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Cities get a new look – case two, Barcelona

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Cities get a new look – case two, Barcelona

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Barcelona: knowledge-based economy in the city. 19th-century factories preserved amidst 21st-century clusters.

As said on my last post, ? propos de Paris, Citybranding is not just image. It also implies all the values my company will benefit from, all those values that one can breathe in a city when it comes to culture, talent, professionalism, tradition, quality of life…

Today let’s talk about Barcelona: the city where I write from, 16,843.40 kilometres away. Barcelona has the aforementioned values and I don’t just say so because it is my city. I say so because according to a recent investigation conducted by the Barcelona Centre de Disseny, 75% of Catalan companies use the Barcelona city brand to boost their own brands and products and to back their export and internationalisation processes.

A city brand not only allows promotion abroad but also attracts investment. As previously mentioned, the study European Cities Monitor 2009 places Barcelona fourth among best European cities for business, after London, Paris and Frankfurt. The 1992 Olympic Games put Barcelona’s creativity and professionalism on the international map. Ever since and despite not being Spain’s capital, Barcelona has known how to play its cards. We know for example that multinational companies will settle their Spanish office in Madrid to be closer to the central government and civil services. Barcelona, on the other side, attracts more design and R&D centers. That’s the case of Renault, Volvo, HP and Alstom. Barcelona’s strength in design deploys in fashion, industrial and management. As stated by the European Commission, “design is a driver for user-centered innovation”.

Its architectural and cultural richness also contributes to making Barcelona a sexy city. And authorities take advantage of this profile to make Barcelona the most and best promoted European city (European Cities Monitor 2009).

I think that Barcelona reflects very well what guru Richard Florida describes as “creative class”. Florida considers this creative class to be a decisive economic force for the 21st century.

Creative class is made of knowledge-based professionals (healthcare, business, law, education, etc.) and of professionals directly linked to creativity such as scientists, writers, researchers, artists and designers. Talent, technology and tolerance are according to Florida the three “Ts” that metropolis need to gather to attract more capital. The fourth T is the distinctive flair of each territory, the particular atmosphere that stems from its architectural, natural and psychological assets.

Barcelona includes all these factors, including an atmosphere which “pervades and benefits companies” and the city’s competitive strategy is based on boosting all these assets to reach their best performance.

Signs of Barcelona’s investment in innovation include its new airport terminal. The new infrastructure drastically changed the airport’s capacity and reputation and is already considered a management best practice. Another example is the so-called 22@, a whole urban district turned into a new world center for knowledge-based economy. Located in a formerly industrial neighborhood, the 22@ brings economic activity back into the city trough five different urban clusters: media, information and communication technologies, design, energy and medical technologies. Similar to the project Paris wants to finish by 2030, the 22@ brings together leading universities, public services, entrepreneurs’ organizations, business angels and private investors all in one urban district. Using intelligent urbanism, the city created an entrepreneurial atmosphere reminiscent of Silicon Valley but in a Mediterranean city.

Among the 22@ futuristic buildings, chimneys of the old textile fabrics have been kept and signposted as cultural heritage. Their message is two-fold: entrepreneurial spirit is deeply rooted in the local culture and locals want to preserve such culture.

Taking care of all these aspects reinforces a city’s personality and make for a powerful city brand. I invite you all to experience it for yourself!

Speak soon,
Pau

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