Constant lobbying, training, consolidation, innovation, and cooperation from the city's associations have been key to propelling Barcelona to become one of Europe's most dynamic cities in the past 30 years.

Jorge Barrero

Director, Cotec Foundation

Cotec was founded almost 30 years ago as a think tank to better understand and promote innovation in Spain. For 20 years, it was just a high-profile think tank; only four years ago we decided to revisit this model when we realized we needed to innovate ourselves and rethink our strategy and structure. The new Cotec has three fundamental pillars to rebuild it. The first is a wider comprehension of innovation itself. In the beginning, we approached innovation as a technological and industrial phenomenon, though we now understand innovation as any change based on knowledge that adds value. With this new approach, we are now studying, promoting, and fostering innovation in the public administration and better understanding of what is happening in the digital society. Extremely young entrepreneurs are changing the world, not only without a PhD, but sometimes without a degree; innovation today is much wider, richer, and interesting. In the past, Cotec used to look at innovation at a systematic, sectorial, and organizational level. Today, and this is the second pillar, we have an additional focus on individuals.


Joan Tristany

General Manager, Association of Internationalized Industrial Companies (AMEC)

AMEC celebrated 50 years in 2019. Months before its foundation, a group of Catalan and Spanish businesspeople met in Bogotá and decided to create an organization that would help them open up to foreign markets. At that time, Spain lived under an autarky, making it difficult to travel; there were also exchange controls, and foreign trade was difficult. These entrepreneurs knew clearly that if they didn't go abroad, their companies, mostly machinery and technology manufacturers, would fail. AMEC is designed, created, and managed by entrepreneurs. Some of the original companies are still part of the group, though others have closed down. Roca Sanitario, a founding member, is a 100-year-old company that continues to be part of the executive board. Now 350 companies have joined AMEC. AMEC has three objectives. The first is the globalization of industrial companies, which requires competitiveness, quality, standardization, innovation, and financing. Second, we help companies introduce themselves in foreign markets, both young and old. Third, we foster networking between companies.


Antonio Bonet

President, Spanish Exporters and Investors Club

The main driver for the creation of this organization was to promote and defend the interests of Spanish companies doing business abroad. 22 years ago, Spain was beginning to open up to international business, especially by investing abroad. There was no business organization with an agenda to defend, promote, and create a more stable and business-friendly environment for companies to export and invest abroad. Since then, that is what we have been doing, and it is the only organization whose exclusive objective is to do so. In 2017, we made a strategic plan to see how we could evolve as an organization, and one of the outcomes was that our members wanted the club to stay as it was. Recently, we also created a work-group exclusively dedicated to Africa. Member companies also felt that the presence of Spanish companies in Africa was insufficient, so we created this group to inform people about business opportunities in Africa.


John de Zulueta

Director, Círculo de Empresarios

Spain has a great opportunity to become one of the three major forces of the EU with the expected departure of the UK and Italy's anti-European movement. Digital transformation must be understood as a much broader concept than merely technological change. It is a way of doing business that involves both technology and internal processes as well as the relationship with customers, employees, suppliers, and regulators. For some companies, digitalization may be the main objective because their survival depends on it; however, for others, it provides new opportunities to consider, reach more customers, and create new products. In any case, it seems clear that digitalization is not an option but a necessity. Another problem of the Spanish economy is the size of its companies, the majority of which are small and difficult to finance, internationalize, and invest in terms of research, development, and innovation. This is why Círculo has spent years demanding that the public administration eliminate the fiscal, labor, and bureaucratic barriers that hinder the growth of companies.


Félix Ortega

CEO, Barcelona Activa

Barcelona Activa was originally established as an agency to develop employment policies after the crisis of the 1980s. At the time, Spain was a young democracy, so everything had to be built. Unemployment was high across the country, but our political leaders had a vision to make Barcelona a global city, so they knew we had to create and attract economic activity. In a simple way, our role has evolved over the last 30 years, from helping people find employment to helping them find quality jobs. That said, Spain still has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in Europe. This is why we offer a number of trainings and courses, especially to develop their digital skills. Barcelona is known as an innovation hub, and companies come here to seek digital talent. However, we do not only focus on young people. We also work in the basic education system, helping children learn basic competences in different areas. Beyond that, people of all ages from many sectors come to us for continuous education and training. In November 2019, we also celebrated 20 years of the Cibernàrium, a large academy that provides trainings for all the sectors, from basic digital technologies, to the more specialized ones.


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