Administrations, institutions and companies are looking for projects to qualify for EU aid
The clock is already ticking. Catalan administrations and companies, like those of the rest of Spain, have started a six-month race against the clock, the month of April is the top, to try to capture part of the 140,000 million euros that the European Union is willing to inject into Spain to through the Next Generation EU of the European Recovery Fund. Projects parked in drawers due to lack of funding have emerged, others that were being outlined are being developed and many companies, especially large ones, are already working on how to benefit from the new mana designed to accelerate the exit from the crisis and the transformation of the European economy. The Generalitat believes that Catalonia should receive around 30,000 million (to be spent in five years), the equivalent of its annual budget.
“We have an opportunity to make a change in model, and that is vital, but first we have to know what model we want for Catalonia”, Joan Canadell, president of the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, says by way of complaint. The EU has put together a system that enables four times the resources offered by the EU in the last five years. And they will be eligible for varied projects, but based on the trends set from Brussels: green economy, digitization and biosciences, among others. Whatever they are, they will all have to be channeled by the central government, despite repeated requests from the Generalitat to want to manage the resources that it considers should fall to Catalonia. This is a selection made among a dozen administrations and institutions consulted.
Electric car. It is one of the most anticipated projects. Seat has announced its intention to manufacture electric vehicles in Martorell as of 2025. “European funds can serve to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles, and maintain and strengthen the automobile industry in Spain,” say company sources, who affirm working on projects with other companies. The hole that Nissan will leave from 2022 in the Free Zone is another opportunity that different institutions are considering. The Cluster of the Automotive Industry is developing a project on sustainable mobility that could be installed in that area and will have it ready in weeks.
Electric batteries and hydrogen. The construction of a battery factory in Catalonia has been a priority for the administrations for a couple of years as an anchor for the whole of the automotive industry —Seat considers it essential. The Korean LG Chem and the French Schneider Electric are studying its implementation in Barcelona. In any case there are other initiatives. The electric motorcycle manufacturer Silence has two projects to boost its business based on the manufacture of battery cells: one is based on the automation of its battery pack assembly line, to go from 10,000 to 50,000 units per year in three years; the other is the creation of a new business based on battery rental through the creation of centers in cities where vehicle batteries can be changed when it is not possible to recharge them. The Automotive Cluster is also working on a project to develop both electric batteries and fuel cells, based on the use of hydrogen.
Chip design. The Barcelona Super Computing Center (BSC), whose greatest asset is the MareNostrum supercomputer, wants to lead the European chip project. “Europe has a problem, and that is that it is not technologically independent, we depend a lot on the US and China,” explains Josep Maria Martorell, associate director of the BSC. One of the projects to change it is the European chip, a processor designed for supercomputers. “The research phase is quite advanced, now the second step is missing, which is to be able to design and prototype a chip,” Martorell points out. The global investment for this project is around 500 million euros, and the BSC intends to attract around 100 million of initial public investment and lead this project.
Technology companies. Barcelona Tech City, an association that represents more than 1,200 companies in the technological field, estimates that it will need about 50 million euros to undertake three large projects and they are already preparing their candidacy. The first project to be presented by the association is to promote an “urban campus”. Barcelona Tech City already has two large spaces where it houses hundreds of emerging companies, the so-called Pier, and will add the space of the Post Office building. The second project is to create accelerators of startup to generate an ecosystem for attracting investment funds and venture capital. And the third project is to create an education campus “to tackle the problem of youth unemployment with training in new technologies.” The Consortium of the Free Zone is also proposing to request funds to promote its accelerators of companies based on 3D printing and Industry 4.0.
Aerospace sector. The Chamber of Barcelona plans to create an aerospace center for launching small satellites at the now underused Alguaire (Lleida) airport, taking advantage of the ecosystem formed by almost thirty companies existing in Catalonia.
Green energy generation. Catalonia is at the tail of the generation of renewable energy. Both the Department of Territory and the Chamber of Commerce want to take advantage of the roof of public facilities and warehouses located in industrial estates to install photovoltaic panels and reduce the environmental footprint in electricity generation.
5G. The development of the new generation of mobile telephony is on everyone’s lips. Partly because Barcelona is the headquarters of the Mobile World Congress and has to be in the forefront and because it is the city where one of the main European operators of telecommunications sites is, Cellnex, which warns that it is preparing projects to present to the European Union .
Water. Climate change is beginning to leave its mark on the Mediterranean coast, where water management has become a major problem. The Generalitat wants to bring a water reuse project to Europe (it is expected to invest 150 million), the expansion of the Tordera desalination plant to triple its capacity and the creation of a new facility in the area of Foix (Penedès).
Hospital infrastructure. The adaptation of reference hospitals is one of the most pressing demands for the health sector. “The most urgent case is the Clinic, which is among the 20 most important hospitals in the world and you see it and it makes you suffer,” explains the president of the Barcelona College of Physicians, Jaume Padrós. The Clinic has been trying for years to find a location to expand its facilities, but it is not the only one: the Vall d’Hebron hospital also has a project underway to renovate part of its buildings and grow on the other side of the Ronda de Dalt; at the other end of Barcelona, the Hospital del Mar is also starting to get small. “With the cuts, the investment chapter in hospitals became obsolete, and it must be recovered. But not only in the metropolitan area, but also throughout the territory in order to retain talent. We must achieve a territorial balance ”, Padrós ditch. The digitization of the entire health system and the incorporation of artificial intelligence in clinical practice are other urgent projects.
Applied research. Investing in scientific structures is another pending task. Padrós warns that, despite the fact that Catalonia is an attractive scientific pole, “there is no stability among researchers” and it is necessary to strengthen the attractiveness of research centers so that scientists want to stay.