CARNET (Cooperative Automotive Research Network)

Knowledge hub for mobility science and technology in Barcelona
Knowledge hub for mobility science and technology in Barcelona

CARNET is a knowledge hub for automotive science and technology focused on urban mobility. It was initiated in 2015 by SEAT, Volkswagen Group Research and the UPC. Based in Barcelona, its ambition is to become a benchmark in this area, in close alliance with European counterparts.

CARNET focuses on innovation and solutions that close the gap between academic research and industrial innovation in urban mobility, with the following strategic goals:

  • Organising urban mobility activities in Barcelona.
  • Contributing to strengthening the automotive sector in Spain, and Catalonia in particular.
  • Recruiting proactively for the automotive industry.
  • Networking to seek international research funding (e.g. in cooperation with international partners).

CARNET bases its activity on three pillars:

  1. Cooperative Research: promoting a highly applied research and innovation in automotive technology through close cooperation between industrial and academic research institutes. The creation and execution of collaborative R&D projects/pilots seeks the transferring knowledge from CARNET partners to the market through e.g.:
    • Small-scale demonstration pilots run in the city of Barcelona with private funding from the CARNET  partners.
    • Large-scale European R&D projects with funding from EU funds, such as the H2020.
  2. Training & Education: structuring and adapting to the industrial and societal needs for the education and training of automotive engineers and scientists.
  3. Networking: participation in European / International networks and competitive calls. Creating a high-class automotive research environment in Catalonia.

Corporate video:

Process Main Stages: 

The process of creation of CARNET can be summarized as follows:

STAGE 1: Long-term collaboration in the field of urban mobility, incl. the SEAT Chair

SEAT and the UPC have a long track record of cooperation in the field of automotive research. In 2007 the SEAT Chair at the UPC was founded on the basis of this long-term collaboration between both organizations. The Chair focuses its activities on education, research and technology transfer in the field of excellence in innovation and sustainable mobility in the automotive sector.

STAGE 2: Identification of the opportunity for the creation of CARNET

It is forecast that up to 80% of the world’s population will live in cities in the coming decades. This change will challenge urban infrastructures, traffic systems and vehicles. Resources such as energy, space and time will be increasingly limited, while the need for efficient and individual mobility is likely to remain. The challenges these developments create for metropolitan areas and vehicle manufacturers are reflected in trends such as smart cities and connected driving. Building on previous cooperation between SEAT and the UPC, CARNET was conceptualized, with the aim to lead the transition towards this new reality in the city of Barcelona.

STAGE 3: Formalization of the CARNET platform

In 2015 the UPC, SEAT and Volkswagen Group Research decided to formalize the CARNET initiative. A Framework Agreement was elaborated, agreed upon and signed between the initiators. If was formalized as a platform / innovation hub, opening the possibility for new partners to join the initiative.

STAGE 4: Kick-off and expansion of the initiative

The initiative was formally launched on June 2016. As of today, it counts with 8 additional members, and has successfully executed a high number of R&D/demonstration pilots in the city of Barcelona in the following areas: Vehicle concepts; Mobility software and apps; Urban mobility concepts; and Business design for urban mobility.

Benchmarking and reference to other similar initiatives: 

Similar initiatives in the field of urban mobility include transport/mobility clusters and associations. Nevertheless, CARNET activities go well beyond networking to cover also cooperative research and training & education actions.  

To the best of our knowledge, CARNET is the only initiative in the field of urban mobility that provides the following features together:

  • Truly multidisciplinary initiative, including industry partners (both multinational. organizations and SMEs) and academic partners (both from S&T and business side)
  • Possibility to quickly set up real R&D/demonstration pilots to test and validate specific technologies in the city of Barcelona.
  • Open to partners with all backgrounds in the field of urban mobility (fee-based).
  • Strong involvement from local public authorities.
Success Factors / Barriers: 


The creation of a successful knowledge hub such as CARNET requires building on an already existing and solid cooperation between partners, each of them bringing complementary capacities to the initiative. Mutual recognition and trust are key elements when embarking into a long-term initiative like this.

A strong leadership from the industrial side is also required in order to shape a credible message and vision for the initiative. Top companies in the automotive and mobility arena support the CARNET initiative. 

CARNET activities go well beyond networking, as opposed to most clusters and industrial associations. One of its main areas is cooperative research, where the strong network and knowledge base available within the participating organizations allows for the quick setup of very relevant pilots on the field. An additional field of activity is the identification of talent through, for example, the organization of several hackathons with UPC students.


Finally, CARNET’S location is not arbitrary. The selection of Barcelona responds to the fact that it is widely recognized as one of the top smart cities worldwide, as it has implemented very competitive technological tools, such as streetlight sensors distributed all over the metropolitan area, which gather useful data about traffic patterns, parking areas and air pollution. The support from local authorities is considered a key element in the successful implementation of the initiative.


The balanced combination of leading industrial partners with reputed academic partners can be considered as one of the key elements of CARNET’s success, together with the support from the local authorities. Based on CARNET’s experience, we have identified the following do’s and don’ts. 

  • Carefully choose initiators in order to ensure the credibility of the initiative during its early stages.
  • Establishing several areas of work ensures attracting interest from a wider group of partners; some are more interested in the networking, others in finding talent, while for others the cooperative research projects are the key element.
  • A solid funding base from industrial partners is essential to speed up the process.
  • It is key to involve a highly professional project office management in this type of platforms, as it a key element for the dynamization of the initiative. In the case of CARNET, this task performed by CIT UPC, the UPC’s Technology Center.
  • Do not postpone the discussion on legal and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) issues; this should be covered from the very begging to avoid later exploitation problems.
  • Knowledge hubs’ activities should go well beyond networking, as this is normally covered by already existing organizations, such as clusters and industrial associations.