2023 kicked off with a much-awaited announcement: the agreement to expand the Hospital Clinic Campus to Barcelona’s Diagonal area and create a great hub of knowledge in health. In addition to this project, many other new strategic initiatives, facilities and infrastructures kicked off in 2022 to bolster Catalonia’s strategic international positioning in health research, technology and innovation.
This article features a selection of the most significant announcements of 2022. There will be more information on each of them in the 2022 BioRegion Report, the benchmark publication on the sector that will be presented on Monday, February 13 at the AXA Auditorium in Barcelona.
After more than five years raising funds to make it happen, the SJD Pediatric Cancer Center Barcelona was inaugurated in June 2022. This is the only center to focus exclusively on childhood cancer in Spain and one of the largest in Europe and the world. In a 14,000 square meter building connected to Hospital Sant Joan de Déu by a covered elevated walkway, the center has 37 single rooms, 8 transplant chambers, 26 rooms for the day hospital and 21 for external consultations. Currently, the center’s hospitalization area is 70% full.
SJD Pediatric Cancer Center Barcelona. Source: Hospital Sant Joan de Déu Barcelona
Additionally, over the past year, work has resumed on the second phase of the plan to expand Hospital del Mar. This will add 20,000 square meters of space for new hospitalization units, operating rooms, a new ICU, a renovated ER and a heliport, among others. Designed to adapt easily to changing circumstances, crises like the COVID-19 pandemic, catastrophes or multi-victim accidents, it will be equipped with surgery robots, virtual reality and augmented reality tools, and patient rooms with the latest advances in building automation. It is expected to be fully operational by 2030.
On the same topic, thanks to the experience at Hospital del Mar in clinical data analysis, the center has been chosen to take part in the DARWIN EU big data initiative alongside eight other hospitals from all over the continent.
Also worth noting is the kickoff of the Functional Plan for the future Health Campus in Girona, which will be home to the new Josep Trueta University Hospital, plus the University of Girona Medicine and Nursing faculties and the Girona Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBGI), among other facilities. This Plan is the foundation for drafting the final architectural project, so it is essential for professionals to be involved and take an active role.
Work started in June 2022 on the La Soci land, the former sports complex for CaixaBank employees located in front of Cosmocaixa. The building was torn down gradually to make room to build the Caixa Research Institute, a benchmark research center in Spain focusing on the most prevalent medical conditions, like neurological, oncological and infectious diseases. Promoted by the ”la Caixa” Foundation, it is expected to have more than 300 researchers and be completed by 2025. The ”la Caixa” Foundation has estimated the project will require an investment of over €60 million, which will go to building and equipping the center. They will start working to attract talent this year.
Model of the future Caixa Research Institute building. Source: ”la Caixa” Foundation
Another ambitious project in biomedical research and innovation last year was the Innovation and Health BioCluster approved by the Government of Catalonia in late 2022. The project, which will be located at the bio-healthcare hub in Hospitalet de Llobregat, will work to boost and consolidate biomedical research and innovation through a strong ecosystem that attracts companies from the healthcare sector. It is expected to see more than €7 billion in turnover and create nearly 50,000 new jobs.
The Barcelona Supercomputing Center – Centre Nacional de Supercomputació (BSC-CNS) and the Alba Synchrotron -two of the thirteen Unique Scientific and Technical Infrastructures (ICTS) in Catalonia- announced news in 2022. Firstly, BSC-CNS announced it will be home to MareNostrum 5, the most powerful supercomputer in Spain and one of the most advanced in Europe, which will also have one of the first quantum computers in Europe.
The new supercomputer, with a budget of €150 million and designed to strengthen European medical research in drug design, vaccine development, virus-spread simulations, artificial intelligence applications and big data analysis, will be operational from July 2023.
Model of the room that will house the Marenostrum 5 in the new BSC-CNS building. Source: BSC-CNS website
Another new project announced was the future Alba II Synchrotron, which will include the Alba Science, Technology and Innovation Park, with space for research centers and companies. Specifically, the ALBA II project plans to replace the ALBA accelerator, build three new extra-long beamlines on the new land, modernize the existing scientific instruments and develop facilities for data analysis and storage. With an estimated investment of €120 million, Alba II should go into service in 2030.
3D model of the expansion for the future Alba II Synchrotron. Source: ALBA Synchrotronen
To bring innovative solutions to healthcare centers, companies small and large often have to wade through a complex, tortuous path of red tape. In this context the Catalan Ministry of Health has created a subcommittee on Innovation Adoption in Healthcare to design and agree on the circuits and instruments needed to promote and streamline the adoption of innovation in the system.
The work group, coordinated by Biocat and made up of a transversal, multidisciplinary team, is part of the Commission on Innovation and Transformation of the Healthcare System. In 2023, the subcommittee will work to establish and roll out the first actions and measures to be carried out under the framework of this initiative.
First meeting of the Innovation Adoption in Healthcare work group, promoted by the Catalan Ministry of Health and coordinated by Biocat. October 2022. Source: Biocat
Additionally, the Government of Catalonia is promoting the Advanced Therapies Hub to position the BioRegion as a leading European hub of advanced therapies (cell, gene and tissue). The project, also coordinated by Biocat, will feature the new Advanced Therapies Center of Catalonia as one of its key elements. The Blood and Tissue Bank will be in charge of coordinating the shaping of the new center, which will present its operating plan in February 2023.
With this initiative, the Government aims for all the advances that come out of research centers and labs to become treatments that will improve diseases and, therefore, people’s quality of life.
And to finish off this section, it must be noted that the Government of Catalonia has activated the Advanced Technology Investment Fund (FITA) to promote research and entrepreneurship in science in Catalonia. This venture capital instrument, which will have €55 million, is expected to begin operations in late June 2023. For now, the tender call deadline is this month.