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A strategic sector for Catalonia
- The BioRegion of Catalonia, the Catalan healthcare and life sciences sector, generates €34.240 million each year and makes up 7.3% of the Catalan gross domestic product (GDP). In total, more than 230,000 people are employed in the sector, roughly 6.6% of all those working in Catalonia
- The BioRegion of Catalonia has more than 1,200 companies and 89 research organizations: 40 research centers (32 of which are CERCA), 18 university hospitals, 12 universities that offer life sciences studies, 3 large scientific infrastructures (the ALBA synchrotron, the Barcelona Supercomputing Center, and the National Center for Analysis and Genomics ); 2 technology centers and 14 science and technology parks with activities in life sciences.
A dynamic industry
- The BioRegion of Catalonia has 1,200 life and health sciences companies. Since 2010, on average, a new one has been created every week, and one in four spinoffs has emerged from organizations and research centers.
- With the latest available turnover data (2018), companies in the BioRegion reached € 19,767M, with an average annual growth of 4% in the last 5 years.
- Of the 1,200 companies in the BioRegion of Catalonia, the largest group is made up of the 311 companies in the biotechnology sector, 60 of which are aimed at the production of new therapies and diagnostic tools, 135 offer R&D services and 116 work in applications in other fields (such as veterinary, industrial biotechnology, food, agriculture or the environment). In addition, the BioRegion has 193 medical technology companies (122 as its main activity and 71 as specialized suppliers and distributors), 124 companies in the pharmaceutical sector (63 pharmaceutical and 61 specialized suppliers and distributors), and 180 product companies or healthtech services.
- The digital health sector has grown quickly in recent years. The number of companies in this area has doubled in 5 years, with a total of 180 in 2019, and investment went from €5.1 million in 2016 to €18.8 million in 2019.
- Catalonia is the birthplace and headquarters of large companies like Almirall, Esteve, Ferrer, Grífols, Bioibèrica, Lacer, Reig Jofré and Uriach. Global leaders in the sector are also present in Catalonia, including Amgen, Novartis, Sanofi, Roche, Bayer, B.Braun, Boehringer Ingelheim, Chiesi, Hartmann, Lundbeck and Menarini.
- The bulk (78%) of companies in the BioRegion are small businesses and microenterprises with fewer than 10 employees that make up 56.1% of the total. Medium-sized companies make up 14% of the total.
- The 30 accelerators in the BioRegion vary widely in terms of their origin (public or private) and services (funding, networking, mentoring, training, etc.). Some of the most competitive include CaixaImpulse, CRAASH Barcelona, d·HEALTH Barcelona, Sabadell Bstartup, Almirall Digital Garden, Ferrer4Good, Novartis Cancer Startup Program, The Collider, IQS Nextech and the Barcelona Activa Preacceleration program.
Destination of international investment
- Venture capital has been the main investment channel in 2020, accumulating €140.2M (136% more than in 2019) in 41 operations (58% more). Regarding investment with international participation, 4 out of 10 rounds have had foreign participation, representing 62% of the total venture capital invested by funds mainly from Europe and the United States.
- This international participation has spurred private capital investment, stock market and crowdequity, which accumulated €172 million, breaking the €100m barrier for the first time in a year.
- The investment ecosystem in the BioRegion of Catalonia is becoming more and more solid. In addition to specialized local investors operating in Catalonia such as Ysios Capital, Caixa Capital Risc, Asabys Partners, Alta Partners, Inveready, InVivo, or Nina Capital, the BioRegion of Catalonia has seen a spectacular growth of international investors who are committed to companies in the fields of life sciences and health. In the last five years, the number has multiplied fivefold.
- For the third year in a row, the Financial Times has recognized Catalonia as the best region in southern Europe to invest in for 2020-2021.
International benchmark in scientific excellence
- Catalan institutions and companies are highly competitive in attracting EU funds that support the best research and innovation in Europe. The European Research Council (ERC) awards the most prestigious and well-funded grants in Europe. Researchers in the life sciences in Catalonia have been awarded more than 100 European Research Council (ERC) grants, more than nearly any other country in Europe, including Finland and Denmark, and nearly on par with Austria.
- Catalonia also stands out in number of publications in the biomedical arena. Scientific production has nearly quadrupled over the past 20 years and 1 in 6 (16.5%) biomedical papers signed by researchers in the BioRegion are among the most cited documents in the world. Catalonia has a higher percentage of publications in noteworthy journals than countries like Ireland, Finland and Austria.
- Catalonia makes up 40% of the Spanish innovation capacity in the life sciences. Patent families (EP+US+WO) in the BioRegion tripled between 2015 and 2018. Plus, Catalan companies and research bodies clearly turn first to international protection. Between 2015 and 2019, 57% of innovations with applicants from the BioRegion applied first to the European Patent Office (EPO).
Areas of excellence
- Catalonia has unique capacities in genomics and structural biology and stands out in areas like medical chemistry, nanomedicine, omic sciences, bioinformatics and big data. The BioRegion’s capacities in oncology research are particularly noteworthy, covering the whole value chain from basic research, through highly specialized companies, to hospitals, which play a key role in clinical and translational research.
- The healthcare system in Catalonia and the excellence of its hospitals are world renowned in the fields of oncology, thoracic and cardiac surgery, kidney transplants and ophthalmologic surgery.
- The main therapeutic areas of the Catalan biotech and pharma companies are: cancer (often oriented with rare diseases) and neoplasms, dermatology, infectious diseases, the nervous system, the respiratory, digestive and genitourinary systems.
- The pipeline of biotech and pharma companies in the BioRegion has 41 drugs and therapies in clinical development, 7 of which are in phase II/III.
- Regarding medical technology, the main areas of activity are electromechanical devices, single-use devices, dental implants and reusable instruments. Among digital health companies, those working in digital therapies, drug R&D and clinical decision support stand out.
- The quality, safety, rapid recruitment of patients and much lower costs than in other regions of Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States make the BioRegion of Catalonia a prominent destination for clinical trials. The main Catalan health research institutes have more than 6,000 active participations in almost 4,000 clinical trials: in 2017 alone, more than 1,000 participations in trials began in Catalonia. If we compare this figure internationally, Catalonia would be 16th in the ranking by number of participation in trials, and 7th in Europe. With these data, Catalonia would be in second place in the world in the number of trials per million inhabitants, only behind Denmark and surpassing countries such as the Netherlands or Switzerland. 11% of the tests carried out in Catalonia are in Phase I, 26% in Phase II, 40.3% in Phase III and 17.4% in Phase IV.