360 speakers generated 160 hours of thought-provoking content. (Image courtesy of CZFB).

For most people in the business world, 2020 will be remembered as a whirlwind of thwarted plans, fragile markets, and social disruption. But for the almost 11,000 professionals who attended the first ever BNEW (Barcelona New Economy Week) event last October, it will also be remembered as a year of new beginnings, new connections, and new opportunities.

BNEW was organised by El Consorci de la Zona Franca de Barcelona (CZFB) to promote global economic recovery by helping professionals expand their knowledge, establish productive relationships, and drive innovation. The first edition was an exciting week of unique, sectorised microevents, where 360 speakers generated 160 hours of thought-provoking content viewed both online and in-person by attendees from around the world.

As the second edition approaches this October, promising to be even bigger than before, Investment Monitor looks back at the first BNEW event and reveals some details of what attendees can expect from this year’s expanded programme.

Developing knowledge and driving innovation

In 2020, BNEW delivered a range of talks, panels, debates, interviews, and TV shows aimed at professionals from five key economic sectors: E-commerce, Logistics, Real Estate, Digital Industry, and Economic Zones. Based on last year’s successes, CZFB has added five further subjects for this year, appealing to professionals working in Mobility, Sustainability, Talent, Science, and City industries.

A key objective of the event is not only to inspire innovation, but to reward it too. Spain’s King Felipe VI and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez both showed their support for this goal by chairing the Best Innovation awards ceremony on the final day. From a blockchain platform that helps prevent fraud and optimise data processes, to a ‘bioplastic’ packaging material capable of dissolving in water without leaving microplastics, five exciting projects achieved the title of Best Innovation.

BNEW’s hybrid format

When it came to the event’s format, the pandemic forced a new approach on the organisers – one that allowed safe socialisation, some international attendance and that reflected the digital age we live in. At the same time, CZFB felt it important to retain the magic of a live stage event, and so, a hybrid approach was born.

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The result was such that all events took place in three iconic Barcelona buildings – Estación de Francia, Movistar Center and Casa SEAT – while also being broadcast online through a powerful platform with six channels. The majority of attendees joined virtually, with participation subsequently from a worldwide audience.

Overall, 31% of 2020 attendees were international, coming from 111 different countries. For this year, CZFB hopes to further develop the event’s international profile, connecting individuals and sharing knowledge and innovations on an even more global scale.

Modern-day networking

Integral to the BNEW offering is the opportunity to interact with new people, share ideas, and forge valuable business relationships. Instead of the face-to-face and sometimes chance encounters that professionals are used to, the digital platform made it possible for CZFB to deliver a modern and more efficient way to expand networks.

Using artificial intelligence, BNEW’s disruptive digital platform included a virtual networking tool that used participant data to generate 133,694 suggestions for contacts. A total of 23,271 virtual meetings were held over the platform. Meanwhile, the 128 companies that listed their profiles on the BVillage directory received 6,582 requests for information.

Pere Navarro, special delegate of the State at CZFB, was extremely pleased by the event’s 2020 success. “The Barcelona New Economy Week has been a tremendously useful event in these difficult times, promoting economic reactivation on a global level and creating business opportunities around the world. It has positioned the city of Barcelona as the world’s new economy capital and has shown the leadership of the city and the broad industrial fabric it has in this regard,” he commented.

In the modern era, thanks to technology and enhanced connectivity, there is no reason a pandemic should mean enterprise and innovation grinds to a halt. For CZFB, the first edition of BNEW was a way of promoting a new way of thinking and doing business that challenges this notion. At the close of the event, one thing became very clear: BNEW is here to stay.

This year’s programme, taking place over 5-8 October 2021, will feature 10 subjects that will address future challenges for different sectors, with a clear focus on innovation, talent and sustainability. It will continue building on the fundamental features of the first edition to further consolidate CZFB’s role as a recovery and new economy engine.

Registration is free before 6 September. To sign up, please visit: https://www.bnewbarcelona.com/