Cristina Ferrero Castaño
Microsoft seeks office in Barcelona for its Artificial Intelligence hub
The giant highlights that the city has around 100,000 technology professionals, 800 research groups with more than 25,000 researchers and more than 1,500 start-up companies.
September 18, 2021
The technology giant Microsoft is looking for an office in a central area of Barcelona in which to install its operations centre - hub - specialising in Artificial Intelligence technologies, which, if everything goes according to plan, will be a reality as early as January 2022. This was explained in an interview with the EFE news agency by Microsoft's corporate vice-president in the United States, Jordi Ribas, who is also head of the company's Search & AI (Research and Artificial Intelligence) team. The one in the Catalan capital will be the fourth Microsoft centre of these characteristics in Europe - in addition to those in London, Paris and Munich - and the eighth in the world.
Why Barcelona? Because "Barcelona is a pole of innovation and attraction of talent", Ribas emphasises, who puts figures to his assertion: the city has about 100,000 professionals in the field of technology, 800 research groups with more than 25,000 researchers and more than 1,500 start-ups. In addition, Ribas praises the "boost to digitalisation" being promoted by the central and Catalan administrations, which "are taking the right measures" in this area.
Specifically, it refers to the National Artificial Intelligence Strategy of the First Vice-President of the Government and the Catalonia.AI plan of the Generalitat, "two excellent tools to develop the market" for this technology. This operations centre will initially employ 30 software engineers and data scientists specialising in Artificial Intelligence, machine learning and deep learning, a workforce that Microsoft plans to increase to over a hundred employees in a few years' time.
This technology company remains committed to teleworking also for the period following the end of the covid-19 pandemic, so the centre will adopt "a hybrid model" in which part of the employees will operate from home. At Microsoft, explains Ribas, "any employee can work from home up to 50% of the time".
The US company has not yet defined where exactly it will locate its operations centre in the Catalan capital, as it is "considering several areas", but it does indicate that it will be in a central location in Barcelona.
Microsoft also expects the operations centre to open its doors in January next year, provided that the pandemic's evolution allows it, although no specific date has yet been set in the calendar. The head of the technology giant also added that Microsoft will make a "significant" investment to make this new centre a reality, although he did not provide specific figures.
Ribas también dice ver "talento muy cualificado" en Barcelona y, por extensión, España, y como ejemplo cita el grupo de trabajo del CSIC sobre inteligencia artificial liderado por Ramón López de Mántaras. Asimismo, defiende que los fondos europeos Next Generation abren "una gran oportunidad de desarrollo" en el campo de la Inteligencia Artificial, por lo que ahora es momento de "ejecutarlos, acelerar y poner en marcha iniciativas concretas". Como resumen, Ribas señala que la "apuesta" de abrir un nuevo centro de trabajo en España "es positiva tanto para Cataluña como para España como, por supuesto, Microsoft".
Ribas also says he sees "highly qualified talent" in Barcelona and, by extension, Spain, and as an example he cites the CSIC working group on artificial intelligence led by Ramón López de Mántaras. He also argues that the European Next Generation funds open up "a great opportunity for development" in the field of Artificial Intelligence, so now is the time to "execute, accelerate and implement specific initiatives". To sum up, Ribas points out that the "commitment" to open a new work centre in Spain "is positive for both Catalonia and Spain and, of course, for Microsoft".
The research and Artificial Intelligence team led by Ribas, part of which will be based in Barcelona from January, is the largest WebXT (Web Experiences Team) group at Microsoft. Its objective is to contribute to the development of multiple company products, including Windows, Azure and Bing.