Catalonia, European benchmark in biomedical research

The pandemic has put the concept of “life” front and center in a whole new way. And that, indisputably, will have an impact in all areas of society, as well as the economy because generating wealth is just as important as turning it into wellness and prosperity for all. This is key in rebuilding the economy after Covid-19. Understanding that we won't go back to 2020 and that we have to build a new world, we have the obligation to make it better than the one the Covid-19 crisis has left behind.

That is why I won't tire of saying that recovering from this crisis is a unique opportunity to give the country the shake-up it needs to advance again. We have to propel the country into the future. To imagine what we want Catalonia to look like in 10 or 15 years. And that inevitably means driving a social, green, feminist, democratic transformation that cannot be delayed. 

We want full freedom to exercise our democratic rights. We want to help curb climate change by advancing in the commitments on the 2030 Agenda and the European Green Deal. Likewise, we want to eradicate the male chauvinism that still dominates too many areas of our society. And we want to pull out of this crisis without leaving anyone behind, moving towards a production model that can generate new opportunities and take advantage of all our talent and creativity as a country. Capable of innovating. Capable of attracting investment. Capable of projecting ourselves in the world.

The goal is none other than to reactivate the country by promoting strategic sectors for the future, the sectors with the greatest potential to create quality jobs and prosperity for society as a whole. That have the greatest potential to encourage territorial structure and cohesion. Sectors that are capable of leadership and of pushing the rest of the country's productive economy. We're taking about digitalization and the ecological transition, making Catalonia a leader in the green economy in Europe and the Mediterranean. We're talking about the economy for life, to provide all citizens with healthcare, food, education, social protection, housing and culture. And we're talking about the knowledge society, to be competitive in innovation, research and patents, to make Catalonia a European benchmark in biomedical research. 

We have everything we need to pull out of this, starting with cutting-edge universities and research centers. In this regard, as president of the Biocat Board of Trustees, I’m extremely proud of the work this organization has done in these dark months of crisis, reinforcing its solid history of success over the past 15 years. In recent months. Biocat has further strengthened its positive influence on organizing, dynamizing, connecting, promoting and activating all the stakeholders in the ecosystem to combat the pandemic. A massive task that has undoubtedly helped maximize the global impact of research and innovation in the life sciences and healthcare in Catalonia.

Biocat’s merit is inseparable from the skills, talents and initiative of the research and innovation institutions in Catalonia, as is clear in the fact that Barcelona is ranked ninth among European cities in number of scientific publications, according to the 2020 Nature Index. All of this shows we have huge potential, and that is why we have to continue working together to close the circle and transform the commitment to knowledge into social impact and economic growth.

There is absolutely no doubt that the first step is the recovery of the Catalan Ministry of Research and Universities, which must go along with significant investment in this area, taking advantage of the transformative potential of the Next Generation EU recovery funds. At the same time, we need to strengthen programs and organizations that promote cooperation in research and drive innovation, and encourage collaboration with other global ecosystems.

Faced with this challenge, the pages of this report are clear proof of the talent, energy and potential we have as a country. Ingredients that invite us to think big, filled with ambition and the desire to build a country fueled by research for the prosperity and wellbeing of all. Moved to be a country full of opportunities for all.

Mr. Pere Aragonès, President of the Generalitat de Catalunya and president of the Patronat de Biocat

Resolve, reformulate and reimagine

The year 2020 was marked on all levels by the Covid-19 pandemic. Leading an organization like Biocat, whose mission is to maximize the impact of innovation in the life sciences and healthcare, at a time like this and in a country like Catalonia that is on the cutting-edge in this field, is both an enormous incentive and an important challenge. In a permanent state of alert and incessant activity, the Biocat team has worked in all areas to contribute to what has been coined globally “the great acceleration”. I would like to use these lines of the preface to the 2020 Biocat Report to discuss three aspects that, for me, are defining and deeply decisive in what has happened over this period, in terms of the system and our organization.

I’ll start with an overview of the main global trends and the profound changes the sector has undergone, as well as how these have impacted our ecosystem and country. In 2020, research and innovation in the life sciences and healthcare moved toward three specific horizons: providing an immediate response to the crisis, facilitating the discovery or adaptation of products and processes to drive recovery, and quickly introducing the innovations obtained in order to respond to the crisis. Resolving, reformulating and reimagining to respond and recover. The BioRegion has reflected this acceleration, and has thrown itself into programs, calls and projects to combat the effects of Covid-19. The pages that follow show how Biocat has quickly activated all its means of communication, connection, acceleration and projection to respond in a way worthy of the sector.

Secondly, what happened in Europe? What opportunities has 2020 brought, and how has Biocat taken advantage of them? In this section, I include the European imperative on the twin transformation that goes along with the Next Generation EU funds. Leveraging proposals from all public and private entities in the BioRegion and Biocat’s active participation in the spaces where the projects for the Recovery and Resilience funds have been defined, has been one of the main contributions to the country’s recovery strategy. The various iterations of an exercise to analyze and prioritize have allowed us, in collaboration with the administration and the system’s institutions, to make transversal proposals to drive the sector’s competitiveness in this transitional period that we are moving into. And we’ve done so consistently through the strategic documents we’ve presented over this period, including the BioRegion of Catalonia Life Sciences and Healthcare Outlook 2020

Finally, I want to emphasize that the strategy and role of an organization like Biocat must be tied to the trends and conditioning factors of the ecosystem. With our sights set on the BioRegion and scaling it up, we’ve revised the Biocat strategic plan with a clear goal for 2023: a highly innovative, competitive, prepared Catalonia, which we have to build together among all the stakeholders in the ecosystem. Fully aligned with global trends and Europe’s challenges, the plan accentuates even more the sector’s capacities and our values of commitment, efficacy, efficiency, singularity and collaboration to maximize the social and economic impact of the life sciences and healthcare ecosystem in Catalonia, and to further consolidate the BioRegion of Catalonia as a leading ecosystem in Europe with a global impact. This report reflects how doggedly we have worked, especially in 2020, to tackle changes and achieve goals, always with a close eye on the evolution of the ecosystem.

 Jordi Naval, CEO of Biocat