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Two years after its launch, the Barça Innovation Hub, the platform that brings together all of the club's innovation, research and training projects, is fully consolidated as a benchmark in the sports industry. The BIHUB was presented to the world on 27 March 2017 as one of the pillars of being 'more than a club', in this case referring to FC Barcelona's commitment to innovation and knowledge development in a structured way and involving the entire organization.
BIHUB is currently working on more than 70 scientific research projects, co-developing eight programmes with startups, organising eight congresses on the club premises that have brought together more than 2,300 people and through the Barça Universitas training division is running seven face-to-face masters programmes and offering online training to 10,000 students from more than 100 countries.
With the Barça Innovation Hub, the club is aiming to make FC Barcelona the world's number 1 sports innovation centre. BIHUB fosters an open and collaborative culture, working closely with leading brands, universities, research centres and start-ups around the world, as well as other sports clubs and institutions, investors and partners.
The platform operates as an ecosystem to stimulate knowledge and innovation, and thus benefit the club and society in general.
The goal of this collaborative model is for the club to attract companies and entrepreneurs that are developing new and innovative technologies and thereby help to make Barcelona a hub for the attraction of talent, sport, technology and innovation. We want Barcelona to become the Silicon Valley of sport, making the club the core and accelerator of the knowledge industry in the sports sector in Europe and in the world. As well as helping to make Barcelona into a hub, these alliances are also encouraging professionals in different areas of knowledge to promote new initiatives, derived from the needs that they detect, thus generating major value for the teams and athletes at the club.
Projects in seven knowledge areas
The Barça Innovation Hub is structured into seven areas of knowledge: Team Sports, Sports Performance, Sports Analysis and Technology, Health and Well-being, Fan Engagement and Big Data, Smart Venues and Social Innovation.
Projects with BIHUB involvement include some in the area of sports analysis and technology with the MIT Sports Lab in the USA to use different data analysis techniques to analyse the different ways that LaLiga teams create attacking situations. The idea is that data can be used to automate much of the work done by analysts so that they can dedicate more time to qualitatively analysing their opponents.
Another specific case is what the Health and Wellbeing Area is doing with Gatorade to customise the hydration of athletes during matches and training. A product has been created to do this in accordance with the needs of each player, applying medical research. Based on the Gatorade product, researchers analyse different biometric data on the athletes and build a personalised hydration profile for each of them. This profile takes shape in the form of the Gatorade smart bottle, which tells the players when they need to drink to hydrate their bodies.
Work is also being done in this area with the Allianz insurance company, one of the club's global partners, on a landmark project to analyse the link between the quality of sleep and physical and sporting performance. This study will be based on the experience of FC Barcelona athletes, the qualitative analysis of the 600 children at the Masia and the an individualised study of 50 youngsters using a smart shirt developed by Canadian start-up Hexoskin, with the objective of measuring the possible impacts on sports performance and health.
Examples of innovation, and in collaboration with a start-up, include a device has been developed called WIMU that uses a more accurate technology than GPS, Ultra Wide Band, to record and analyse the movement and position of athletes. Data such as the metres covered at high speed, the number of accelerations or decelerations and the distance travelled provide information that will be very useful for decision making, with two very clear objectives: optimising performance and preventing injuries. Before, coaches based their work on gut feelings, but now they can refer to accurate, scientific information.
Another example of collaboration in the field of communication technology is that with GSMA that was presented recently at the Mobile World Congress whereby the Camp Nou has become the first stadium in Europe to use the 5G technology, which when marketed will enable the exploration of new ways of transmitting content.
In education, BIHUB works with some of the best universities in the world: the MIT in Boston, the University of Georgetown, the University of Beijing, ESADE, the UB, the UAB, the Johan Cruyff Institute, Blanquerna, the INEFC and the ISDE. We have signed agreements to offer seven face-to-face masters and postgraduate courses. The Barça Universitas online platform for the training of professionals already has 10,000 students in 100 countries.
In addition, BIHUB organises or co-organises in collaboration with other centres or entities eight congresses and events that in some cases are already global benchmarks, such as the Barça Sports Medicine Conference, the Sport Technology Symposium and the Football Coach Analytics Summit, which gathered 2,300 attendees on the club facilities.
Statement by Marta Plana, director responsible for the Barça Innovation Hub
“With the Barça Innovation Hub we have opened our knowledge to the world, and also learned from others and exchanged knowledge with the best. To grow, we have to share our knowledge and go looking for what we do not have. We are convinced that this is the best way to progress faster and more efficiently towards the future. Sharing knowledge implies adopting a strategic position of leadership. It allows us to be more flexible and to adapt faster to the changes to come. Now we are also 'more than a club' because we are committed to innovation and the development of knowledge”.
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