Barcelona City Council has transformed this industrial area into one of Europe’s more salient technology hubs.
Ca l’Alier, a former factory turned urban innovation hub, was the starting point for the penultimate activity of the Indian Leaders Programme 2019. The building sums up the purpose of the 22@ District, an initiative of Barcelona City Council to renovate and modernise the former Poblenou industrial area, which is currently home to media, ICT, energy, design and healthcare clusters.
David Martínez, Head of the project, guided the Indian delegation around the district. He explained that Ca l’Alier was the first urban innovation hub in Barcelona. It stands on the grounds of a former textile factory which was refurbished in partnership with tech company Cisco.
“The idea was to create a hub around Cisco’s innovation centre” to renovate a part of the city that was obsolete. That was the first step in a project which, in barely two decades, has managed to “attract almost 5,000 companies and create more than 50,000 jobs.”
The project’s development was supported on four pillars: the City Council, the companies, the district’s residents and the universities. “We propose task forces with experts in the relevant areas (technology, urban planning and so on) and combine the main elements. Once we have a common vision, we draft a master plan and sign an agreement.”
On top of visiting Ca l’Alier, the Indian experts took a walk around the district to get to know the area and its specific characteristics. The visit took them to Casa Asia, part of a network of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where they held another meeting. During the tour, David Martínez told them about the 22@ District refurbishing process and gave some details on processes such as the expansion of pedestrian areas to reduce road traffic, and the creation of business hubs.
“At first it was hard to recruit companies. It was the Mayor who talked universities and large corporations such as RTVE, Mediapro and Indra into it.” The presence of these companies acted as a magnet to attract others to the district.