Executive summary

The study of medicine has a long history in academia and was added to the University of Barcelona's program of courses in 1539, during the reign of Charles V.

The priority objective of the HUBc, the health campus of the University of Barcelona: improving people’s health

The health sector is a fundamental pillar in guaranteeing people’s well-being and ensuring social cohesion. One need only look to the reduction in the mortality rate and the marked increase in the life expectancy of the population in recent years for proof of the substantial improvements that have been made in our quality of life.

These changes are related to improvements in standards of living and economic and social progress, but are also undeniably related to an improvement in the quality of healthcare, which has its origins in the education of professionals in medical specialties, in research, innovation and in the application of technology to improve public healthcare standards.

The size of the HUBc (2009 figures)
5,486 graduate students
1,622 master’s and doctoral students
2,223 postgraduate students
1,176 teaching staff
1,919 research staff (HUBc centres)

The HUBc represents a comprehensive model in which all the project's stakeholders work together to achieve its primary objective: improving people’s health. The connection between education in the Faculty of Medicine and other health sciences courses (made up of 5,486 bachelor’s students and 1,176 lecturers), healthcare provision (comprising seven leading hospitals) and research centres (linked to hospitals like IDIBAPS and IDIBELL, as well as other specific research centres that are pioneers in their areas of knowledge, like the ICFO, IBEC, CRESIB and IIBB) constitutes a strategic alliance made up of leading organizations. The application of knowledge to the productive sector completes the alliance, both in the creation of new economic activities and in the improvement and consolidation of an industrial network of biotechnology, medical technology and biomedicine companies.

HUBc Excellence evidence


The HUBc: merging competences for healthcare excellence – promoting knowledge, hospital healthcare, clinical research and the generation of wealth

The HUBc constitutes a dynamic ecosystem in which all the various stakeholders complement one another in order to achieve not only the sum of their worth, but a multiplier effect of enormous scope.

The health sector is destined to become a leading economic player in a new, revitalized productive model. It is, by definition, an economic sector based on knowledge and innovation, with great potential for export and for attracting investment and talent.

The HUBc, led by the University of Barcelona in cooperation with the Polytechnic University of Catalonia and the Spanish National Research Council, involves faculties, schools, hospitals, translational research centres and research institutes in biomedicine, biotechnology and medical technology, as well as a group of business entities and associations such as FENIN, Catalonia Bio, and companies such as Ferrer Laboratories, among many others. The Faculty of Medicine also actively participates in the LERU and EUROLIFE international networks.

The process of excellence at HUBc can be represented as a cycle in which the generation of knowledge finds its application in the hospital sector, which is closely linked to research centres created in the heart of the hospitals themselves. This clinical research, along with work carried out at research centres in biomedicine, biotechnology and medical technologies, generates new skills and knowledge applied to the treatment of patients in hospitals or towards the generation of new economic activity.

The link between the HUBc and the productive sector has resulted in numerous activities and projects including patents, business incubators, start-ups, spin-offs, knowledge transfer projects, alliances, and clinical trials. However, the widely recognized potential for growth in this field reamains largely untapped, and it is a potential that could and should be developed. To this end, a group of projects, investments and activities has been put together to create and strengthen ties between the academic and business arenas. These include the post-incubation projects in the Biopol’H area and the BZ Barcelona Innovation Zone, the strategic technological innovation program for health and the showroom for scientific and technological innovation in the field of health, all of which aim, for example, to correct the imbalance between very high scientific production and a relatively low number of patents. This objective guides the actions of the participants of the HUBc towards changing and improving this situation, resulting in a greater impact on the productive sector.

This model of excellence, which is new to Spain, is based on the international examples of Harvard Medical School and the Karolinska Institute, which are, respectively, the top worldwide and the top European institution in the field of clinical medicine, according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities. The international comparison with these centres of excellence confirms that the HUBc is on the right path, but it has an even more intensive journey ahead of it – a journey that will improve its standing by meeting the objectives, implementing the measures and making the investments that are proposed in this project.

HUBc news clipping

The HUBc: rebuilding urban areas in decline

The activities of the HUBc are mainly focused in the cities of l’Hospitalet de Llobregat and Barcelona.

One of the objectives of the HUBc is to generate new centres for knowledge-based activity in urban areas that have been neglected, that were created without planning, that lack facilities and that came into being as a result of the development boom of the 1960s.

The transition from an industrial economy to a knowledge-based economy is clearly exemplified in the change in model proposed by the HUBc project. The Bellvitge area in l’Hospitalet de Llobregat, where the ICO and research centres will be located alongside the Bellvitge and Duran i Reynals Hospitals, denotes an enormous urban and social transformation. And the HUBc project is this area’s springboard for regeneration, incorporating new research institutes such as the IBEC and the CSIC, more space for teaching, a business park and the visible presence of companies like Ferrer Laboratories.

The HUBc: connecting knowledge and health – translational research

Translational research is a crucial element for the evaluation of excellence. Hospital Clínic de Barcelona developed the first hospital model in Spain for this type of activity through the creation of IDIBAPS. Later, Bellvitge Hospital also incorporated translational research activities with the creation of its biomedical research institute, IDIBELL.

Translational research transcends the old dichotomy between basic and applied research to focus on the application of basic biomedical knowledge (molecular biology, genetics, etc.) in clinical research in a dynamic process that attempts to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of illnesses and, therefore, people’s health.

However, translational research requires top-quality professionals and hospitals as well as solid training and research centres with ample resources. All of this comes together in the HUBc. Leading hospitals form an integral part of the project – hospitals recognized by the Carlos III Health Institute and which carry out tertiary processes: a set of highly complex and specialized services or treatments that require very advanced and specific technological equipment, a highly trained team and clinical trials. These hospitals participate in all the various research networks in Spain, such as the CIBER and RETICS networks.

The HUBc: improving international cooperation and supportive action

The HUBc is an associate of the Global Health Institute of Barcelona (ISGB), whose goal is to protect the health of the underprivileged and break the vicious cycle of poverty and disease. With the participation of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, the ISGB arose from the Barcelona Centre for International Health Research (CRESIB), which does an enormous amount of work in the field of international cooperation, such as its continued presence for many years in Morocco in the management of hospitals and training actions and its help in processes of reform of the country's health service. Another example is the Manhiça Health Research Centre in Mozambique which, through a team of professionals from the CRESIB and Hospital Clínic, has set up a research centre to find ways to combat diseases like malaria, AIDS, tuberculosis, pneumonia and diarrhoeal illnesses.

The HUBc’s commitment to reinforcing international cooperation and supportive action is deeply rooted in its past, but looks boldly toward the future. The HUBc’s approach allows for the development of policies that will improve the health of the most vulnerable people in the world.

The HUBc: providing a springboard for innovation, diversity and complementarity for excellence in science, technology and culture

The HUBc is the sum of the potential of numerous professionals working together to achieve excellence. The first scientific and technological alliance is best exemplified in the recent establishment of the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC), but its work in organizing and managing research programs in biomedicine, biotechnology and medical technologies is also outstanding. These programs bring together researchers from very different disciplines, both from the UB and from other research centres.

An innovative project such as the HUBc cannot limit itself to the sum of different university disciplines. An innovative project must be capable of acting as a springboard for development, as a starting point from which an exponential change in how we approach and imagine the future can be effected.

An example of this is the HUBc’s cultural project, called the UB Digital Factory. The purpose of the project is to stimulate the growth of the quinary sector in society and especially in Barcelona, and to provide support for the cultural and technological industries.

The HUBc: internationalizing knowledge and retaining talent

It has always been a firm conviction of the professionals of the HUBc that knowledge recognizes no boundaries and that talent needs to be discovered and nurtured. For over 40 years the lecturers and doctors of Hospital Clínic and the Faculty of Medicine have been entitled to take sabbaticals and receive end of residency awards, which allow them to spend time at hospitals or research centres around the world.

The directors of the research institutes of the HUBc are natural leaders in their disciplines and have succeeded in creating their teams based on talent, overcoming the internal constraints of certain aspects of the university system. The UB's Faculty of Medicine has also achieved extremely high standards of quality, which can be directly attributed to the fine reputation of its teaching staff. 16% of its lecturers are active in three areas of specialization  – teaching, healthcare and research – 82.2% are doctors.

The hospitals of the HUBc have an organizational culture solidly based on quality healthcare linked to the development of research. Proof of this is that research activity holds top priority within these institutions and is a key attribute in the attraction, recruitment and retention of doctors.

Talent attracts talent, and a sufficient critical mass (1,919 researchers) guarantees progress towards increasing internationalization.

In order to strengthen the international role of the HUBc even more, various measures have been proposed that will help to give more visibility and improve the organization of the portfolio of campus activities:

  • The creation of the doctoral school in health sciences, which would bring together all of the master’s degree and doctoral programs of the University of Barcelona in health sciences, widening the international scope of these courses through international networks like EUROLIFE and creating new networks such as the International Network of Spanish and Latin American Health Institutions, headed by the University of Barcelona and Hospital Clínic.
  • The creation of a showroom for scientific and technological innovation in the field of health to give more visibility to the entire HUBc program regarding clinical and hospital innovation, and scientific and technological advances made in campus research centres and hospitals. The showroom would serve to inform the public about HUBc developments and promote those developments within the business sector and would make administrations, universities, companies, hospitals and other organizations aware of HUBc activities.

The HUBc: combining resources for excellence

The HUBc project is an ambitious but realistic project. It is ambitious because the stakeholders that make up the HUBc are extremely successful in their disciplines and specific activities. They have innovative career histories based on many years of generating knowledge and acting as a driving force for the health sector in Catalonia.

The HUBc is an ecosystem of innovation and excellence that is unique in Spain. It has been a pioneer, for example, in translational research. It bases its excellence on the attraction, selection and promotion of its professionals and has been developing an international culture for many years, seeking out the best hospitals, faculties and research institutes to train its professionals. Lecturers in the Faculty of Medicine are encouraged to participate in three areas of activity (teaching, research and healthcare provision) and the dedication of hospital professionals to both research and healthcare is highly valued. The HUBc strikes a balance between training and education, healthcare and basic and translational research, a system of complementarity which has served as an example to many other hospitals and faculties seeking to develop a similar model of success in Spain. The next challenges are to narrow the gap between the HUBc and other international centres by means of even greater internationalization, to expand innovation throughout the ecosystem of the HUBc and to strengthen relationships and ties to the productive sector.

These projects are described in detail in the report, and are:To do this, the HUBc proposes seven projects that, along with the investments that each entity has forecast, will help the campus take the leap forward that will place it among the best in Europe.

  1. Campus of the Americas
  2. Mobility for researchers
  3. Preparation of proposals and participation in international consortia within the KIC-EIT: EIT-Health and FOOD4FUTURE
  4. High Content Screening and 3D reconstruction.
  5. New interactive pedagogical models: e-learning and MOOC
  6. Accessible Websites
  7. Hiring a substitute teacher for Dr. Jose Maria Canals Coll