A piece of news
One year after the invasion of Ukraine and coinciding with the first Barcelona Health Innovation Week, Biocat accompanied the Ukrainian Cluster Alliance and five of its members representing health clusters on different visits to entities and companies in the BioRegion to build contacts with Catalan agents for future mutually beneficial partnerships. The exchange took place as part of the European BRIGHT project.
The six representatives of the Ukraine clusters learned about the main entities and agents forming the BioRegion of Catalonia over the week. The delegation - formed solely by women because of the war - also played an active role in different health innovation activities organised as part of the first Barcelona Health Innovation Week promoted by Biocat.
The activities forming the full, rewarding schedule that Biocat prepared so that the delegation could make a “deep dive” into the life sciences and healthcare ecosystem of Catalonia are indicated in chronological order below. Members of the entity, primarily its managing director Robert Fabregat, and the team from the Department of Scientific Policy and Internationalisation headed by Montserrat Daban, its director.
The Ukraine delegation attended the official presentation of the 2022 BioRegion of Catalonia Report organised in Barcelona and attended by over 600 people from the sector. The document includes the main indicators in health innovation and macroeconomic data from the life sciences and healthcare sector in Catalonia, as well as record investment figures in startups once again, which stood at 445 million euros for the first time in history.
During the official presentation of the report, apart from the participation of the President of the Generalitat de Catalunya, the main sector-based challenges faced by the ecosystem were explained and four round tables were organised with different experts from the sector: one on scientific infrastructure and initiatives to promote the BioRegion, another on the circuits and instruments to promote and streamline the adoption of innovation by the health system, a third on the European Health Data Space, and a fourth on the Advanced Therapies Hub.
There was also a space to discuss the challenges of the sector within an international framework. The afternoon sessions, under the title ‘European clusters dialogues for transformation’ brought together more than one hundred experts from the sector for debate on the challenges of Europe to become more resilient, sustainable, circular and regenerative in different sessions and panels of experts. Many of them were representatives of the European Commission, of CataloniaBio&HealthTech, the Council for European BioRegions, and leaders of the partnering European clusters of Biocat in the European projects it leads or takes part in.
The Ukraine delegation with the health councillor of Catalonia, Manel Balcells i Díaz, Montserrat Daban (Biocat) and representatives of the Ukrainian Cluster Alliance: Olga Trofymova, Anna Kyrychenko, Tetiana Vorontsova, Natalia Dziuba and Victoria Danno, along with the president of the European Cluster Alliance, Antonio Novo, during the presentation of the 2022 BioRegion of Catalonia Report.
Biocat provided a schedule of four activities at once for the Ukrainian visitors, the partners of BRIGHT (Estonia, Sweden and France) on a study visit, the partners of BIOMAN4R2 in a project meeting, and partners of the INNAXE project from Bulgaria interested in preparing a ministerial visit to the BioRegion by its country in the near future.
The second day therefore started with a session at the Barcelona Health Hub with health startups such as Ersilia and Mediktor, among others. The visit ended with a presentation by the CEO of BHH, Luis Badrinas, and a tour of its facilities located in the Sant Pau Modernist Complex.
The next visit to the Eurecat Technology Centre of Catalonia provided an insight into the strategy of the Digital Innovation Hub of Catalonia (DIH4CAT), as explained by Felip Miralles, director of the Centre. Other partners of the European BRIGHT and INNAXE projects, as well as other international partners, also joined the visit.
The day ended with a joint creation session organised by Biocat and headed by Kitimisik where, under the name “Fall In Love with Innovation”, the challenges regarding resilience, talent, sustainability and social impact to promote the solutions for health ecosystems over the coming years were analysed.
The exchange, organised by Biocat as part of the European BRIGHT project, took the Ukrainian representatives and Biocat partners in the European projects from Estonia and Sweden to the Department of Research and Universities, where Xavier Aldeguer, director general of Knowledge, Transfer and Regional Affairs, and Aïda Díaz, director of the Department’s International Programme explained the RIS3CAT 2030 strategy.
The delegation then visited the association that promotes the digital and technology ecosystem in Barcelona TechBarcelona, where its managing director, Miquel Martí, explained the strategy inspiring Pier01 and the new health Pier07, which was opened late this month.
They also visited ACCIÓ –Agency for Business Competitiveness- , where Alberto Pezzi, senior manager for Clusters, and Emma Vendrell, head of international projects, explained the cluster policy in Catalonia, providing the Ukrainian delegation with connections and networks of contacts to help in the future reconstruction of their country.
The next visit was to the Health Department, where Dr Carme Bertran, secretary for Healthcare and Participation, and Dr Josep A. Pujante, director of International Relations and Healthcare Cooperation, explained how Ukrainian citizens are welcomed in Catalonia and how medical material is sent to their country. Finally, the way in which our system can help in models and knowledge for the future reconstruction of the Ukrainian health system was explored.
To end the day, the delegation visited Barcelona Activa, the agency for economic development in Barcelona, where Cristina Gil, director of international projects, and Cinta Arasa, international projects and European funds, explained the different free-of-charge programmes in which the entity provides support for business ventures -particularly those created by women. Biocat partners from the INNAXE project also joined this meeting.
The Ukrainian delegation’s last day in Barcelona began with a visit to StartUB!, the tool that coordinates entrepreneurship in the community of the University of Barcelona. Lizbeth Arroyo, project manager of the initiative, and professors Xavier Testar, Pro-Provost for Innovation and Transfer, and Mercè Segarra, vice rector for Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Transfer, welcomed the participants.
They then visited CataloniaBio&HealthTech where they were welcomed by Javier Selva, the entity’s managing director. During the visit, they analysed future opportunities at a time when local hospitals and healthcare providers can be rebuilt and resume their activities. The delegation also visited the headquarters of Biocat, where they were able to talk with the team that organised the exchange, with which new support and collaboration activities are being planned.
At Fenin Catalunya - Spanish Federation of Healthcare Technology Companies - they were welcomed by Pilar Navarro, the Federation’s project director, who explained the healthtech sector in Spain. Along with partners from Bulgaria who form the INNAXE consortium, the Ukrainian delegation identified areas of interest in humanitarian aid and repair of local hospitals ransacked by the war.
The meeting with Núria Vergés, director general for Healthcare, Organisation of Time and Equality at Work for the Secretariat of Women’s Affairs highlighted the leading role of women at times of crisis, such as the Ukraine war. The director listed carefully to the harsh personal and professional accounts by the Ukrainian delegates, and explained the feminist strategy of the Government and all the inter-departmental support being provided over recent months to help the Ukrainian refugee population.
The delegation ended its visit to the BioRegion of Catalonia with an event to celebrate the fifth birthday of the Biocat acceleration programme CRAASH Barcelona, where they were able to network with companies and entities from the sector, with great opportunities for collaboration already identified.
The representatives of the Ukrainian health clusters returned to their cities. Some occupied, others bombed by Russia, yet with the desire to continue working online, with uncertain resources to rebuild their structures and society. Despite returning to uncertainty, they now know that they can count on the support and collaboration they have found in Catalonia, both now and in the future.