Transforming Barcelona: The Success Story of 22@Barcelona Innovation District

How Strategic Planning and Collaborative Efforts Turned an Industrial District into a Hub of Innovation and Creativity
+4,500
companies established in the district
70%
of industrial areas regenerated
3 million
square meters of new productive, collaborative, and housing spaces developed

What was the goal?

The goal of the 22@Barcelona project was to transform the industrial district of Poblenou into a knowledge-based, innovative, and productive urban area. This transformation aimed to position Barcelona as a leader in technological innovation in Europe. The overarching objectives were to regenerate the underperforming downtown neighborhood, accelerate Barcelona's transition into the knowledge economy, and attract innovative companies and workers. The problem addressed was the decline of the industrial district and the need for economic revitalization and urban renewal.

Solution:

  1. Urban Planning Initiatives: The project involved extensive modifications to zoning laws (MPGM22@), introducing mixed-use zoning to replace the industrial zoning. This included creating diverse, dense, and compact urban spaces that integrated productive activities, research centers, residential areas, and urban facilities.
  2. Productive Clusters: A cluster-based urban development approach was adopted, focusing on media, ICT, medical technologies, energy, and later design. These clusters aimed to create competitive international positions for each sector, supported by infrastructure such as the Barcelona Growth Center and Barcelona Activa.
  3. Collaborative Efforts: The innovation district promoted collaboration through the triple helix model, involving private companies, universities, and public institutions. Initiatives like 22@ Synergys, 22@ Urban Labs, and 22@ Networking facilitated interaction and knowledge exchange among diverse actors.
  4. Creative Regeneration: Efforts were made to attract the creative class by preserving historical buildings, promoting architectural diversity, and creating a 24/7 live-work-play environment. This included converting old factories into lofts, museums, and public spaces, and organizing cultural events and activities.

Results:

The 22@Barcelona project successfully regenerated over 70% of the industrial areas in Poblenou, resulting in the creation of more than 3 million square meters of new productive, collaborative, and housing spaces. It attracted 4,500 companies, transforming the district into a desirable location for innovative and creative companies and workers. The project's success has made it a model for other cities, including Boston, Medellín, and Montréal.

Summing up

The 22@Barcelona case study exemplifies how strategic urban planning, productive clustering, collaborative initiatives, and creative regeneration can transform an underperforming industrial district into a thriving innovation hub. The project not only revitalized the local economy but also positioned Barcelona as a leader in technological innovation, providing a framework for other cities to follow in developing their own innovation districts.

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