Co-written by Roger Torrent, the Catalan Minister for business and labour.
What kind of pledges do Catalonia have towards the mobility industry?
On the one hand, I would like to highlight that the automotive industry is the second industrial sector in Catalonia, with a turnover that exceeds 8% of Catalonia’s GDP. This sector is made up of both companies from the entire automotive value chain and also an industry support ecosystem (engineering and services, technology and R&D centres, clusters, startups, trade fairs, universities and specialized training centres). This includes key companies such as SEAT, Ficosa, Denso or the Catalan electric motorcycle manufacturer SILENCE; as well as companies specializing in electrification such as Wallbox. Overall, this sector in Catalonia has the presence of 350 companies (21% of the sector in Spain) employing 40,000 workers.
We also have a growing micromobility ecosystem, with 119 companies that have a global turnover of 255 million euros and employ 1,300 people, as a recent study by ACCIÓ-Catalonia Trade & Investment revealed.
Moreover, Catalonia is also home to a significant number of business providers in the sustainable mobility and smart cities sectors, which includes the automotive and motorcycle industries, the railway industry, mobility services, and all telecommunications and infrastructures related to mobility. We also host the most advanced R&D centres in the automotive industry, such as Applus IDIADA, Eurecat and ICFO. The Automotive Industry Cluster of Catalonia (CIAC) brings together over 200 companies in the sector actively involved in projects aimed to boost the industry’s competitiveness. Also, the industrial railway sector is one of the strongest in Europe and is composed of 190 companies sharing a €6.85 billion total turnover.
I would like to emphasise that today Catalonia plays a major role in promoting the transformation of the automotive industry towards the electric and connected vehicle. And here, the Next Generation recovery plan is playing a key role. Precisely, electric vehicles and the battery industry in Spain will see a direct injection of more than 4,000M€ of public contribution that is expected to generate more than 20,000M€ of private investment along the next 4 years. This impulse is going to drive the transformation of the automotive industry in Spain, but specially in Catalonia where VW/SEAT will invest 3.000M€ in Martorell site.
On the other hand, one of the economic priorities for the Catalan Government is to reindustrialize Catalonia with a modern, clean and efficient industry, and of course, the mobility and automotive sectors play a key role to finding solutions to this challenge, that is also aligned with global sustainability goals. The Catalan Government conveys its global industrial strategy through the National Pact for Industry, which was approved in September 2022 and brings together all the relevant agents with the aim of transforming and boosting such a crucial sector for the Catalan economy. The Pact has a global budget of over € 3,000 million and includes a series of specific directives to increase the role industry has as a leverage for the competitiveness of other economic sectors.
In the field of sustainability, one of the Pact’s main goals is to promote a green and circular economy that not only uses resources wisely, reduces and re-values waste, but also promotes innovation and industrial competitiveness. And this sustainable economy also must improve the energy efficiency of the Catalan industry and promote the energy transition to face climate emergency. This includes, of course, specific measures to boost sustainability in the automotive and mobility sectors, as I was saying. For instance, under the Pact, the Government has created an Office for the Transformation of the Mobility and Automotive Industry. This Office has the goal to coordinate public entities and all Government units that work on mobility, in order to strategically anticipate the challenges that the sector could face and generate strategic knowledge for the industry. The Office is also intended to support companies in the sector and provide them with technical and strategic assistance, as well as taking part in forums, platforms, think tanks and other European and international initiatives.
We also support the goal of boosting the Catalan industry via ACCIÓ-Catalonia Trade & Investment, the public agency that works towards Catalan companies’ competitiveness and to attract foreign direct investment to Barcelona and Catalonia, promoting the area as an attractive, innovative and competitive business location. Therefore, attracting foreign investment projects in the field of sustainability and mobility is one of our main goals, thus contributing to enhancing the country’s entire value chain. In fact, we have an electric vehicle foreign investment attraction plan, as we are very interested in attracting the most important international actors in order to enrich our already robust automotive ecosystem. Also, we are now working on a gap identification in this new mobility industry that serves us as the basis for the foreign investment attraction plan. We provide full support to productive investments willing to land in Catalonia or that are considering it.
With Barcelona being a leading 5G hub in southern Europe, how does Catalonia utilise this to promote the use of electric and connected vehicles?
Catalonia’s digital hub is made up of some 19,000 companies that employ some 180,000 professionals and have an overall turnover of € 30,000M (representing 13% of its GDP). The Catalan tech ecosystem is built on a solid base of companies, research centres and universities in the sector, and a powerful emerging entrepreneurial ecosystem. Moreover, with over 2,000 startups registered in 2022 (6.3% more than the previous year), according to Barcelona & Catalonia Startup Hub, Catalonia, and Barcelona precisely, is one of the top startup hubs in Europe: Barcelona has established itself as the 5th best European Union (EU) ecosystem to create a startup, only behind Paris, Berlin, Stockholm and Amsterdam. Also, the Catalan capital has established itself within EU as the second startup hub with the highest percentage of international founders, and as the second preferred city for founders to create a startup, only behind Berlin and ahead of cities such as Amsterdam or Stockholm. Furthermore, Barcelona is Southern Europe’s leading 5G hub and promotes the development of pilot projects to test and validate new 5G-related technologies.
Due to the importance of the digital sector for the growth of the future economy, the Catalan Government has promoted a strong strategy in the field of digital technologies to make Catalonia a digital country. Thanks to this activity, Catalonia has improved its digital development, in the deployment of infrastructures, the growth of technological sectors, the digitalisation of public services and the promotion of strategies in disruptive or innovative technologies as blockchain, 5G, artificial intelligence or New Space.
In this framework, the Government of Catalonia promotes strategies in advanced digital technologies (NewSpace, AI, 5G and blockchain), boosted by its Secretariat for Digital Policies, which is part of the Catalan Ministry for Business and Labour. And one key factor in these strategies is of course new mobility and, specifically, the connected vehicle. Catalonia leads a European project called 5GMED, which is framed under Europe’s 5G strategy for transportation corridors, which aims at boosting the use of the connected and autonomous vehicle. It involves a global investment of 16 million euros of which 75% is financed by the European Commission, which are being deployed through 4 pilot tests in railway and highway at the Cross-Border Corridor (between Figueres and Perpignan) to demonstrate advanced application of 5G scenarios in Cooperative Connected and Automated Mobility (CCAM) and Future Railway Mobile Communications System services (FRMCS).
This project is directed by Fundació i2CAT, which is also taking part of other international projects in the field of the connected vehicle, such as the 5G for CAM (connected and automated mobility) by the 6G Industry Association (6G-AI), which represents the connectivity private sector in Europe that focuses on 5G and 6G technology. In fact, i2CAT is part of 6g-AI’s Governing Board, which positions Catalonia as one of the leading territories in the field. It also takes part of GUIDE, a coordination activity deployed under the CEF Digital for 5G Corridors program that plans to align the different projects that are funded by the EU to deploy 5G technology, or the 5G Strategic Deployment Agenda (SDA) which will become the strategic agenda to align the European stakeholders’ visions on this field so as to define future policies in the field. Catalonia has also driven other projects in the field of autonomous mobility, including one that focuses on public transport in rural areas of the country.
What steps is Catalonia taking to transform urban mobility with the funding that they have received for the EIT Urban Mobility project?
Barcelona is, indeed, the host of EIT Urban Mobility, which is the largest community for innovation in urban mobility in Europe, with over 300 partners from cities and municipalities, industry, research and academia, and a co-funding of up to €400 million (2020-2026). Its goal is to bring together all these partners to drive innovation that accelerates the transport revolution and helps redesign public space for people rather than cars. In Catalonia, EIT Urban mobility’s network of partners comprises key companies like SEAT and universities like the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, UPC, and Universitat Pompeu Fabra, as well as several city councils.
EIT Urban Mobility focuses on the promotion of initiatives and programmes not only in specific cities or countries, but in consortium with other entities across Europe. Precisely in Catalonia, they have fostered relevant initiatives like, for instance, promoting sustainable electric mobility through the project ECOSWAP, which involves SEAT MÓ with the support of EIT Urban Mobility, that are leading a consortium which includes manufacturers, local entities, institutions, and cities. They are also promoting other programmes to boost gender equality in transport, or to reduce accidents (especially among motorcyclists) and to face skills gaps for the talent that works in the mobility sector.
Also, Catalonia being a rich startup hub, EIT Urban Mobility is also supporting the Catalan entrepreneurial ecosystem. They have their own accelerator programme, E+ Mobility, that aims to accelerate the introduction of 10 start-up-led solutions in mobility and energy, micromobility, and shared mobility on the market, while helping cities and companies solve their challenges. They are working close together with research centres and universities.
Moreover, Barcelona, as the Catalan capital, is also the host of major sectorial events, such as Tomorrow.Mobility, as the spin-off congress of Smart City Expo, which will take place in November. It is an important meeting point for sector leaders in sustainable, smart urban mobility to share reflections, ideas and best practices to advance the industry’s future. Last year, more than 20,000 attendees from over a hundred countries visited the Congress.
Lastly, how was your MOVE 2023 experience?
At MOVE 2023, Catalonia has showcased its commitment to the mobility and automotive industry by participating actively in the event. ACCIÓ-Catalonia Trade & Investment has had its own stand at the event, where it hosted 11 leading companies from the Catalan mobility and automotive ecosystem. The participating companies include These companies represent different aspects of the industry, including electric vehicle charging infrastructure, software development, testing and certification, mobility services, and innovation labs.
In addition to the established companies, Catalonia also featured prominently in the Startup Village, where 16 Catalan startups leading the path in mobility innovation were also present. This highlights Catalonia’s vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem and its focus on fostering innovation and technological advancements in the mobility sector.
During their business trip, the Catalan delegation had the opportunity to hold an event at the British Parliament with public representatives connected to the transportation sector, including Iain Stuart, the President of the Transport Committee. Additionally, the delegation visited two prominent organizations in the UK mobility sector: SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders) and SMLL (Smart Mobility Living Lab). These visits facilitated valuable networking, collaboration, and knowledge sharing opportunities.
Overall, Catalonia’s presence at MOVE 2023 demonstrated its active involvement in the mobility and automotive industry, its commitment to sustainability and innovation, and its desire to collaborate with international partners to drive the future of urban mobility forward.