Research into strengths and weaknesses of the candidate cities to host the EMA headquarters, exposes bias in Spanish government’s treatment of Catalonia

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Photo: Ranking of cities shortlisted for EMA headquarters (KPMG)

Editor’s Note: In the light of recent news that the EMA headquarters will not be moving to Barcelona, due to the continuing uncertainty in the political situation, it is worth reviewing the nature of the arguments for and against Barcelona. 

It’s interesting to note, in analysing the 2017 KPMG report examing the relative strengths and weaknesses of each candidate city, that the strengths Barcelona is praised for, are responsibilities of the Generalitat de Catalunya, the Diputacio de Barcelona (Regional Government) and the City of Barcelona government.  The disadvantages of weaknesses listed, all fall under the responsibility of the central Spanish government, (flight connections, to BCN, the % of the national economy dedicated to R&D, and Spain’s position on global anti-corruption rankings). The more cynical observer would argue  these moves on the part of the central government, displaying infrastructural bias outside of Catalunya, are historical trends, and intentionally devised to weaken the Catalan economy.  More moderate observers would still concede that at best, they illustrate the qualitative differences between Catalan and Spanish governance, as perceived by important international economic actors.

What follows is the analysis undertaken by KPMG, summarised in an article in El Global, from earlier this year.   


By Marta Riesgo, Madrid, 7th May 2017

There are many cities hoping to be able to host the next official headquarters of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), but not all meet the requirements. KPMG has written a detailed report in which it analyzes the main weaknesses and strengths of the candidates. Through a points system, the consultant ranks those considered to have the most chance of winning.

The parameters analyzed in the report were: size and dynamism of the Life Science sector; research and scientific environment; connectivity and infrastructures; political stability, violence, terrorism and corruption, and quality of life.

In this way, comparing the 16 cities studied by the consultant, six emerged with a higher score: Paris, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Munich, Amsterdam and Berlin. None of these cities registered a lower parameter of the 8 points, which, according to KPMG, places them as favorites in the race to host the venue. Their large airports, the quality of life and work opportunities for workers’ families were some of the reasons that gave rise to these scores.

Paris registers the highest score in the size and dynamism of the Life Science sector, and also leads the ranking of connectivity. For its part, Copenhagen leads the ranking in terms of the research and scientific environment, as well as the quality of life it offers. Stockholm also stands out for its political stability. The quality of life offered by Munich, together with the research and scientific environment, place it in fourth place. Amsterdam follows, with a great score in connectivity.

In the second group of cities, Vienna, Lyon, Bonn, Dublin, Brussels and Barcelona stand out. Although the score of some parameters is lower than the first group of cities, the consultant ensures that these municipalities offer good opportunities for a successful relocation. Here is Barcelona, ​​the main Spanish candidate.

The study makes an extensive review of the strengths and weaknesses of this application. Thus, in the first parameter, size and dynamism of the Life Science sector, KPMG points out that Spain allocates only 1.2 percent of its GDP to R&D and that R&D spending in the business sector was only 0.6 percent of GDP. On the other hand, good facilities stand out, with universities and centers with great international prestige.

Regarding the research and scientific environment, Barcelona stands out for having a high percentage of graduates and qualified professionals in the sector. In addition, it shows the presence of pharmaceutical companies in the city and its surroundings and highlights its pipeline, with 117 drugs in development throughout the country.

Political environment

Regarding the political environment, the report highlights the presence of the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS), which has 480 employees. On the other hand, KPMG asserts that that Spain is ranked 41st (out of a total of 167) of the Global Transparency and Anti-Corruption ranking and obtains a score of 0.3 in the ranking of political stability and terrorism established by the World Bank.

Barcelona gets an average score in terms of connectivity. It has approximately 1,600 flights per week that connect with European capitals and 190 that connect with other countries outside the EU. In addition, of the 39 European locations, Barcelona has a daily connection (with a morning flight and a night flight) with six capitals. The hotel capacity is one of the strong points of the municipality, since it has 13 five-star hotels, 47 four-star hotels and 98 three-star hotels.

The quality of life of the municipality is also a remarkable point of the Spanish candidate. It is ranked 39th out of 230, of the best cities to live. In addition, Spain has achieved an 8.8 out of 10 in the work-life ranking of the OECD. The city has 23 international schools and the price of the average rent for the rental of a home is 1,770 euros (Paris exceeds 4,000 euros).

In the last group of cities, the KPMG consultancy places Madrid, Milan, Lisbon and Rome, although they offer pleasant living conditions and, in the case of Madrid and Milan, a strong Life Science cluster, the move to these cities could mean an additional effort to ensure a correct relocation, not having the requirements demanded by the community regulatory body.

However, the report insists that none of the cities included in the study should be excluded as a candidate to host the headquarters of the EMA because, as they point out, all have strengths that can support their candidacy.

Original Text (Spanish):