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.

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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.

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