January / February 2017

Barcelona Has it All - Host of 2017 ISPE Europe Annual Conference


With deep cultural roots, gorgeous architecture, thriving industry, and inviting climate, Barcelona has it all. From 3–5 April 2017, the city will play host to the ISPE 2017 Europe Annual Conference.

“Barcelona is a hot spot for the pharmaceutical industry and a perfect site for the Europe Conference,” said Thomas Zimmer, Vice President of European Operations for ISPE. “Situated on the Mediterranean, it offers attractions far beyond manufacturing.”

Spain’s second-largest city, Barcelona is the capital of the autonomous community of Catalonia. Known for its ornate buildings dating from the Gothic era to Gaudí’s modernism, it’s the only city to have won the prestigious Royal Gold Medal for its architecture. It’s also home to multiple UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and a forward-thinking city that is experimenting with “superblocks”—closing off areas of the city to traffic—to encourage parks, museums, and gardens that make the city more pedestrian friendly and vibrant. Its reputation as a cultural, tourist, and industry mecca has made it an attractive destination for global conferences.


Park Guell, one of Barcelona’s UNESCO World Heritage sites
Park Guell, one of Barcelona’s UNESCO World Heritage sites

Life Sciences Industry

“Catalonia has a firm commitment to innovation and creativity,” said Núria Betriu, general director of industry and CEO of Catalonia Trade & Investment, the government’s public agency for attracting foreign investment. “Combined with a solid industry, diversified economy, and an openness to the world, they position us as one of Europe’s most dynamic regions.”

Catalonia is the most prosperous region in Spain and an industrial powerhouse within Europe. It has become a key investment destination for biopharmaceutical projects, which employ more than 22,000 people. Both big pharma firms and large local manufacturers have API, dosage forms, and fill and finish plants in and around Barcelona. There are almost 200 biotechnology companies in the region.

“We have become more internationally focused; we have been able to blend talent from abroad with our local talent, and we firmly believe that the future lies in value-added activities,” said Betriu. “Catalan companies have made continuous efforts to innovate, develop new products, take risks, and to internationalize. Catalonia has built a world-class life sciences industry on the foundation of its long tradition of research, medicine, and pharmaceuticals.”

There are 56 research institutes, 11 universities offering life sciences courses, and 17 university hospitals, providing both a skilled workforce and infrastructure to support R&D at the many companies in the region. Catalonia has more pharmaceutical companies per capita than any other European country except Belgium.

“Education is the pillar supporting this industry and is the motor driving know-how and development in this sector,” said Betriu. “It is one of the main reasons behind this concentration of pharmaceutical and life sciences companies in Catalonia. This has generated synergies between industry and research, [as well as] greater intensity in technology transfer. It facilitates talent attraction, and forms a hub with high added value from a production, academic, and research point of view.”

Barcelona has been on important trade routes for over 2,000 years, with proximity to critical markets in Europe, the Mediterranean, and North Africa.

“We enjoy a privileged geographical position that makes Catalonia a strategic and logistic bridge for investment into Europe,” said Betriu. “This is a highly internationalized industry that connects and opens us up to the world.”

Business-Friendly Environment

“Because the regional government in Catalonia sees manufacturing as a boon to the local economy, it has an industry-friendly policy,” said ISPE’s Zimmer. “Its government representatives get involved in our conferences and will be hosting a reception at our Europe Annual Conference in Barcelona.”

Over the last five years, Catalonia has attracted 46 foreign investment projects from life sciences companies that have created 2,300 jobs. These have been mainly companies from Germany, the United States, France, Switzerland, and India.

“Catalonia’s corporate tax is lower than in neighboring countries and it has one of the most effective tax-deduction schemes for the development of R&D activities,” said Betriu. “We have created programs to encourage job creation through grants and discounts on social security contributions.”

Catalonia Trade & Investment has dozens of offices worldwide, out of which it offers comprehensive support to foreign investment projects.

“The Europe Annual Conference is a way to experience not only a region with a flourishing pharmaceutical sector, but a city that is a beautiful destination and one of the most beloved places to visit in all of Europe,” concluded Zimmer. “During the conference at the beginning of April it should be warm enough that we will be able to sit outside and have dinner. I look forward to that.”

Europe Annual Conference 3-5 April 2017, Barcelona, Spain.
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