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Barcelona's opportunities in times of Covid-19

Barcelona's opportunities in times of Covid-19

What the Barcelona of talent needs to focus on in order to emerge successfully from the crisis

The crisis generated by Covid-19 may be just the push that Barcelona needs to commit itself once and for all to becoming a city based on talent and the knowledge economy. There are several opportunities for Barcelona and we must ensure we take advantage of them with confidence, determination, and with the right kind of partnerships.

If it is true that talent moves capital in a more sustainable and long-term way than vice versa, Barcelona needs to realize that it has the chance to become one of the best cities in the world for talent and economic activity. The crisis we are facing is our chance to commit ourselves to the knowledge and talent economy once and for all.

If we are able to adopt the right priorities and create the kind of public-private partnerships that have brought us major leaps forward in the past, Barcelona’s future has more opportunities than threats.

The Barcelona brand enjoys tremendously positive global recognition; it has up-to-date connectivity infrastructures with a capacity for growth and an industrial tradition that has been brought fully up to date by internationalization; our modern tourist infrastructure is well set-up for quality tourism; there are infrastructures and research centers that are amongst the best in Europe; we have an entrepreneurial ecosystem that is one of the top three on the continent; and lastly, we have a cultural tradition that is admired globally.

The next few months will be decisive for the future of Barcelona, and to this end, committing ourselves to 10 areas of opportunity will help us to ensure that our economy and our society are grounded in sustainability, social cohesion, added value, and overall quality.

 

"Research, industry, health, international education, quality tourism and a centre for global thinking are some of the opportunities that Barcelona has to emerge victorious from this crisis".

What are the opportunities we need to target?

Scientific research

Scientific research, both basic and applied, is a sector in which Barcelona is well-positioned position in Europe and in the world as a whole. Global public and private investment should be directed towards research and scientific centers that demonstrate capacity, excellence and dialogue with industry. Barcelona already has a very strong base of scientific infrastructure, research centers, entrepreneurs, and companies and they should continue to grow in size, budget and impact to make Barcelona one of the most outstanding science hubs in the world. Our position in the field of health research, as well as in other disciplines such as nanotechnology, materials, photonics, economics and social sciences provide the basis on which to build a city of science.

    • To do this, we must expand our capacity and modernize our research centers, invest in attracting, generating and retaining talent, and improve dialogue with the business world.If investment in science is to grow in Spain and in Europe, and grow in excellence, Barcelona is well set-up to make a quantum leap in this field.

Industry in Barcelona

Barcelona’s industry, for which we were well-known in the past, has left us not only with a unique architectural heritage, but also noteworthy automotive, chemical, textile, electronic, and pharmaceutical industries. It is set to make a major step forward in a context in which some of the lost industrial capacity is likely to return to Europe. Strengthening our industry, updating technology, and investing in innovation and internationalization may well help create quality employment in the Greater Barcelona area, which has the logistical capacity, tradition, training, social relations and management capacity to become one of the most important industrial regions in a Europe in which industry will once again be essential for its development.

      • To do this, we must accelerate procedures to make it easier for international talent to settle in Barcelona and we must ensure that taxation is not seen as an obstacle by those who wish to return or come to the city. We must make sure that English is widely used in the city,from schools to the public administration and in the media and in city life, without harming the local and global wealth of the different languages that make us unique.

Attracting talent

One of the great opportunities for Barcelona is its ability to attract talent and particularly creative, scientific, professional and entrepreneurial talent. We have learned from the crisis that teleworking and telecommuting are possible, even necessary, and, given its quality of life, connectivity and location, Barcelona is ideally placed to enable highly-qualified professionals to work from the city for businesses around the world. Likewise, the expected increase in science investment gives us the opportunity to attract more and more highly qualified scientists, both Spanish nationals who wish to return home and international scientists who are keen to live in Barcelona. The dynamic creativity that Barcelona has always boasted is also an opportunity to attract creative and artistic talent that has always had good reason to be inspired by the city. Finally, Barcelona’s initiative should be employed in increasing our attraction like a magnet for entrepreneurs at different stages of their career, together with the digital talent they need to grow and position themselves on the global arena.

    • To do this, we must accelerate procedures to make it easier for international talent to settle in Barcelona and we must ensure that taxation is not seen as an obstacle by those who wish to return or come to the city. We must make sure that English is widely-used in the city     

"The alliances between the different administrations, and between these and the private sector, will be key to taking advantage of the opportunities that Barcelona has".

Higher education

International higher education, based in prestigious educational institutions that are attractive on a global scale, is one of the sectors that is growing worldwide and in which Barcelona has not yet managed to establish a leading position despite the outstanding examples of our business schools IESE, ESADE, and EADA. Higher education is a sector well suited to internationalization and provides an opportunity to generate quality employment, attract talent, and develop a set of high-added economic activities.

    • To do this, we must prioritize the internationalization of the educational system in our university and higher education policies, with measures to cut red tape, fund bright students, attract international centers of educational excellence, and establish partnerships with global players. We must also create new degrees and master's programs aimed at a worldwide audience. Both the education of the people of Barcelona and the quality of our own educational system and employment will benefit from an approach that cities such as Boston, San Francisco, Copenhagen, London, Amsterdam, Sydney and Singapore have long been committed to.

Medicine and the health sector

Medicine and the health sector will also generate quality employment if they can be guided towards turning Barcelona into an internationally recognized medical center. Barcelona is already well-recognized for the quality of its health system, both for its equipment and hospitals and its research centers, primary care and quality of life. A more international system will help to ensure both its future sustainability and to improve its quality. To this end, health care structures aimed at the international community must be created and strengthened, supported by a public system that has demonstrated both its limitations and its excellence.

    • To do this, we must attract investment in health care aimed a global audience and create the most appropriate, transparent and ethical mechanisms. This will enable the excellent public system and systems geared towards international patients seeking quality and care excellence to support each other and to make the system more sustainable.

Market prioritization

We need to prioritize investment and talent from countries like the UK, some Latin American countries such as Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Colombia, as well as the USA and Asia. Political instability in some cases, processes such as Brexit, the closing of borders and expansion in investment are the driving forces of this new geographical map in which we need to concentrate efforts to position Barcelona.

    • To do thiswe must promote public-private mechanisms aimed at attracting investment and economic activity such as those that Barcelona Global is designing as part of the Barcelona & Partners initiative.

Housing

The improvement of competitiveness in housing and office prices would make Barcelona a more attractive city for creative and digital talent and reduce the worrying gentrification that Barcelona has suffered from, like all global cities. Affordable rental housing in the Greater Barcelona metropolitan area, as proposed by Barcelona Global in its Challenge on affordable housing should also be developed.

    • This requires accelerating the transformation of land in Greater Barcelona into residential land, public-private partnerships to facilitate investment in affordable rental housing on land not initially intended for housing, and the creation of a Greater Barcelona housing authority with responsibilities for land, development and licensing. 

5G

As world mobile capital, Barcelona is well ahead of the game in developing 5G and other urban technologies, but it must now must make them an absolute priority with initiatives in all digital transformation sectors while ensuring it is at the forefront of 5G implementation and all its associated technologies. The city itself and its tremendous potential as a testing ground for medicine, mobility, care of the elderly, and logistics provide a major opportunity to position itself, attract investment, and generae quality employment.

      • This requires rapid deployment of the 5G network and the facilitation of rapid testingthrough partnerships with the different technologies that accompany it.

Quality tourism

Barcelona has the potential to be a center of global thinking on key issues such as pandemics, the climate, the welfare of the planet, economic development, North-South relations, and technology. Thinking on these topics is essential for enriching global debates, and the importance of think tanks has been recognized in coping with and preventing crises such as the pandemic

    • This requires culture to be reinforced as an engine of growth for the city and its citizens by reinforcing its cultural institutions, festivals, diversity and creative fabric.

Center for global thinking

Barcelona has the potential to be a center of global thinking on key issues such as pandemics, the climate, the welfare of the planet, economic development, North-South relations, and technology. Thinking on these topics is essential for enriching global debates, and the importance of think tanks has been recognized in coping with and preventing crises such as the pandemic

    • To this end,it is essential to strengthen knowledge organizations such as think tanks, university centers, local and international foundations.

Barcelona thus has a wide range of opportunities to help it emerge from the crisis. To do so, public sector partnerships and public-private sector partnerships will be essential for success.

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