Three signs Barcelona is becoming a major international hub for Big Data and Data Science and Analytics

Article de Erwan Guillotel sobre les possibilitats de Barcelona com a hub en Big Data i anàlisi de dades:

A few months ago, I have taken a radical professional U-turn to dive into this new exciting thing called Data Science. And I am glad having done so as I think I am at the right time in the right place. Indeed, here are three signs that I believe show Barcelona is becoming one of the hottest spots in the world for data lovers.

1.  Companies set in Barcelona their centre for data operations

Be it because of its permanent mild weather or because of its economic dynamism, because of its convenient location right by the Mediterranean Sea or the diverse structure of its economy, Barcelona has turned into a culturally and industrially vibrant city.

For many years now Barcelona has been a major hub for ICT and biotechnologies, two sectors that are strongly connected to big data and data science; the former for it brings the tools to handle data and the latter for it was one of the first fields to have a high demand for loads of data to be analysed. In that context, it is no surprise Barcelona had a strong expertise to offer as a hook. But the city’s broad range of industries, with big companies having their European or Spanish headquarter based there, was certainly making it the perfect lab to test these new technologies too.

In less than five years big companies like Pepsi Co., Zurich Insurance and BBVA bank set their data centre in the capital of Catalonia. Other examples include Accenture that has installed in Barcelona its Analytics Innovation Centre, its global reference in term of predictive analysis capacity. Giant agro-food Nestlé has installed its Digital Services that serve all the group’s companies around the world to design, shape and implement the strategy to communicate with clients through social media and maintain the digital platforms Nestlé uses to communicate with consumers. Very recently group Volkswagen announced it will open early in 2017 the Metropolis: Lab, a research centre managed by car manufacturer SEAT that will deal with intelligent mobility.

Privalia, King, Softonic, Gameloft, SocialPoint, Exoclick, Criteo, Wallapop, Trovit, Skyscanner, eDreams, Travelclick are just a few other examples of companies based in Barcelona that have built their success on Big Data and Data Science and Analytics. What it is more, in 2016 Barcelona was ranked the second smartest city in the world by Juniper Research. As usual, pulled by global companies’ dynamism many SMEs and start-ups also emerge and adopt new trendy technologies. Consequently, according to the European initiative EU Data Landscape, Barcelona is the place in Europe concentrating the highest number of self-declared companies linked to the sector of Big Data and Data Science and Analytics with 70 of them to date. Therefore, it is no surprise to witness that three to eight new job offers related to Big Data, Data Science and Data Analytics are published each day on LinkedIn only. That is the annual equivalent of some 1,500-2,000 jobs! The good thing is that Barcelona is prepared to feed this job market.

2.  Universities offer a variety of top-notch training

With some 175,000 students, top internationally ranked business schools ESADE and IESE but also top country universities University of Barcelona, Pompeu Fabra University and Autonomous University of Barcelona, the city is a major higher education centre.

It is no surprise to see that the above-mentioned universities already offer advanced programs in Big Data, Data Science and Data Analytics. What is really stunning is that this offer is complementary as there is not twice the same and each one targets different student profiles.

The Mathematics and Computer Science department of the University of Barcelona started in 2015 a post-graduate course on Data Science and Big Data and offers since 2016 a Master degree in Foundations of Data Science. Both programs target people willing to understand the mathematical and programming side of the discipline.

The Polytechnic University of Catalonia’s offer is focused on the hard science part as well with programs for computer scientists: a two-year master degree on Data Mining and Business Intelligence and a post-graduate course on Big Data Management and Analytics.

Economists and business-oriented minds can also find programs suited to their skills and interests, respectively the Master’s degree in Data Science of the Pompeu Fabra University and ESADE’s Master degree in Business Analytics.

This diversity is a clear asset for companies in Barcelona. Not only they can find graduate students knowledgeable in the three main aspects of data science, i.e., programming and database, mathematic modeling, and business insight, but they can also fine-tune the shape of their teams according to their needs.

3.  Barcelona hosts plenty of major related events

Finally, the third sign Barcelona is positioning as a major hub for Big Data, Data Science and Analytics is the perpetual intellectual stimulation associated with the organization of international, national and local events.

The most important event is without a doubt the Mobile World Congress that has been taken place in Barcelona since 2008. Data Science finds naturally its place in the world's largest exhibition for the mobile sector as it plays a major role in many apps.

The IoT Solutions World Congress is another major annual event where Data Science can shine. Indeed the Internet of Things relies for a large part on the analysis of the continuous flow of recorded data. Machine learning algorithms are key for IoT solutions.

Barcelona also hosts smaller events such as the Big Data Week, a festival that connects a number of global cities through locally hosted meetups, events, networking functions, data visualisation demos, debates, discussion and hackathons. The events are designed to provide a platform to educate, inform and inspire – organised by people who are passionate and knowledgeable about data.

In 2016, the city also hosted the Neural Information Processing Systems conference, a major event on machine learning and computational neuroscience.

But not everything is about big international events and the local community is also very active. Several groups organize periodic meetups, conferences and datathons. This is the case for instance of the DataBeersBCN and BCN analytics which allow Big Data lovers from around the city to present solutions and exchange ideas.


In a nutshell, Barcelona now gathers enough companies, universities, experience and success stories for other companies to benefit from the momentum and definitively convert the city into a strong and solid international hub for Big Data and Data Science and Analytics.

Do you agree with me? Do you see other clues that defend my thesis? I would be glad to hear your view on the matter. Do not hesitate to comment and share this post.