Research at the University: Catalan universities, leaders in scientific production

On July 22nd, Science and Development Foundation presented their annual report on Spanish universities. In this report, a ranking of universities and institutions was established on the basis of indicators such as the total volume of scientific production, scientific quality measured by impact indicators, and the percentage of papers published within the 10 % most cited in each category. The ranking was based on scientific publications from the Scopus database between 2007 and 2011. The authors of the report developed also a normalized impact index, taking into account the different specialties and the diversity of publication and citation patterns of several scientific fields. According to this index, the first four institutions in the ranking are Catalan: Barcelona University, Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona Autonomous University and Rovira i Virgili University. Furthermore, when the percentage of excellence was measured, Rovira i Virgili University ranked the first position, with a rate above 10%, followed by Lleida University, with a rate of about 9%. Other Spanish rankings, such as UGR Ranking of Spanish Universities according to Fields and Scientific Disciplines, also show good positions of Catalan universities. In the international setting, the Performance Ranking of Scientific Papers for World Universities 2013, which has been recently published, shows that Barcelona University is the only Spanish university included among the best 100 worldwide universities. This ranking evaluates productivity and the impact of publications of top 500 worldwide universities for the period 2002-2012. Barcelona University has advanced to position 89 as it was listed as 115th in the previous edition of the ranking.

According to Luis Sanz, Director of the Institute of Public Goods and Policies, who prepared the report for the Science and Development Foundation, the reasons for the success of the Catalan university system are essentially three: the development of a strategy based on the flexibility and autonomy of schools and universities, that for example, allowed creating the ICREA program of international talent recruitment; second, the encouragement of alliances that led to the emergence of partnerships and foundations with several partners; but, above all, scientific excellence benefits from the existence of an environment supporting it. The commitment of the autonomic government, providing additional resources and stability, something that has not happened in other autonomic communities, has been one of the keys of success.

Therefore, in an independent Catalonia we should not be worried about our future as researchers. The aim of boosting research is in our nature. As we stated in our manifesto, we need a well-funded research system, efficient and competitive, and that will be more easily secured if we are independent.

Two catalan researchers awarded the prestigious Dr. Josef Steiner Cancer Research Award 2013

Two catalan  researchers from Barcelona will share Dr. Josef Steiner Cancer Research Award 2013. They are Eduard Batlle, ICREA Professor, Oncology Programme Coordinator and Director of the Colorectal Cancer Laboratory at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) and Joan Seoane, also ICREA Professor, Director of Translational Research at the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO) and Principal Investigator of the Gene Expression and Cancer Group, both for their dedicated work in oncology. “This recognition is very positive for cancer research and recognizes Barcelona as an epicentre for cancer research of excellence with many internationally renowned groups and institutes”, they affirm.

You can read the entire report by clicking the link:



The AIDS vaccine is cooked in Catalonia

Last week took place in Barcelona a Global Congress on AIDS vaccine, AIDS Vaccine 2013. This is possible because Catalonia has a large critical mass of researchers who do quality research in this area. In recent days the media have been debating about it, because this vaccine is one of the greatest challenges of modern biomedicine.

AIDS Vaccine 2013 is organized by the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise and the HIVACAT Program for HIV vaccine research, of this year’s local organizer. HIVACAT is an unprecedented public-private consortium , located in Barcelona, formed by the two largest HIV / AIDS research centers in Catalonia, the IrsiCaixa Institute for Research on AIDS and the Infectious Diseases and AIDS IDIBAPS / Hospital Clinic of Barcelona team, in collaboration with Esteve and supported by Obra Social “La Caixa”, the Government of Catalonia and the Clínic Foundation.

The message these days was that, even though the HIVACAT program funding remains intact thanks to its scientific quality and the commitment of its donors , more investment is needed to remain competitive internationally and finally defeat the disease. A minimum of 4 million Euros would allow the first steps towards a clinical trial featuring some of the recent discoveries made by scientists Catalans. An extra effort is necessary to take the leap between excellence and success.

Probably this is a reality that an independent Catalonia would have to face. We have a solid base but we must redouble our efforts to change the current trends in research funding. The wealth of a country is also measured in terms of scientific production, in biomedicine and in any other field, and its ability to transfer this knowledge to the market. We must work hard as a country to grant success in the quest of a AIDS vaccine and to reinforce research and innovation in the broadest sense.

Listen to the Congress Opening Press Conference at: www.aidsvaxwebcasts.org

Listen to Dr. Gatell, from IDIBAPS-Hospital Clínic of Barcelona and co- director of HIVACAT, at TV3 program Els Matins (In Catalan):

Listen to Dr . Bonaventura Clotet from IrsiCaixa and co-director of HIVACAT in TVE program Los Deseayunos (from minute 40) (in Spanish):

View interviews with the Congress organizers by Barcelona Press Room:


Investment in R & D provides profits in the catalan food sector

Agromillora Iberia S.L. is a Catalan company based in Subirats (Alt Penedès) since 1986 is engaged in the production and marketing of high genetic quality of nursery plants. Today is considered the largest nursery in the world. The company market rootstock and grafted plants, and creates varieties especially designed for mechanized harvesting.

Since 1997, the company has invested heavily in R & D, establishing a fully equipped research center in Monistrol d’Anoia with the latest technological advances in the agriculture and food sector.

In 2012 it achieved sales of 28 million euros, with an annual growth of 15% in the past two years, thanks to international expansion and the creation of five laboratories for plant multiplication (Spain, USA, Turkey, Brazil and Chile).

The conference ‘Claiming entrepreneurial potential’ recently organized by the Consortium of the Zona Franca de Barcelona, the President of the company explained that the goal is to increase production and stop relying on subsidies because “the subsidized agriculture has no future” but it is essential to change the mentality and the way we do today.

Companies like this show the excellent results and the applicability of investments in R & D, as well as the continuing validity of the mentality that has always been known as the catalan businessman. The food industry is no exception


Barcelona is attractive for major scientific conferences

In recent years Barcelona has become an even more attractive destination to organize a conference. It is the fifth city in the world in terms of number of international congresses held, according to the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA). Almost half of them were medical or scientific conferences. Recent examples are the congress of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD), which last week brought about 20,000 diabetes specialists to Barcelona, or the European Respiratory Society Annual Meeting, which crowded the city with pulmonologists during the first half of September.

Read more…


6 Advanced Grants from the European Research Council for investigators belonging to the catalan research system

In its sixth 2013 Advanced Grant competition the European Research Council is awarding 13 research groups of Spain, 6 of them belonging to the catalan research system. Despite in absolute terms it is not a high figure (it represents a 2.1% of the total number of grants), in relation to population size (number of grants per million of inhabitants), Catalonia is in the 9th position, near to Denmark, Sweden and Belgium, and over France, Germany and Spain.

The awarded investigators from the catalan research system are:

Eduard Batlle (IRB). ICREA. Life Sciences

Jordi Galí (CREI). Social Sciences and Humanities

Maciej Lewenstein (ICFO). ICREA. Physical Sciences and Engineering

José Remesal (UB). Social Sciences and Humanities

Jan Eeckhout (UPF). ICREA. Social Sciences and Humanities

Paul Verschure (UPF). ICREA. Physical Sciences and Engineering



Upcoming events

Catalan Foundation for Research and Innovation promotes the “Science Week”. From 15 to 24 November will be held in Catalonia the 18th Science Week, during which there will be a lot of scientific activities across our country. This year the main topics are “Statistics”, “Water” and “Einstein” because 2013 is the International Year of Statistics, the International Year of Water Cooperation and the 90th anniversary of Albert Einstein’s visit to Catalonia. You can find more information on: http://www.fundaciorecerca.cat/setmanaciencia/.

On September 26, in the Aula Magna of the Facultat d’Economia i Empresa, University of Barcelona, at 18:30 pm, is presented ​​the first edition of “Akademia program” from Bankinter Innovation Foundation. Akademia aims to awaken the entrepreneurial spirit and foster innovative thinking in the University. It is aimed at students of the University of Barcelona who are attending the last year or do a master degree or a postgraduate degree. The aim is to provide them the necessary training to lead innovative projects or start their own business in the future.


The Catalan Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO), the first global research laboratory in physics

Although this happened before would open this blog, we are pleased to let you known that the the Catalan Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO) has become the world’s first research laboratory of Physics and Astronomy, according to the Mapping Scientific Excellence where the Catalan Institute for Research in Advanced Studies (ICREA) is in the third position and the Institute of High Energy Physics (IFAE) in position 18th.
This ranking, measuring the quality of research has a global impact. ICFO which last year celebrated a decade, is working to extend the boundaries of knowledge of photonics, the science and technology of the use of light, especially laser light. The institute is located in the campus of the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) in Castelldefels (Barcelona). As a result of its work on knowledge and technology transfer, five ‘spin off’ companies have emerged.

ICFO participates actively in the “Graphene Project.” Besides the Human Brain Project, the European Commission has also granted a billion of euros to the Graphene Project, an essential project to promote emerging technologies and help creating new jobs. These studies about this two-dimensional crystal may revolutionize the telecommunications and even medicine.

Led by Professor Jari Kinaret from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, researchers involved in the Graphene project are from seventeen European countries. It is hoped that this extraordinary material can be used to manufacture electronic paper, ultra think and flexible mobile phones, lighter aircrafts, more durable batteries, artificial retinas and so on. It can also replace the silicon used to make chips 500 times smaller and 10 times faster. The list of participants is huge, but it is noteworthy that among them are catalan Institutes: Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), Catalan Institute of Nanotechnology (ICN), Institute for Photonic Sciences (ICFO) and UPC-Catalan Plastic Centre (part of Centre for Research and Technology)


4 of the 33 Proof of Concept grants of the European Research Council go to catalan research goups

The European Research Council (ERC) has announced that 33 top researchers receive up to €150,000 each to bridge the gap between their basic research and marketable innovation. These ‘Proof of Concept’ grants are open to scientists who already hold ERC grants, and cover activities aimed at commercial and societal applications. Catalonia has obtained 4 of these grants in 2013, immediately after the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, with 6 grants each.