An employment factory

The Barcelona Activa agency is well named indeed: in twenty years it has boosted the creation of 6,000 businesses and 15,000 workstations. It is one of the largest business incubators in Europe.

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Inside the Entrepreneuship Initiative Centre Inside the Entrepreneuship Initiative Centre


It was in 1986 that the municipality of Barcelona launched its local development agency, called Barcelona Activa. With a budget of 600,000 Euros at the beginning, in 2007 it has at its disposal a budget of 26,5 million Euros to invest in around 30 training, professional reintegration and new business support programmes. Thanks to them, nearly 100,000 people have succeeded in picking up work! Thus, 14,000 unemployed people have received theoretical and practical training which has enabled them to be recruited, notably in the regeneration of 45 sites in Barcelona, including the Farinera building.
For the mayor, Jordi Hereu, 'behind all these impressive programmes and figures there are people, a number of whom were in very precarious situations, who are today authentic entrepreneurs’. Since its creation, Barcelona Activa has assisted step by step 11,892 business plans, of which 6,000 have come to fruition. Today, more than a thousand new plans are submitted each year, of which around half become reality, with an average of 2.4 jobs per project.
This dynamism partly explains why the growth rate of Barcelona’s GDP is higher than Spanish and European averages. Its industry consists of mechanical engineering, car manufacturing, the chemical and pharmaceutical sectors, electronics and textiles. The city is above all a centre for services (involving more than three quarters of the active population), which are heavily involved in the new information technologies, the knowledge society and innovation.

Numerous sites

What does one find at Barcelona Active? A number of sites: an entrepreneurship centre, aimed at encouraging initiative and transforming ideas into realities; the Glòries business incubator, to consolidate recently established companies, and the North Barcelona Technology Park, to ensure the competitiveness of technology based businesses; Porta 22, 200 square metres devoted to new jobs, emerging sectors and new work cultures; the Can Jaumandreu centre and the Convent de Sant Agusti, two sites to help job seekers better adapt their professional profile to the needs of businesses; the Ca n’Andalet centre, for greater insertion into the knowledge society; the Cibernarium, in which the world of the Internet has been transformed into a development tool for businesses and individuals.
As for BarcelonaNetActiva, this is a virtual incubator which offers online services for the setting up of businesses, a virtual business school for entrepreneurs and a space for business cooperation.
The Business Incubator and the Technology Park have up until today welcomed 574 businesses. For Maravillas Rojo, the president of Barcelona Activa and a municipal advisor with responsibility for employment and innovation, ‘we can teach people to become entrepreneurs. Being rich is not essential; neither is counting on a family tradition or on the fact that one’s father is an entrepreneur.’ On condition, she says, that people remain open to adapting to changes of all kinds.

European networks

Along with Milan, Dublin and Munich, Barcelona is a member of the PANEL network (Pyrenean-Alpine Network of Entrepreneurial Liaisons), one of the thematic networks generated by the PAXIS Pilot Action (Pilot Action of Excellence for Innovative Start-ups), supported by the European Commission up until 2005. These cities have been declared ‘European regions of excellence’, as have other PAXIS cities. Today Barcelona Activa is a stakeholder in numerous European projects, including EurOffice Services (internationalisation of businesses), Invesat and Detect-It (public-private financing), or the Urbal and @lis (with Latin America) programmes.


To generate and consolidate innovative businesses remains Barcelona Activa's priority, with the corollary of that being the creation of new wealth and thus new jobs. The target is: making active the groups of people that have the highest levels of unemployment and the lowest proportions of non-salaried jobs, in other words immigrants, women and people over the age of 40. 'We are placing the emphasis on training and networks', says Maravillas Rojo, 'but we must develop a more proactive approach and complete our range of services in order to affect these groups. Links with universities will also be strengthened in order to accelerate the development of businesses created by spin-offs'. That is the only way for Barcelona Activa to remain, as she says, 'this engine for jobs for the city and the country’.

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