Innovation in health, a countrywide priority

In 2014, the life sciences sector in Catalonia saw the creation of initiatives that put innovation in health at the core of this country’s strategic agenda and confirm the role Biocat plays as a tool for generating value in the BioRegion.

Furthermore, Barcelona has been named the co-location center for the Catalan/Spanish node of EIT Health, a project promoted by Biocat that has won the call to set up a knowledge and innovation community (KIC) in healthy living and active ageing. Leading a node of the health KIC is a key strategic project for Catalonia, which will allow us to position ourselves as leaders in the European alliance of knowledge and entrepreneurship.

EIT Health falls under the framework of the European Union’s new 2020 Strategy, which promotes smart specialization in countries and regions (RIS3, Regional Innovation Smart Specialization Strategy). In this context, the Government is developing the research and innovation strategy for Catalonia (RIS3CAT) that will allow for innovative projects to be carried out in health, and in which Biocat will also play a significant role.

Committing to new countrywide projects that can attract global investment to boost the possibilities of our entrepreneurial fabric and business projects with value added is a key part of the knowledge economy in Catalonia, and EIT Health and RIS3CAT are undoubtedly great opportunities to continue this process.

We must be aware, however, that we aren’t starting from the same point as other European countries, and we must tackle these challenges with conviction and drive. In fact, the Catalan healthcare system has been able to maintain high quality standards, our research of excellence is well-positioned on global rankings (in terms of number of researchers, ERC grants, quality of research centers, etc.), and our life sciences companies continue to grow in number and competitiveness. The difficult economic panorama has meant that this path hasn’t been easy, and while unemployment shot up as a result of the crisis, our entrepreneurs worked to create new jobs. But they haven’t done it on their own: this Report shows the wide range of actions and support they receive from Biocat, in areas that are key for their future, like training and internationalization. Guiding this group of companies, our best assets for the future, in driving innovation in health is working for the future of Catalonia.

Over nearly a decade since it was created, it has become very clear that Biocat has the ability to make the most of our potential, to align desires and actions, and to structure the Catalan life sciences sector. Three qualities that make it the best dynamizing agent to lead the project destined to be key for Catalonia and for all the companies that make the BioRegion a global benchmark cluster and the pride of all Catalans. 

M. Hble. Sr. Artur Mas
President of the Government of Catalonia and president of the Biocat Board of Trustees

The BioRegion, European Premier League in research, education and innovation in health

For Biocat, 2014 began with a reflection on strategy and finished with a big win for our organization and for the whole BioRegion: EIT Health. 

The internal review process that began in late 2013 and finished in early 2014 has allowed us to update Biocat’s vision and mission, as well as its strategic focal points, which underline our role as an instrument of knowledge and projection for the sector; a facilitator of strategic projects that must align the ecosystem’s stakeholders; a promoter of talent-development and entrepreneurship programs, addressing the needs of companies through valorization and business growth.

All of these focal points converge in an initiative that got the green light at the end of the year: the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) selected the bid Biocat had been working to promote since 2008 to set up a knowledge and innovation community. The Innolife project, now known as EIT Health, has 144 public and private partners from 7 European countries. With EIT Health, the BioRegion is taking a position of leadership in Europe and confirming Biocat’s role as a driving force for the country’s strategic projects.

EIT Health sets a horizon of 7-10 years, which should allow us to plan which health challenges to tackle in Europe, and how to do so. In Catalonia we are already taking this approach: in 2014 Biocat participated actively in creating and dynamizing a future RIS3CAT (Research and Innovation Smart Specialization Strategy) community in health. This new instrument is organized by the Government of Catalonia under the framework of the Europe 2020 Strategy to develop innovative products and strategies to improve health and quality of life.

Training the future leaders of this innovation process is the aim of the first postgraduate program in biodesign offered in Spain, promoted by Biocat: Design Health Barcelona (d·HEALTH Barcelona). In 2014 the first class of fellows graduated from this program, giving the BioRegion a new generation of entrepreneurs. A good example of the success of this project is usMIMA, which was set up as a company in 2014 as a result of the program and won the BioEmprenedorXXI award.

usMIMA shows that talent development and training is a key piece of the puzzle to boost economic competitiveness. This is why in 2014 Biocat launched the Moebio Short Programs, specific programs that deal with key topics in healthcare, innovation, management and entrepreneurialism, opening up the educational excellence of d·HEALTH Barcelona to all.

However, beyond the large-scale projects, I would like to highlight the ongoing service Biocat provides for anyone who wants to make their project into an opportunity. The phone calls, meetings and messages that are the focus of our day-to-day work and have helped us, silently, become the meeting point for all of us that make up the Catalan bio-community.

In this 2014 Report of Activities you will find a detailed review of these and other activities to strengthen the position of the BioRegion of Catalonia and that of Biocat as a key element for strengthening and positioning the ecosystem with a global vision. A role that is only possible thanks to the support of our Board of Trustees, the implication our whole team, and the committed collaboration of the many companies, organizations and professionals involved, who I would like to thank deeply for their hard work, initiative and dedication. 

Dr. Montserrat Vendrell
Biocat CEO