Why Catalonia is the number one destination for life science companies

Catalonia is a hotbed for innovative life science companies, with more than 1,200 pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device and digital health companies living there. An abundance of highly skilled talent, valuable market access and a rich diversity of institutions have always made Catalonia a prime location for business expansion – and more are on the move.

Catalonia’s life science companies benefit from a high concentration of research groups, hospitals, universities and entrepreneurs. Together, they create a dynamic ecosystem representing 7.3% of Catalonia’s GDP.

And although it is only 32,000 square kilometers, Catalonia is home to almost 50% of the entire Spanish pharmaceutical industry.

It is no surprise that the vast ecosystem of life sciences and healthcare in northeastern Spain is referred to as “BioRegion”.

Catalonia’s outsized impact makes it a major draw for life science investments, propelling the rest of Spain up in European rankings. According to the OECD, annual public spending on biotechnology research and development in Spain is 1.37 billion euros, four times that of Germany.

Investments are also increasing: startups in the BioRegion attracted 226 million euros in funding in 2020, double this figure over the past two years.

Catalonia: a magnet for talents and investments in life sciences

Catalonia’s bustling beaches, remarkable architecture and rich culture have helped make Barcelona the fourth most attractive city in the world for work, according to the Boston Consulting Group.

The profusion of highly skilled talent in Barcelona-Catalonia has in turn made it a magnet for life science companies.

Any successful business needs the right talent to thrive – and Catalonia has a rich selection. Its life sciences sector employs 55,440 people. Including health services, this figure jumps to over 230,000. In addition, Catalonia is home to 25,000 life science researchers in some 800 research groups.

“The availability of highly skilled talent is of paramount importance for the growth of technology and life science companies,” said Oscar Martí, director of the London office at Catalonia Trade and Investment, an investment agency for the government of Catalonia. “Barcelona-Catalonia is very good at creating the right talents and attracting the best talents from abroad. “

Foreign direct investment has played a key role in attracting talent to the region. Market data fDi, an investment database from the Financial Times, shows that the recruitment of talent in Catalonia resulting from foreign investments increased by 121% during the period 2016-2020 compared to the period of five previous years.

Labor costs for laboratory staff and other specialists in the BioRegion are also very competitive internationally.

For example, a data scientist in the UK earns a high-end salary of £ 73,580 compared to £ 50,575 in Spain, according to figures from Glassdoor.

In addition to highly competitive talent, Catalonia has a plethora of cutting-edge laboratories. Almost half of all Spanish pharmaceutical companies are located in Catalonia. Multinational pharmaceutical companies choose Catalonia to conduct their clinical trials – ranked among the top 10 in Europe – due to safety, rapid patient recruitment and competitive cost of trials, as well as its network of top-notch hospitals .

The network effect of Catalonia

The high concentration of laboratories and highly skilled talent has helped to create a network effect that attracts life science companies to the historic region.

The more like-minded businesses that set up shop there, the more attractive it becomes for business and cash flow – investments in Catalonia-based life science companies have increased by 12 since 2008.

Lightpoint Medical, a medical device company based in London, UK, is one of many to have benefited from this network effect. Earlier this year he established a head office in Southern Europe in Vilanova i la Geltrú, Barcelona.

“We have been able to strengthen our network of clinical and business partners in the region,” says Claire Woodthorpe, Director of Operations at Lightpoint Medical.

The company took the step after starting to work with surgeons from Barcelona hospitals to develop and clinically evaluate its tools for intraoperative cancer detection.

“We have found a very warm welcome in the region and a strong appetite to test new innovative technologies in the health field,” adds Woodthorpe. “We recognized Catalonia as one of the European capitals of innovation and we wanted to be part of the region’s rich ecosystem of highly innovative technology companies.

Not only does Barcelona have the most competitive cost of the top ten European cities, but the cost of doing business is almost 30% lower than average. For startups and scale-ups, these savings can provide a competitive advantage, with less money spent on labs, offices, and talent and more diverted to R&D and growth, thus increasing long-term results.

According to ASEBIO, the Spanish bioindustry association, Catalan biotechnology companies have the highest average turnover in Spain at 30.3 million euros, with Madrid following in second place with 22.3 million euros. euros.

“We have been able to find excellent warehousing facilities and have already located our global distribution facilities in Barcelona,” says Woodthorpe. “Going forward, we plan to expand our manufacturing and assembly capabilities in the region. “

A gateway to a $ 276 billion market

Biopharma heavyweights like Almirall, Bioiberica, Esteve, Ferrer, Grifols, Lacer, Reig Jofré and Uriach all have headquarters in Catalonia.

Grifols, a 70-year-old Spanish multinational that develops plasma-derived transfusion drugs, has built its business from its headquarters in Barcelona to operate in more than 100 countries. In March 2020, he has entered into a formal collaboration with the US government to conduct clinical studies to produce a potential treatment for Covid-19.

The company is a prime example of how Catalonia is a gateway to a global market, with its location on the Mediterranean coast allowing it easy access to EMEA countries.

More globally, health spending in all Spanish-speaking markets amounts to $ 276 billion. This is too big a market for competitive businesses to ignore – and Catalonia is the perfect place to access it.

“Catalonia’s strong life sciences sector, its attractiveness to international talent and its connectivity make it an ideal location to enter the Spanish market or establish European operations,” said Martí. “Cultural and economic relations also make it a launching pad for the Latin American market. “

Catalonia Trade and Investment is preparing an ambitious program to support UK and Irish life science companies wishing to take advantage of these benefits.

Successful applicants will receive special support on all aspects of an expansion to the BioRegion. Winners will receive advice from a panel of experts, made up of companies operating in the region, from venture capital, regulation and market access, on how to enter the market and navigate the market. ‘ecosystem. In addition, they will receive support with legal, tax, recruitment, location, incentives, visas and costs advice, as well as presentations to key players in the Catalan BioRegion.

The program will start at the end of November and companies will be able to apply until mid-December.

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