Innovation Forum Barcelona: Oriol, tell us a bit about your background and why did you accept the challenge to move back to Barcelona to create IQS Tech Factory from scratch.
Oriol Pascual: My background is as environmental engineer, although I spent most of my professional career as a business developer, working on bringing cleantech products to the market. In 2007, while living in The Netherlands, I was responsible for setting a cleantech incubator at the port of Rotterdam. Since then, I’ve been working with science and technology-based startups. I returned to Barcelona some 5 years ago, and collaborated with several incubation and acceleration programs in the city (public and private). Currently, I’m in charge of IQS Tech Factory, where we promote and support science-based entrepreneurship.
IQS has a long tradition as a university from which students build companies, especially of industrial kind. In 2015, IQS decided to create a structure to promote and support this kind of startups. Most entrepreneurship programs in Barcelona are IT-related, and this is great. However, are the industrial companies the ones contributing to productivity and added value. This is what IQS Tech Factory is about.
IFB: How do you see the Barcelona entrepreneurial ecosystem at the moment?
OP: Barcelona’s entrepreneurial ecosystem has exploded in the lasts 5-7 years. This is not unique to Barcelona. A couple of reasons for this explosion; Firstly, we used to think that entrepreneurship was some sort of magical thing, difficult to explain. Companies were built by people that were at the right place at the right time. Now we know what steps are necessary to start a company while reducing risks. The result is the democratization of entrepreneurship. It can be taught and learnt. And there’s plenty of resources out there for the curious ones. Secondly, IT has made it possible to kick-start a project within a few days, at a very low cost and low risk, while potentially having a large impact and growth potential. This means that a couple of friends coming together on a weekend can already validate some initial ideas and let their project start developing.
These are global trends of course. What is important in Barcelona, however, is that the critical mass of the right ingredients to create a powerful entrepreneurial ecosystem is now in place in this city. Number one being talent. Local people are very well prepared and willing to start entrepreneurial projects. And Barcelona is attracting lots of really talented international people that come here in search of quality of life, but bring with them the talent and their own entrepreneurial projects. If you have talent and an interesting project, the rest is already here: governmental support, private financing, support programs like accelerators, mentors networks, etc. Barcelona entrepreneurial ecosystem is growing in the right direction.
IFB: What is the potential of Barcelona in the areas of science-based entrepreneurship or deep technology as we like to call it at the Innovation Forum?
OP: I believe the potential is huge. Again, it’s all about attracting and retaining the right talent. As mentioned earlier, Barcelona has a large number of excellent research centers as well as large companies that run their own research departments. This is definitely an opportunity for Barcelona to position itself and differentiate from other cities in Spain.
We’re already doing very well in the life-sciences area, with plenty of programs and initiatives. It wouldn’t hurt to expand and include other industrial sectors. Deep technology is maybe not as sexy as candy-related mobile games, but production-focused industrial companies are the ones creating long-lasting economic impact. The building blocks are here: many existing success stories, innovation from universities and research centers, talented people….we only need to believe that our unique scientific idea has the commercial potential .
IFB: Why did you decide to partner with the Innovation Forum and co-organise the WHAT IF! Accelerator?
OP: It’s been a while now that I know the Innovation Forum, and I believe it is a great organization. So, I’m a fan right from the start! We’ve been looking for synergies between the Innovation Forum and Tech Factory and when the Innovation Forum Barcelona team told us about the WHAT IF! Accelerator program, it was clear that this was the opportunity we were looking for. It’s going to be great to work together with the Innovation Forum to identify talent and new science-based ventures in the Barcelona area. I believe that together we are going to add great value to the early stage projects. Leveraging our networks will allow us to bring amazing mentors as well as valuable connection to the industrial companies and investors.
The Innovation Forum is an organization we respect, and to be able to work towards creating an entrepreneurship culture among scientists in Barcelona is definitely a great goal that we share!