives 500,000 euros to be invested in innovation policies. Apart from this, what does the recognition mean to Barcelona, its people and the organizations that participate in innovative activity?

Innovation is a strategic activity in all industrialized countries. Many of the parameters that determine the well-being of citizens depend on its development: productivity; the creation of stable, well-paid jobs; an increase in the added value of industrial activity; the diversification of production; the creation of new markets; the generation and implementation of new technological systems that promote mobility and communications; and the strengthening of organizations that generate knowledge and promote its transfer to the productive sector, including universities and technology centers.

For those who form part of the R&D equation in Barcelona and its surroundings, the award means that the entire continent may look towards our work and our potential. The award is incentivizing and a source of pride, but above all it is an opportunity that we must take advantage of to strengthen our ability to internationalize.

The challenge now is to benefit from our iCapital status to undertake new projects with companies and entities in other countries, focus on markets in which we still have little involvement, demonstrate the potential of our researchers and technologists, participate in more ambitious projects, and collaborate with multinationals that still do not have business relations with our city.

For Barcelona’s inhabitants, life in the capital of innovation may be accompanied by new, more efficient services that make their work and life easier, including better communications, more efficient energy services and new opportunities for personal and professional development.

So we congratulate Barcelona and its people and we congratulate ourselves too. We will invest in this project through CIT UPC‘s activities and capabilities and through the efforts of those of us who work at the Center, both now and in the future.

Railways and vibrations

The existing legal framework in most developed countries includes provisions on the vibration impact of general activities, and activities related to infrastructure use in particular. The legislation has been established not so much because vibrations can cause structural damage, although this is also a factor, as because of the nuisance to people. People are affected either by vibrations themselves or by the resulting noise produced by structures. However, this problem is not easy to address, and a considerable number of conflicts arise and are resolved – or not resolved – using experience-based knowledge rather than science.

Ferrocarrriles y vibraciones I

Vibration amplitude curves calculated for the preliminary phase of the project

The vibrations caused by a train passing depend on a large number of variables including: the weight, speed and suspension of the rolling stock; the roughness of the wheel and the rail; the characteristics of the track (for example, whether or not it is ballasted and the way the rail is secured); the kind of ground and the presence of different strata; the foundations of the building and the variables that define its structure. It is a complex problem. As a result, there is currently no agreed method for calculating the vibration impact of an infrastructure. The focus of the assessment must also depend on the stage of work; one example is the L9 metro line in Barcelona. This suburban railway line project is over 40 km long, crosses different terrain, and, above all, runs below innumerable dwellings, all of which are different. Therefore, a preliminary study is needed to identify points at which vibrations may be above legal limits, using a limited dataset and a rapid, but not basic, calculation method. Once these points have been located they should be analysed in detail, using all of the available information, to assess whether the regulations are breached. If they are, appropriate corrective measures should be proposed.

Ferrocarriles y vibraciones II

3D model for the detailed study

The Acoustic and Mechanical Engineering Laboratory (LEAM), which is a member of CIT UPC, has provided a solution for the preliminary stage and for the in-depth study in the project stage. For preliminary studies, an analytical model has been proposed to carry out highly efficient calculations. However, this model is not basic in terms of its conception or results. It can be used to assess track construction solutions that are adapted to the traffic and the terrain, and helps to minimize the number of buildings that are affected or to select the ideal solution, taking into account the costs and the vibration impact. A preliminary version of this model has been applied to the preliminary study of the L9, in collaboration with the GREVTAM research group of the UPC’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. The result was a map of the metro line that pinpoints affected buildings and the level of vibration on undeveloped land, represented in the form of curves of equal vibration amplitudes. This result is particularly useful for new building sites, as infrastructure managers can pass on the information to property developers, who will then be responsible for meeting requirements for the interior of the new building, thus freeing the manager from any responsibility for a new construction.

For the in-depth studies, LEAM UPC provides a hybrid solution that combines an analytical model of interaction between the rolling stock and the superstructure, and a numerical model that uses finite elements (finite element method, FEM) to analyse propagation in terrain and structures. Depending on the type of problem and its geometry, the FEM model could be the typical 3D model, with the resulting consumption of resources and costs, or the more innovative 2.5D model, which considerably reduces use of resources and costs, without affecting the accuracy of the results. The 2.5D model was used recently to study a corrective measure proposed by a supplier to an infrastructure manager to resolve a vibration problem in the area around a railroad switch. The supplier guaranteed that its solution would reduce the vibration in the surrounding environment by 7 dB, whilst the LEAM study found that it would cause an increase of 1 dB. In the end, the solution was installed and experiments verified that the level of vibration had increased by… 1 dB.

Jordi Romeu
Director of Laboratory of Acoustics and Mechanical Engineering (LEAM UPC)
CIT UPC Member