“There’s no doubt that, with figures in hand, the 21st century will go down in history as the century of cities. Barcelona is the reference smart city in the Mediterranean, and that’s one of the reasons why it’s appealing for many foreign professionals. But a nice weather and a beautiful architecture do not guarantee success for a city.
You must be ready and open for welcoming talents; otherwise, entrepreneurs will go anywhere else.”
We meet Mateu Hernández at his office on the Diagonal Avenue in Barcelona. His company, Barcelona Global, performs a specific activity within the scenario of all activities carried out by a city to be really smart: attracting talents and enable their activity and development. How? Creating connection networks between businessmen and institutions, enabling the exchange of ideas, and keeping an eye on cities worldwide.
“If I had to define Barcelona Global,”, says Hernández, “I would say that it is a private organization with the goal of turning Barcelona into one of the best cities worldwide in four key areas: more friendly for the international community; more business-friendly; creating business opportunities; and last but not least, developing the Barcelona brand overseas.”
Four smart goals indeed, as Mateu Hernández underlined during a recent roundtable in Barcelona, where he focused his speak on the risk posed by this adjective (smart), widely used to describe modern cities, since it can be considered a fad. After supplying figures and city growth forecasts, Hernández concluded that, far from being a fad, is just a key issue to understand the future. “The starting point is that unquestionably, figures in hand, the 21st century will go down in history as the century of cities. Firstly, it’s a fact related to civilization itself, and particularly with the presence of real economy in the cities.”
“At Barcelona Global we all feel part of the motto ‘Make it happen’”
From this basis, Barcelona Global seeks talents to come to even more open cities to become business centres. “Our members,” explains Hernández, “are both local and foreign, and we call them ‘Barcelonian by birth’ and ‘Barcelonian by choice’, respectively. They are 400 businessmen, 30 big companies and a group of 55 formed by smaller companies, institutions and business schools. We all feel part of the motto ‘Make it happen’”.
The key points
What must a city do to attract talent? What are the key points? “Foreign investments encouraged by fair taxes, foreigners integrated by means of networking and events, and suitable infrastructures too, among other requirements”, answers Hernández, who adds, about Barcelona: “A nice weather and a beautiful architecture do not guarantee success for a city. You must be ready and open for welcoming talents; otherwise, entrepreneurs will go anywhere else.”
For a city like his to be developed, Mateu Hernández points the integration between Barcelonians ‘by birth’ and ‘by choice’: “Barcelona is the reference smart city in the Mediterranean, and for this same reason it’s appealing for many foreign professionals. In order to know in depth the requirements posed by businessmen, R&D centres researchers, investors and creators, among others, who live and work in Barcelona, we have launched the International Talent Monitor project, with the goal of improving their integration in our city’s social and job structures. All of this is made through a monitoring operation on which each Barcelonian buy choice has been able, maybe for the first time, to influence strategic decisions towards the city of the future.”
Barcelona Global’s activity includes different issues and analyses the city under different approaches. One of the projects already implemented is the development of a mobile app for businessmen or foreign professionals who live or travel to Barcelona on business. It’s the Barcelona by Barcelona project that recommends places to visit, eat and buy in the city.
“It’s a way for foreigners to know that Barcelona is an open city for business and talent. It’s not only devoted to tourism, but it has also charming spaces that make of living as a resident or as a visitor, a unique experience”, he states. The project wants to underline that successful tourism destinations are at risk of becoming casualties of a global homogeneity that weakens a city’s personality. Avoiding this to happen is a very important task, since around half of the 8 million people visiting Barcelona every year, come to the city on business –trade fairs, conferences, meetings, etc.
“The International Talent Monitor project tries to improve the integration of our city’s social and job structures”
“For them,” explains Hernández, “we have developed an app by which the visitor will be able to know some singular places in Barcelona to eat, buy or visit, chosen by around seventy members of the city’s business and entrepreneurial community.” The result? This payment app reached 20,000 downloads during the first twelve months; an agreement has also been signed with Fira de Barcelona, Convention Bureau and Aena.
Expanding the focus, which is, according to Mateu Hernández, the ideal smart city? “My ideal smart city has Tokyo’s public transportation, Hong Kong’s subway service, and regarding sustainability, we have several examples in Scandinavia. For its part, Barcelona has the advantage of being a city with a nice weather and sea, which can be strong point to choose the best city for business.”