A 2025 Vision for Catalonia: Scaling-up the BioRegion

Jordi Naval, CEO OF BIOCAT

Biocat, The BioRegion of Catalonia Foundation, has been working over for the past 12 years to boost Catalonia’s life sciences and healthcare ecosystem performance and help shape the future of the industry. We work together with the innovative and research communities from the biopharma, medtech and healthtech industries to improve the wellbeing of people around the world and foster the global competitiveness of local innovative industry.

This is an exciting time for Barcelona and Catalonia, with many promising evidences of recovery after years of crisis and uncertainty. The hard work put in by many stakeholders has given real momentum to Catalonia’s life sciences and healthcare industries, and now we are thrilled anticipating a positive “perfect storm” of factors that will help transform Catalonia’s BioRegion into a major innovation world player. We are seeing a positive evolution of this innovative ecosystem, scaling up from its start-up stage to a fully deployed industry, showcasing an exponential growth and the potential for huge impact.

But, what is in the essence of an innovative ecosystem? What makes it thrive? Which are the key driving forces are critical to its evolution? We could outline some key factors: a sound system of research institutions, with a marked specialization in the life sciences; the deployment of a set of policies fostering excellence rolled out over the past 3 decades; a leveraging public investment in science, aligned with excellence policies and smart specialization strategies; local entrepreneurial and risk-taking cultures; a growing local and international investment industry; a pool of talent with expertise in all aspects of biopharma industry development; and finally, hospitals with the capacity to conduct clinical research to the highest standards.

Now, with the perspective that comes from having this evolution in mind, Biocat is drafting an ambitious Vision 2025, with Catalonia, and its capital Barcelona, ranking among the top 3 biomedical hubs in Europe. Our vision is a top destination for the sector to invest, thanks to its top universities, hospitals and research infrastructures, excellent science, breakthrough innovations, investment capabilities and great entrepreneurial and professional talent.

We are thrilled anticipating a positive “perfect storm” of factors that will help transform the BioRegion of Catalonia into a major innovation world player, scaling up from its start-up stage to a fully deployed industry.

To achieve this Vision 2025, Biocat is putting in place actions to consolidate Catalonia’s tremendous assets, boosting its amazing capacities to keep it on top in the global Life Sciences industry. Our strategy as a key innovation driver will be to significantly and effectively contribute to achieving a set of goals for 2025:

  • Make the most of Catalonia’s innovation capabilities, embracing exponential changes in technology to tackle some of the biggest healthcare challenges of our time, with a mission-driven approach.
  • Align Catalonia’s innovative ecosystem with the social impact core values embedded in the UN’s 2030 Agenda and the EU’s research and innovation policies.
  • Boost the connection between our knowledge and innovation model, built on research excellence and entrepreneurial spirit, and the mid-sized and large pharma and life sciences companies based in Catalonia.
  • Attract and retain global talent at all levels: scientific, entrepreneurial, investment, and management.
  • Triple the current investment in life sciences and healthcare innovative start-ups and scale-ups, reaching over €500 M by 2025.
  • Make effective the BioRegion of Catalonia’s global contribution with 10 new and significant therapies “invented in Catalonia” by 2025.

Biocat is drafting an ambitious Vision 2025, with Catalonia, and its capital Barcelona, ranking among the top 3 biomedical hubs in Europe. Our vision is a top destination for the sector to invest.

The strategies to achieve these objectives might involve putting in place bold policies to ensure sustained and growing investment in cutting-edge science and a set of encouraging regulation reforms such as deployment of supportive tax stimuli to incentivize private investment in research and innovation.

From an internal perspective, further engagement of local mid-size and big pharma companies in innovation activities with local entrepreneurs and start-ups would lead to more start-ups becoming scale-ups companies, generating growth in investment, jobs and ultimately, solutions for patients and for the society. We can only do this effectively if we manage the life sciences ecosystem as an integrated community of science, health, economic development and social impact, with all public and private stakeholders working together.

Health innovation is a global activity, with increasing contributions and competition from all parts of the world, and particularly from the east and west coasts of the United States, the Asia-Pacific region and Europe. Catalonia should reveal itself as the outstanding hub that must be on the radar for investors and innovators from all over the globe.

The orientation to mission has to be central to our strategy: improving human health through innovation is a message that all the different interests and ideologies can share, and it is one that will help build the alliances of public and private stakeholders needed to drive change.

One central idea must permeate all levels of our dialogue with academia, entrepreneurs, investors, the administration, companies large and small, and society as a whole: a competitive Life Sciences and Healthcare ecosystem like the BioRegion provides good science and good business, occupies a position of global leadership, accelerates therapies that improve society’s health, helps create jobs and fuels economic growth.

Building the future by leveraging the BioRegion of Catalonia’s potential

Barcelona is not yet Cambridge, and that's why opportunities are now here: to invest in companies already in the clinical phase which have been supported by local investors and are now looking for someone bigger to lead their next rounds. Now is the perfect time.

Guy Nohra, co-founder of Alta Partners

Catalonia’s potential and its scientific quality, similar to or even higher than comparable European countries, offer untapped opportunities for investment. This is a huge gap to be filled in the forthcoming years.

Life Sciences venture financing (M€) by country (2000-2017)

Sources: Crunchbase and Biocat

If we project a 20-25% CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) over the average investment rate in past years, we can predict that the BioRegion can reach €500 M in private investment in life sciences by 2025.

Yearly investment in innovative emergent life sciences companies
International investors investing in BioRegion startups
Products in clinical development (therapies)
Catalonia: most innovative life sciences hub in Europe

As a consequence of the evolution of the sector, in terms of social impact Biocat expects at least 10 advanced products and technologies to reach patients by 2025.