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Barcelona and the industry of the future

Barcelona and the industry of the future

Marta Lao

Senior Associate, Osborne Clarke

Victor Garcia

Risk & Internal Control Director, Applus+

Barcelona, a city with an industrial tradition

Barcelona has always been one of Spain and Europe’s industrial powerhouses. Taking advantage of the city's privileged location, Barcelona's textile, automobile, chemical, pharmaceutical and food industries have turned Barcelona into a regional leader.

In recent years, however, the secondary sector has undergone a major transformation that risks damaging the city’s standing.


The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated changes that were brewing previously but went somewhat unnoticed in a globalized world that has not suffered major setbacks before now.

The most obvious issues now are an excessive dependence on other countries for the production of essential goods and distribution systems that are less robust than previously imagined. A ship running aground in the Suez Canal or the temporary hold up in supply of microchips, for example, are enough to jeopardize the world market.

... and opportunity

All these factors, together with the digitalization that is changing our entire way of life makes this an ideal time to relocate industries that had moved their production centers to cheaper locations. The difference in costs can definitely be made up for with the greater efficiency that we can achieve through robotization and reduction in transportation times. Barcelona is in a position to compete with its European neighbors both by offering qualified personnel at lower costs and attracting new talent to the city.

A reindustrialization strategy is needed to take advantage of this situation. This means asking a number of questions:

- Which sectors should be reindustrialized in Barcelona?

We must choose the industrial sectors and subsectors that Barcelona can compete in. It makes sense to focus on industries that that bring high added value and can access resources available in the area.

- What activities should we focus on?

We must identify the specific activities within each sector in which a competitive advantage can be gained by companies that set up in Barcelona. The city should commit itself to industries with future potential such as those working in digitalization, electric mobility, etc.

- What action should we take?

Factors such as sustainability, digitalization, and a commitment to public-private collaboration are essential.

Use should be made of the European Covid funds. Barcelona must be ready to take full advantage of this opportunity to promote major change in its industry.

To make Barcelona a genuine transport hub, investment is also needed in key infrastructures, such as the Mediterranean corridor and the expansion of the airport.

In short, the city of Barcelona has a unique opportunity to become a driver of industry once again. Barcelona has everything it needs to meet this challenge, although it is essential for all the players involved in industry to do their bit. We need to recover the tradition of consensus that underpinned industrial developments in Barcelona in the past. This means bringing in the best experts in the sector and setting aside all conflicts and obstacles.

Let's recover our enthusiasm and make this happen!

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