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Published on 12 de July, 2018 at Cities and Regions

Towards a 21st Century industrial land

By Francesc Quintana
4 min read

Lately, at U·TRANS we have been working for the revitalization of the industrial estates at the municipality of Polinyà, in the Barcelona Area. Its industrial land is suffering a significant deterioration due to a lack of important maintenance and because most of these were made during the 1970s. Polinyà is one of the Catalan municipalities with more land dedicated to industry, in relative terms, with four important industrial areas: Ca n’Humet, the Southeast estate, the Northeast estate and the Llevant estate. Of these industrial estates, the Llevant is the one with the best fitted facilities, provided that it was urbanized in 2009. For the rest, in many cases, they have a lack of green areas, signage, efficient mobility and a significant deterioration in the basic services and industrial buildings. Polinyà City Council has commissioned us to develop a project to revitalize and develop a new economic model for industrial estates.

A common problem

Many municipalities in the area have long suffered degradation due to lack of competitiveness, due to inadequate facilities for the possible capture of the so-called industry 4.0. Specifically, more than half of the industrial land is occupied by old buildings to be abandoned. This problem was accentuated due to the economic crisis, where the reduction of private investment in the industry sector fell by almost 23% in 2009 according to the Catalan Government, generating unemployment and the forced closure of many companies, leading to unoccupied 33 million m2 of industrial land in Catalonia. In addition, the economic crisis highlighted the fact that many Economic Activity Pools did not have an integrated and common strategy for their promotion and to improve their entrepreneurial attraction. In fact, the investments prior to the economic crisis focused on the creation of new industrial estates, obviating the improvement of the existing infrastructures. In addition, public investiment experienced a significant decline of 39% in 2012 compared to 2010 (Barceló, 2016: 128-133).

A new approach to industrial activity

This project means an exciting challenge to improve opportunities for workers and businessmen of the industrial estates. That is why, in collaboration with Miquel Barceló, we propose the next working method:

  • First, the elaboration of a diagnostic document which extensively exposed the situation of the municipality at an economic, labor and social level through indicators extracted from official sources. In addition, we conducted an in-depth analysis of the current state of the industrial estates based on individual interviews and focus groups with companies currently installed in the industrial estates. On the other hand, we began a careful observation of the Polinyà Services Chart to companies and the urban and tax conditions for the construction or renovation of industrial buildings. Finally, we conducted a SWOT in order to propose the appropriate measures.·
  • Secondly, we turn to urban land management to implement a new economy and urban model for industrial estates. Proposed models consisted of transforming the concept of the Economic Activity Estates (EAE) into Economic Activity Spaces (EAS). This change was based on two possible innovative fundamentals:
    • The first consisted of offering a new Services Chart updated to the needs of the digital era and ICT, new spaces for advanced services for companies, encouraging business cooperation through clusters, linking companies with research centers and training centers and smart environment projects focused on sustainable mobility, the use of renewable energies and the promotion of recycling, reuse and reduction of industrial waste.
    • The second model was based on the urban transformation of the industrial estates that allowed a more flexible use of EASs and the promotion of economic activities with high added value. In this sense, integrated urban areas were proposed for industries with low environmental impact and the technology sector, knowledge centers, leading companies in R&D, and permanent collaboration between the public sector and the private sector through investments public with FEDER funds, for example.·
  • Thirdly, a Working Plan included actions to be carried out with the purpose of implementing the new economic and industrial model for the industrial spaces of Polinyà, together with the creation of a system to monitor the results.

The objectives of the new model

This new industrial model pursues specific and very relevant objectives for the economic and social future of Polinyà:

  • Attraction of new companies.
  • Improvement of the competitiveness of existing companies, especially through access to quality and advanced services.
  • Generation of positive benefits and externalities.

In this sense, in U·TRANS we know that this project has an important impact for the economy of the municipality and for its citizenship. It is for this reason that our work has been guided under the criteria of empathy with the companies currently installed in the Polinyà industrial space.


Barceló, Miquel (2016). CityNomics. Economía, innovación y territorio. Barcino, Barcelona.

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