Historical Background

Historical Background
Historical Background

The aeronautical sector in Barcelona and Catalonia

At the beginning of the century, Barcelona saw the first piloted flight in Spain. It happened in 1911 at the feet of Montjuïc mountain (Can Tunis airfield), and this flight was on a French model called Breguet. Barcelona City Council has always had a strong will to develop this sector in Barcelona. This is why in 1919 the Aviation City Comitee was cretaed and was transformed later on in the Airport Managing Comitee (headed by the Major) with the primary goal of creating a truly national airport in Barcelona.

Later on, in the ‘Poble Nou’ neighbourhood, the first facilities to produce engines and spares were established, as it was the case of the ‘Casa Elizalde’. It is also important to mention the craetion of the Sabadell airfield in 1934. However, after the Civil War (1939), the aeronautical activity in Catalonia was greatly reduced until almost disappearing, and airtransport activities were centralised in military airfileds close to Madrid.

Barcelona, with the on-going transformation of its airport, will soon have a very modern airfield which can become one major platform for the South-West of Europe with a forecast for 2015 of 40 milion passengers and close to 200.000 tons per year. This will certainly boost industrial activities tied to airtransportation.
Today, 90% of the current aeronautical industry in Spain is located in Madrid, Andalucia and the Basque Country. Catalonia aerospace industrial activity represents a 3% of the total Spanish one (being 2000 sales 2.700 milion euros) in very specific market nixes. It is important to mention activities tied to the comercial aircraft design and production as for example design & engineering and production of structural components (metal and composites), interiors, and special software, instrumentation and communication, equipment. Other activities that need to be mentioned for their qualitative and quantitative importance are related to the design and manufacturing of complete balloons, parachutes, ULMs and boarding bridges.

The space sector in Barcelona and Catalonia

A world general current trend of this sector is that Public sector funds basic research (astronomy, earth observation, space, etc.) and that the Private sector funds resarch for products that can have commercial applications, and therefore produce revenues, such as telecommunications, weather forecasting, navigation systems, etc. Yet, some participation and funding of Public sector in the latter is still necessary.

Within this global framework, in Spain, almost all space industry is working on European Space Agency (ESA) programs, which accounted in 2001 for almost 110 milion euros, and Catalan presence within this industry accounts for a figure close to the 10%. The previously mentioned trend and the increasing liberalisation, are diminishing the weight of the strategic and political criteria, in favor of the increasing importance of profitability and efficiency criteria. This gives plenty of room to work specially in the area of satellite applications. Catalonia is already present in the scientific areas of astronomy and also software for orbital missions control and guidance, missions software, communications, biotechnology, earth telescopes and radars and systems integration.

BAIE is a platform created in November 2000 that aims to promote the Metropolitan Region of Barcelona and Catalonia as a competitive setting for the activities related to the aeronautical and space industry.

Main goals of BAIE:

To develop a cluster to increase the activity of the aerospace (nautical & space) sector in the Metropolitan Region of Barcelona and Catalonia.
To attract investment and related aerospace industries to the Region.
To boost the education capabilities of the Metropolitan Region of Barcelona and Catalonia.
To establish strategic links, co-operation agreements and foster personnel and R&D co-operation within the aeronautical and space community, specially due to the proximity with the area of Toulouse.


The platform BAiE is created as an initiative from the Major of Barcelona (Mr. Joan Clos), who brought together public institutions, private companies and other key players of the aerospace sector in Catalonia in this joint effort to set up BAIE association to promote aerospace industry in the Region. It is worth mentioning the fact that from the origin of BAIE, the autonomous government Generalitat of Catalonia (through the Department of Industry and its company Cidem) and the Spanish government (through the Ministry of Science and Technology), joined the association as founder members.

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