Leadership, commitment and inspiration

There is probably no other human activity that has shed more light in these times of darkness than research and innovation in the healthcare and life sciences. So, with my first words to accompany this report I want to recognize Biocat’s actions carried out in 2019, all of which were geared towards making our country’s great potential in this arena a highly valuable reality. Activities carried out in 2019, in a setting that was suddenly transformed by the first case of coronavirus in the world and that took us abruptly into a scenario that none of today’s generations had experienced before. 

I would like to take advantage of these lines to share three thoughts that came to mind as I was reading this report of activities. The first is how far we can go as a nation with the talent and assets we have. It has been proven time and again that we generate more knowledge in the healthcare and life sciences than nearly any other European country. Barcelona is one of the cities in Europe that does the most and best public science (by the way, most of this science is done in collaboration with other countries) and Catalonia is one of the most active regions in Covid-19 research and clinical trials.

My second thought was of the role that should be played by a nation with knowledge as one of its main assets. Because our R&D system is cutting edge, we have a responsibility to lead solutions to the challenges we are facing, both here at home and globally, which at this transcendental time are one and the same. It is this responsibility that I appeal to and see reflected in the actions being carried out in the innovative ecosystem of the BioRegion of Catalonia and being coordinated and led by Biocat.

And the third was about future generations. The impact of the events we are experiencing will be huge, and not all negative. We have the chance to inspire future researchers, future engineers and doctors, future inventors and nurses, biologists, designers, entrepreneurs...

The strength of the innovation, international positioning and magnetism for attracting talent and investment that is clear in these pages is a driving force for a first-rate country in knowledge, one that hopes to lead solutions and to be a benchmark for generations to come.

So, I would like to bring these lines to a close with the words I wrote in this same space one year ago. I said: “The huge changes we will have to tackle in the coming years will surely lead us into a new world in all areas, with transformed social structures, international relations and business and trade models that will generate opportunities that have yet to be explored.” At the time, I had no idea what we would face in 2020, but I repeat, with utter conviction, that it is up to us how we face these changes and make the most of these opportunities. Biocat, through the work it has done and the challenges it tackles as the institution that accelerates this innovation in healthcare and the life sciences, reveals more and more its key role in our strategy as an innovative country.

The Honorable Quim Torra, President of the Government of Catalonia and President of the Biocat Board of Trustees

Banking on the potential of the BioRegion

As I write these lines, the world is deep in the trenches fighting the worst pandemic in recent history and Catalonia has just started to see a glimmer hope for a future that is, at the very least, uncertain. A situation in which the BioRegion has stood strong, calling to take up its rightful leading role. We don’t merely watch what is happening: we make it happen.

At Biocat, we channel all our efforts into incorporating innovation into the healthcare system, with a strategy based on fostering talent and accelerating an ecosystem with endless potential. This has allowed us to kick off a series of programs for entrepreneurs and researchers, one of which I would particularly like to highlight: The Investment Readiness Series (TIRS), an initiative that puts international investors in contact with a portfolio of over 800 innovative projects and start-ups. Over the course of the year, TIRS has facilitated nearly 150 significant interactions among potential investors and entrepreneurs and researchers from the BioRegion.

In 2019, start-ups in the sector attracted over €100 million for the fourth year in a row, with €112 million invested, €63.4 million of which was venture capital. And since 2014, the number of international investors in start-ups in Catalonia has increased almost tenfold. These are indicators of the sector’s growing visibility and the growing confidence of foreign capital, which sees us as a solid, good-value option.

Proof of this can be seen in the fact that Bio€quity, the main event for investors devoted to the European biopharmaceutical industry, was held in Barcelona for the first time in 2019. The event had never been held further south than Paris, and Barcelona wasn’t chosen to be the first at random: excellent science, network of local investors and an extensive representation of specialized companies guaranteed an event that showed that the BioRegion has become a priority destination for biotechnology investment in Europe.

On a local level, 2019 was a year of scouting for and closing funding, which meant starting off 2020 with a significant amount of capital available in Barcelona-based global funds. Over the first six months of 2020, healthcare and life sciences start-ups in Catalonia raised €55 million. This is almost as much as was raised in all of 2019, which indicates that the industry will probably be more active and promising than ever this year. Nevertheless, to achieve this, we will have to tackle several challenges: maintaining our extraordinary level of research and innovation, showing return on investment in local talent, and breaking down fiscal barriers to attract more foreign capital.

However, this won’t be enough if we don’t have the tools to strengthen the healthcare innovation system in Catalonia. Covid-19 won’t be the last pandemic we face, or the worst, and only an innovative country, capable of basing its competitiveness on knowledge, will be prepared and able to handle it.

For all of these reasons, we have to work towards an industrial-based Catalonia and its consolidation as a European knowledge hub. It is time to bank on technology, making regulations simpler and clearer, spending public money on boosting our capacity in diagnostics and in producing vaccines and treatments. And Biocat is the instrument in the BioRegion that can lead this process.

We have the potential, we just have to bank on it.

Jordi Naval, CEO of Biocat