Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, hit the headlines recently for the political upheaval that followed an independence referendum that was judged illegal by the Spanish government. Reports of companies abandoning their operations in the region rolled forth (according to The Economist, more than 3200 companies have fled). However, despite these major upheavals, what fDi found was a city thoroughly engaged with its FDI landscape and ready to adapt to the new challenges it was facing, and such factors are behind it winning fDi’s European Cities and Regions of the Future 2018/19 regional FDI Strategy award.  

The City Council of Barcelona has recently launched its city branding project, which brings together local private and public bodies and promotes knowledge sharing between them. The project aims to coordinate strategies to promote and protect the city’s reputation on the world stage.


A transparency policy has been implemented to promote the message of a positive business climate to the world, while measures are in place to retain talent and attract foreign companies, supported by business initiatives that encourage growth and reinvestment.

The city is focused on the tech industry, playing a role as an urban laboratory in order to attract start-up companies and entrepreneurs. Grants and funding are available to R&D investors, including tax breaks for labour costs and rebates for strategic projects. As a socially progressive city, Barcelona is encouraging businesses to include gender diversity in their HR policies (to that end, an LGBT projects coordinator has been hired to support businesses). Meanwhile, special grants are available for companies hiring previously unemployed young staff and candidates over 45 years of age.

Booming Birmingham

Birmingham has ranked first of all large European cities for its FDI Strategy. The West Midlands Growth Company, which is responsible for promotion and attraction of inward investment, works in conjunction with local enterprise partnerships, local authorities, universities and a range of private sector entities to promote the city and the wider Midlands region.

Birmingham is home to five enterprise zones, each specialised and designed to attract certain investors. The Enterprise Zone boasts 39 sites and aims to attract digital media and tech companies, while the Advanced Manufacturing hub in Aston, Life Sciences Campus in Edgbaston and the Food Hub in north Birmingham all offer space, facilities and business support for targeted sectors.

Investors choosing Birmingham will also benefit from the new High Speed 2 (HS2) rail service, which will allow investors to travel between London and Birmingham in about 50 minutes, and has brought with it investment in housing and office space around two HS2 stations in the Greater Birmingham area.


There are residential and commercial projects currently under development in the city. These include Birmingham Snow Hill, offering companies more than 200,000 square metres of office space and 4000 residential units; and Paradise, a £500m ($695m) grade A office space development, offering 33,000 square metres of office space in the first phase and 27,000 square metres in the second.

The West Midlands Growth Company assists investors with settling into the city, helping with recruitment for their operations and linking R&D businesses with higher education institutions. The agency organises business networking events and its research arm, the Regional Observatory, provides companies with data and analysis to guide and support their business decisions. Public relations support is also provided through the agency’s channels.

Vintage Bordeaux

Bordeaux, a city of more than 250,000 people in south-west France, has ranked first of all mid-sized European cities for its FDI Strategy. Invest in Bordeaux is the main agency for the promotion of the city and the attraction of foreign investment. As part of the Bordeaux Attractiveness Mission initiative, Invest in Bordeaux works with other organisations such as the city’s tourist office, Bordeaux Airport, the Port de Bordeaux, Congrès et Expositions de Bordeaux as well as local entrepreneurs and others to “fuel the vitality and dynamism” of the city’s business environment and to put it on a world stage.

Investors coming to Bordeaux can benefit from the new high-speed train line, which will bring Paris within two hours’ reach. The city’s specialist investment park for the aerospace industry, Bordeaux Aéroparc OIM, welcomes investors in the aerospace, space and defence sectors, and offers 2500 hectares of development space. Its aim is to house 45,000 employees (up from the current 35,000). The Bordeaux Inno-Campus spans 1350 hectares and has a focus on health, research and innovation. There are eight hospitals and a university on site, and the park supports employment for 40,000 people.

Debrecen on the rise

Debrecen, Hungary’s second largest city after Budapest, has ranked first of all small cities for FDI Strategy. The city’s economic development agency, EDC Debrecen, is proactive in creating a welcoming and successful environment for investors. The agency has coordinated the development of grade-A office space in the city ('Forest Offices Debrecen'), which offers investors 22,000 square metres of offices. A 584-hectare industrial park (Debrecen South Industrial Park) has also been initiated and established.

EDC Debrecen has worked to implement a local incentives programme, which comes in addition to national VIP grants and allows the municipality to provide cash incentives to investors, as well as initiating the establishment of the city’s first International School of Debrecen, offering an educational programme in English to international baccalaureate standard, which may be attractive to international investors. Investors can access a comprehensive property database from EDC Debrecen, and benefit from site visits and business meetings organised by the agency with key actors in the investment process.

Irish enterprise

Limerick City and County Council is responsible for the promotion of the city – the winner in the micro city ranking – as an investment location, and was instrumental in the implementation of the Limerick 2030 Plan, a strategic economic development plan. The Limerick Twenty Thirty Strategic Development DAC (Designated Activity Company) has been created as part of the plan, and will aim to deliver more than €500m of transformational investment infrastructure to attract foreign investors to Limerick.

The city’s local enterprise office implements a business and retail incentive scheme that encourages the use of vacant commercial properties in the city. Four sites are currently under development as part of Limerick 2030. The Opera site’s 1.5 hectares have a mix of public and private sector investment that will provide 5109 square metres of accommodation; the Gardens International Office site will provide more than 10,219 square metres of space; and the mixed-use Cleeves Riverside Campus measures 3.25 hectares and will house education, tourism, residential, incubator and commercial office space when completed in 2020.

Limerick recently welcomed the Troy Film Studios Film Hub, a 31,587-square-metre film studio that includes 6503 square metres of sound stages and provides opportunities to invest in a new sector in the city.

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