The financial impact of major international events creates headlines and is often one of the main topics presented by the media and filling the pages of newspapers. Despite the undeniable importance of this aspect, there are others that are less obvious but no less significant. This year Fira de Barcelona was hosting the 11th edition of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) here, and many have wondered at the effect this event has had on our city, our business community and our society. One perfect example arose only a few days ago: Barcelona has emerged as the fifth of Europe’s technological hubs.

The Mobile World Capital Barcelona (an initiative that would not exist without the MWC) published a study on the positioning of the Catalan capital in the European technology panorama, and also the activities and changes in local and national technology companies in recent years, both in Catalonia and in Spain. According to the data collected, Barcelona is now in fifth place as a European technology centre, only behind major capitals such as London, Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam, and ahead of cities like Madrid, Stockholm, Dublin, Copenhagen or Milan.

The cradle of mobile companies

One of the best ways to measure the activity generated is the number of technology start ups or new companies created and operating in this sector. According to the figures available for 2016, Barcelona had 756 companies of this type, 28% of the total of more than 2,600 registered in Spain. These companies are distributed in sectors that also tell us a lot about the city, because 21% of the companies in Barcelona work in ecommerce, 10% in mobile technology, 10% in business services and another 9% in tourism, the area with strongest growth. This shows that two of the identifying characteristics of the Catalan capital, commerce and tourism, also feature prominently in its technological sector, representing as they do a third of the activities of tech start ups.

Barcelona is also leader when it comes to investment in companies of this type in Spain, capturing 56% of all investment in 2016 and generating almost half (48.2%) of mergers and acquisitions among technology companies. These included the sale of the Catalan company Privalia to Vente Privée for 500 million euros. Barcelona and Spain have also become the second preferred destination for technology entrepreneurs, second only to the UK. In other words, if a technology company is looking for a country and city to set up in, Barcelona is already one of the favourites among techie entrepreneurs

These numbers serve to underline the idea that the city where a key industry event is held every year for one of the most important technology sectors, which the mobile sector certainly is, is a stimulus for young people to set up companies in this sector, offering them the best international platform every year for making contacts just by taking the metro. Anyone looking for a place where they can work on their great idea will automatically have Barcelona in mind. This is the legacy of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Mobile for citizens

Another of the initiatives generated around MWC is the new Mobile Week Barcelona, a programme of activities centred on the residents of Barcelona which aims to show them the latest technological trends and to promote open debate on digital transformation and mobile technology. Mobile Week Barcelona will include a week of activities spread across all 10 city districts to bring together artists, scientists, thinkers, engineers, entrepreneurs and cultural figures, to discuss the challenges, limits and opportunities offered by the digital revolution that we are in the midst of.

FOLCH LECA