Misc 03/06/2016

Catalonia leads Europe’s big data

With over 50 organisations and data mining centres, Barcelona beats cities such as London

Júlia Manresa
3 min
Catalonia leads Europe’s big data

BarcelonaThe big data boom as a key tool for business growth and development in several sectors is skyrocketing in Catalonia. The map drawn by the European Commission shows that Catalonia is one of the European regions with the highest concentration of companies and institutions working with big data. To be precise, there are 57 such initiatives in Catalonia, 50 of which are located in Barcelona, a figure which exceeds London’s (48), Brussels’ (55) and Madrid’s (42).

The Commission has unveiled these figures as part of the Data Landscape initiative, which aims to measure every agent involved in the data-based economy. That’s why the map includes both firms whose business is entirely based on services or selling information from big data mining, as well as research centres, public institutions and other subservient companies who depend largely on big data.

It’s worth noting that this is a work in progress; that is, companies and organisations are expected to register with the database of their own accord. For this reason —and considering that the registry is less than one year old— there could well be a larger number of big data companies in capitals such as London which might not have registered yet. Nevertheless, big data expert Bea Domènech —who works in Barcelona’s Big Data Centre for Excellence (a Eurecat and Oracle initiative)— explains that the capital of Catalonia has “a very active community around this sector and is positioning itself as the European leader”. Domènech notes that the ecosystem that has arisen around big data has played a big part in the decision by large multinational firms such as Nestlé, BBVA and Oracle itself to choose Barcelona as the city that will host their own big data centres. “Also, we mustn’t forget that Barcelona hosts international events like the Mobile World Congress, the Sónar music festival, the Smart City Expo and Strata+Hadoop”, she adds.

According to Data Landscape, there are 57 big data firms and organisations in Catalonia, whereas in the rest of Spain there are 42. Most of them are located in and around Barcelona and Madrid.

The choice of multinational firms

Besides Nestlé and Zurich’s choice of Barcelona as the city where they intend to set up their big data innovation centres, other multinationals have picked Catalonia, too; for instance, IBM, HP and T-Systems, which decided to invest in the Barcelona Datacenter Cluster several years ago, a project that is located within Parc de l’Alba in Cerdanyola del Vallès (north of Barcelona city). In fact, these companies have agreed to spend up to €118m in the construction of several data and cloud computing centres in the area.

In addition, there is another magnet that explains Catalonia’s european leadership: Barcelona city’s 22@ district, a cluster of companies and initiatives that exploit data-based economy such as Indra, Mediapro’s Imagina, Mobile World Capital and Big Data Coe, as well as various start-ups and other ICT companies.

The goal of this portal —which receives EU backing— is to assess and measure the data-based economy in Europe and to become a worldwide reference point for specialist firms in this field. Marc Torrent, president of the Big Data CoE centre, explains that for this reason the centre began its job of recording all these initiatives in Catalonia. “The activity of the 57 registered companies encompasses every tech area to do with data mining, storage, management, analysis and visualisation”, says Torrent. All the registered bodies, businesses and organisations add some value —in their own way— to the data economy chain.

In recent years data management has become not merely a new business sector for tech start-ups, but also for traditional sectors such as supermarkets, which have begun collecting or using third-party data to improve their bottom line. Some supermarkets, for instance, use such data to offer discounts and promotions.