The RMB accounts for more than 80% of all European patents registered in Catalonia, and almost a third of the total for the whole of Spain


The Pacte Industrial of the Barcelona Metropolitan Region presented on 7 May the study “Technological Innovation in the RMB: Location and Technology of European Patents”, which becomes the 12th Pacte Industrial Dossier. The presentation was held in the auditorium of the Professional Association of Economists of Catalonia, within the context of a roundtable on innovation, involving Carles Ruiz, President of the Executive Committee of the Pacte Industrial and Mayor of Viladecans; Julià Manzanas, Economist and Vice-President of the Knowledge Economy and Innovation Commission of the Professional Association of Economists of Catalonia: Jordi Roig, President of the Pacte Industrial Innovation Commission, and representative of PIMEC; Toni Vilajoana, Director of Intellectual Property and Exploitation at Indo Optical, and Vittorio Galletto, Head of the Economics Area of the IERMB (Barcelona Institute of Regional and Metropolitan Studies) and Director of the Pacte Industrial study.

The aim of the study is to classify and map innovative technological activity registered within the Barcelona Metropolitan Region, using European patents as an indicator, with the aim of contributing to an enhancement of the design of public policies to support innovation. The study, which considers the aggregate data over the period 2005-2012, classified patents in five technological sectors (chemistry, mechanical engineering, electricity/electronics, instruments and other sectors) and located them on various maps.


The RMB region registered, over the period 2005-2012, 2,677 European patents according to the address of the inventor, and 2,373 according to the address of the applicant, representing more than 80% of the total for Catalonia, and almost a third of those for Spain as a whole. Nonetheless, the study indicates that the rest of Spain is evolving more positively than Catalonia and the RMB in terms of European patents.

The municipality of Barcelona registers the greatest number of patents (961), as would be expected given its population mass and the number of companies based in Barcelona. Barcelona is furthermore the location of numerous university research centres and both public and private technology centres which likewise play a key innovative role. Other notable municipalities include Sant Cugat del Vallès (185 patents), Martorell (87 patents), Cerdanyola del Vallès (86 patents) and Terrassa (83 patents). However, when one links the number of patents per municipality to their respective populations, one finds that Barcelona is no longer the leader (597 patents per million inhabitants), and is overtaken by smaller municipalities which nonetheless have significant enterprise structures, such as Palau-solità i Plegamans (4,394 patents / million inhabitants), Sant Just Desvern (4,213 patents / million inhabitants) and Martorell (3,305 patents / million inhabitants).


As regards the technological specialisation of patents, the chemicals sector occupies a clearly prominent role in the RMB, followed by mechanical engineering. More specifically, the key technological fields are pharmaceutical products and processed organic products (which account for more than 50% of the total for Spain as a whole) within the chemicals sector, and transport in the case of mechanical engineering.

The technological specialisation of the RMB differs from the rest of Spain, where civil engineering predominates (construction and public works), followed by mechanical engineering sectors (transport), chemicals (pharmaceutical products) and electricity/electronics (digital communication). The technological specialisation of both Barcelona and Spain differs slightly from global technological specialisation, where the dominant specialist sector is electricity/electronics, with information technology taking the lead, followed by the chemicals and chemical engineering sectors.


A link is found between the leading export sectors (vehicle manufacturing, chemical industry and manufacturing of pharmaceutical products) and the leading technological fields of European patents, such as pharmaceutical products and other chemical products, and mechanical engineering transport technology and medical technology. In other words, in these fields technological innovation, and as a result efforts dedicated to research and development, prove a source of international competitiveness on the part of enterprises.


1. Support for competitiveness demands that local institutions facilitate access by enterprises to sources of funding to cover the costs of patent registration.

In general, local institutions should be facilitating contact with entities with funding capability, not only financial entities, but also other investors interested in financing innovation and new, rapidly growing enterprises.

2. Local authorities have a key role in leading and driving the development of elaboration networks among enterprises and knowledge creation centres.

The need is for authorities to act as the catalysts of networks for collaboration among enterprises as a means of overcoming the limitations imposed by the relatively small size of businesses. Such networks for collaboration must furthermore not be limited to establishing contact among companies alone, but also knowledge creation centres, in particular universities, while also fully engaging technology centres. Local authorities should be playing a lead promotional role in particular in those cases where enterprise-knowledge centre networks do not arise spontaneously, so as to overcome reticence and deal with the initial costs perceived by businesses.

3. Preparing local authorities for a smart regional specialisation strategy.

Lastly, it is important to take into consideration the new strategic focus which the European Commission aims to implement over the period 2014-2020 with regard to the distribution of Structural Funds. The criteria for the distribution of funds dedicated to R&D+i will prioritise those sectors in which each region demonstrates a competitive edge, known as the “smart specialisation strategy”. Smart specialisation means identifying the key characteristics and assets of each region, underlining their competitive advantages and grouping local agents together around a vision of their future as they work towards excellence. The existence and validation by the European Commission of such local strategies is a  precondition for access to the Structural Funds (European Regional Development Funds) in the field of R&D+i over the period 2014-2020. This means underpinning a bottom-up focus in which strategic priorities in the field of research and innovation will be identified at the local level, thereby making the role of local authorities vital.

The study clearly identifies the profile of technological excellence of the Barcelona Metropolitan Region, representing a valid starting point in order to allow local institutions in the region to devise their own research and innovation specialisation strategy in order thereby to map out a smart future.


Press release (in Catalan)

Pacte Industrial Dossier 12 (in Catalan)

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