A thousand-year history and a spirit of innovation

© Christian Maury
A class in the Cibernàrium MediaTIC building, in the 22@ district.

We entered 2013 with leaden feet, little joy, and a sense of caution imposed by the crisis. But this year’s Mobile World Congress is once more about to turn Barcelona into the epicentre of technological innovation. The city is teeming with creative young entrepreneurs, companies with new ideas and people working in ICT and new apps, driven by the hope of opening a new window in mobile devices worldwide. Barcelona has recovered the spirit of drive, strength and creativity that started with the 19th-century Renaixença (renaissance), when it left behind political and military strife to become an international centre of culture, art and progress, opening a period that was only curtailed by the Spanish Civil War and the long dictatorship. Barcelona is now teeming with energy again. It is inspiring the world again. Twenty years after the Olympic Games, its leadership is still growing. Barcelona is a source of inspiration.

We are on the threshold of a new economy based on the ability to connect people and build communities, an area in which Barcelona excels. A new paradigm of productivity is now ineluctably bringing out new collaborations in a world in which information and all the goods that go with it are circulating at breakneck speed. This new model of connectivity also extends to the relationships that are forged by cities. All transactions, whether economic or cultural, are more open than they have ever been. The possibilities arising from the internationalization of creativity are also more real. We live in a world of sovereign cities that draw a new world map of large metropolises that are increasingly emancipated from the boundaries of their respective states.

On this emerging map, Barcelona has earned a unique place through its own merits, accepting the Spain brand with neither antagonism nor submission as one that is widely known and full of obvious attributes. As is stated in the magazine’s central dossier, the prolific business incubator Barcelona Activa helps to set up companies that are able to introduce new realities and play a decisive role in entrepreneurship and innovation.

© Christian Maury
A classroom at the Almogàvers Business Factory.

Barcelona’s status as a first-class tourist destination and a cultural and technological hub make it a recognizable name worldwide. And this international fame cannot only be attributed to Gaudí or to the recent achievements of the Barcelona Football Club. Rather, it reflects a strong and deep-rooted personality, as Jordi Graupera shows by tracing the references to the city that have appeared in The New Yorker since the 1920s.

In response to the trials of history Barcelona has rebuilt itself and redefined its identity. That is why it has many layers, as we can see now in the magnificent Archaeological Map of Barcelona (http://cartaarqueologica.bcn.cat), an amazing virtual map that the City Council offers to anyone who wants to trace the layers of history. The present-day city also has many layers. Alongside the elite entrepreneurs attending the Mobile World Congress, there are people who have been left behind by the crisis and are threatened with social exclusion. Barcelona must indeed be connected to the world, but it must not lose touch with its own community, especially now that there are groups and neighbourhoods that need help to get off the ground. Social entrepreneurship is therefore an essential need, but it also offers the opportunity to create businesses aimed at combating the crisis and social ills. Social entrepreneurs aim to create fully sustainable and even profitable businesses that help the most vulnerable members of society. In this area, too, Barcelona is setting an example of leadership.

It is a vibrant and inspiring capital that is in the process of transformation. And the magazine Barcelona Metròpolis is again making an effort to document its energy in Catalan, Spanish and English, because it wishes to reconnect the city with the thread of hope and to spread the news at home and wherever it may be required.

Marc Puig i Guàrdia

Director of Communications and Citizen Service

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