Not only does Barcelona host leading European universities such EADA, ESADE and IESE, but it’s also becoming one of the biggest tech hubs in Europe – bringing together successful researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs from all over the world. Walking around Barcelona, you’ll spot many stunning pieces of modern architecture as well as some breath-taking Gaudí masterpieces, but have you ever thought about what’s inside these buildings? Or have you ever wondered where the smartest brains of Catalonia come together to work on the next major scientific discovery? Well, to answer these burning questions, we’ve done some research and created a short overview of the most important Barcelona tech hubs. Let’s dive in!
12 Best Barcelona Tech, R&D and Innovation Hubs
Pier01 is probably one of the most well-known tech spaces in Barcelona today, making it even more astonishing that just a couple of years ago, the spaces in the Palau de Mar was largely empty and unused. That was until Miquel Marti, the godfather of Barcelona Tech City, had the brilliant idea and thrive to turn it into a startup hub. Today it hosts over 100 companies, including well-known players like Letgo, Housfy and Holaluz, within their 11.000m². In fact, it’s already outgrowing the original space, leading to several rumors that they’re set to take over the second half of the Palau de Mar too.
Barcelona Biomedical Research Park
It may look like the entrance to the intricate and doomed maze from the Maze Runner movie, however, this stunning piece of architecture is actually owned by the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (PRBB). Located right in the heart of Barceloneta, it’s the HQ for the Catalan biomedical industry, hosting six different research and innovation centers: the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM), the Department of Experimental and Health Sciences of the Pompeu Fabra University, the Centre for Genomic Regulation, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL Barcelona), the Barcelona Institute of Global Health (ISGlobal) and the Institute of Evolutionary Biology. Together they amass an annual R&D budget of €90M and employ over 1500 professionals from all over the world. In addition to that, the PRBB is located next to the Hospital de Mar, which feeds them real-life insights.
The Edificio Media-TIC serves as the connection point between the Media and Telecommunication clusters in Barcelona. Located in the heart of the district 22@, the Edificio MediaTIC is one of the most iconic and futuristic buildings in Barcelona. The iron beams of this distinctive sustainable construction are made of ETFE skin, and are able to adjust automatically to regulate light and temperature. Located within the innovative and creative barrio of Poblenou, the building covers 14.000m² and hosts countless institutions and companies such as the Open University of Catalonia, Ship2B, ThoughtWorks, Mobile World Capital, Barcelona Digital Centro Tecnológico and the Cibernarium.
Pier Health is a new hub focused on digital health technology that will be launched this September by Barcelona Tech City, Mediktor and Fundació Privada Sant Pau. It is located in the stunning Sant Pau Art Nouveau and several popular digital health startups such as TopDoctors, Medtep, Psious or Iomed are already looking to join. At its launch the site will take up 1.000m², with the potential to expand to 10.000m² if needed. Entrepreneurs and companies located in Pier Health will be able to take advantage of working alongside the Hospital Sant Pau, the Faculty of Medicine and Nursing of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the research centers linked to this health ecosystem.
This unmissable circular-shaped building boasts 10.000m² of space, and hosts a lot of research companies and amazing local startups. Amongst its most prominent tenants is Fundació i2CAT, a non-profit research and innovation center focused on IT, Telecommunications and the future of the internet. Additionally, it is home to the fast-growing startups Netquest and Nicequest, which focus on high-quality online research solutions. Located right in the heart of the university district (Zona Universitaria), the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) and its campus are their next-door neighbors.
Barcelona Science Park
Right off the Camp Nou and in the middle of the university district you’ll find the Barcelona Science Park. Consisting of five research centers, hosting more than 100 organizations and uniting over 2700 innovation leaders, this park is a huge research hub for the city. It includes R&D labs such as the National Genome Analysis Center (CNAG), the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC), the Molecular Biology Institute of Barcelona and the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona). Moreover, it’s also home to Biocat, the European Federation of Biotechnology and the Fundació Futbol Club Barcelona.
OneCoWork is more than just another coworking space. Their spectacular location in Port Vell in Barceloneta provides workspaces for entrepreneurs and digital talents, as well as being home to Harbor.Space, a private university with a focus on Technology, Design and Entrepreneurship. Onecowork is a center of international talent, investment, knowledge and a global network and hosts leading events in the city such as Tech Icons, Tech Tribe, and amazing workshops sponsored by Harbor.Space. As such, it is home to well-known faces in the Barcelona startup ecosystem such as Scott Mackin, founder of Barcinno, Lavin Luis, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Boardfy or Georg Stockinger, VC investor at Paua Ventures. Due to the immense popularity of their first space, Onecowork have just opened their second space in Plaça Catalunya.
The Pier Blockchain will be the second official building of the Barcelona Tech City group. The 400m² space will be situated in the building that hosts the Restaurant 7 Portes, alongside its big brother Pier01. It will focus exclusively on Blockchain and one of its first tenants is supposed to be Alastria, a multisectoral consortium promoted by organizations and institutions that push for the establishment of a semi-public Blockchain/DLT infrastructure in Spain. This organization will most likely bring in several of its members to the space, laying the foundations for one of the first blockchain hubs in Spain.
The Torre Glòries, formerly known as Torre Agbar, is not just the third-tallest building in Barcelona but also THE icon of Barcelona’s tech district 22@, mostly due to its location and unique lighting system. However, ironically, it was mostly empty for three years after Agbar moved its offices elsewhere. Afterwards, there was talk of it becoming a hotel space. It was also eyed as the potential base for the European Medicine Agency’s move from London following the Brexit last year – before Barcelona missed out to Amsterdam. Today, it is home to tech companies like Facebook and Dynatrace, but it still has several floors to fill. Hopefully, with the recent trend of tech firms moving to Barcelona, it will be packed to capacity soon. Regardless, Torre Glòries is more than a building, it’s the entry point to the whole district 22@ where an abundance of tech organizations, accelerators and startups base themselves.
The Torre Mapfre is a skyscraper in Port Olímpic, the coastline generated for the sailing events during the 1992 Summer Olympic in Barcelona. Don’t confuse it with the Arts Hotel Barcelona, the skyscraper with the white grid, which is located right next to it. It’s mainly an office space, but it hosts more established Barcelona tech firms and mature companies that have “made” it. Similar to Torre Glòries, this tower is another example that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Even though it is a stunning building, the only prominent startup it houses is Barcelona fintech Kantox and, as the name indicates, the majority of the space is occupied by Spanish insurance giant MAPFRE. Granted, close to it you’ll find the Campus de la Ciutadella of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, but if you walk towards the beach you’ll also find a lot of clubs and bars. Will it ever become a true tech icon? Who knows, but at least it won’t become a hotel.
It’s not technically located in Barcelona as its situated about 10km north of the city in Sant Cugat del Vallès, however the ESADECREAPOLIS still gets a notable mention on this list due to its proximity and importance to the Catalan Capital. The ESADECREAPOLIS is an innovation and entrepreneurship center located next to Barcelona business school ESADE. It offers workspace and accelerator programmes for startups as well as an innovation club for companies that want to foster corporate innovation through startups. Currently, it hosts over 50 companies and it frequently hosts amazing events, meetups and other networking activities. One of its more popular startups is the 2018 4YFN Hack-D-Gap winner Wisar.
Barcelona Synchrotron Park
The Barcelona Synchrotron Park seems to have inspired Apple to construct their very own donut-shaped headquarters and campus in California. Well, maybe that’s not quite true, but the Synchrotron Park sure does look awesome. It’s situated just outside of Barcelona in Cerdanyola (6km from Barcelona) and features a particle accelerator called ALBA. But boasting a 408-hectare business park, it offers much more than that too. In the vicinity there are two excellent universities, ESADE and the UAB, the PRUAB research park and the Vallès Technology Park. Besides that, the park also hosts over 300 companies including big names like IBM, T-Systems and SENER.