How urban fabric fosters knowledge transfer and innovation: the example of Barcelona
In recent years, Barcelona has focused on research and innovation as pillars of urban economic development. The study 'Geographies of innovation' aims to assess the urban conditions for a suitable implementation of innovative initiatives. Beyond their individual success, the impact of research and innovation facilities is evaluated on an urban scale.
Barcelona has more than 700 innovative startups, leader companies and research centers focusing primarily in the areas of new technologies, health and digital fabrication. One of the strengths of this model is the apparently uniform distribution of innovation facilities throughout the city. Urban and environmental conditions (compactness, good communication, cheap rentals, diversity of local services, etc.) influence the location of innovative initiatives, although these conditions are not always decisive -each activity requires certain specific conditions.
Innovation occurs around leader companies and research centers according to three spatial models: line, along main civic axes; network as the 22 @ district and centers, in research clusters and university campuses. In the first two cases, despite reflecting opposite situations (an area that concentrates representativeness and economic power with respect to a district with low rentals and large premises), innovative initiatives take advantage of centrality and mixed-use. However, research campuses are not always able to bring together a significant number of initiatives as often university facilities are placed in areas with less favorable urban conditions.
In this sense, the innovation ecosystem of Barcelona, based on a diverse and compact urban fabric that enables a positive transference of innovation and knowledge to different parts of the city, could become a reference for other urban areas.