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Attract and connect: The 22@Barcelona innovation district and the internationalization of Barcelona business

Innovation is frequently cited as the battleground of international competitiveness in the 21st century and cities are increasingly viewed as the cauldrons of innovation, enriching not only their surrounding regions but their nations as a whole. Across the globe massive renewal is taking place in our cities infrastructure to support a highly networked, knowledge-based economy. At the same time there are fundamental shifts occurring in the nature of work and the workplaces our cities host, as well as transformation of the outputs of industry with the growth knowledge based economy as well as patterns of consumption that are services based. Cities are competing with one another to attract not only firms and direct foreign investment, but also skilled knowledge workers to develop their social capital and capacity for innovation. But is the attraction of top talent the crucial ingredient. In this study we examine the transformation of Barcelona and its historic cotton district to become an international hub of innovation. The author highlights the importance of not only attracting talent but crucially connecting that talent with local firms and social and cultural institutions. The paper describes the actions required by city agencies, and as a result of its recommendations with regard to Barcelona, the city agencies transformed their programmes for attracting and connecting talent, created online services, BCNInternational, as well as supported the deployment of international clubs, Gild, and transformed their “landing” programme to assist international people and business ventures setting up in Barcelona’s new 22@district to connect with innovative local firms and institutions