ICREA, Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies, is a foundation promoted by the Catalan Government to help the Catalan R&D system to attain global visibility and recognition.

ICREA is an institution without walls. To achieve its goals it works in close cooperation with Catalan universities and research centres by means of long-term agreements that allow ICREA researchers to integrate fully in these institutions.

As we look back to 2021, we have to recognize that it has been an exceptional year in many aspects. Little by little, the pandemic is receding, and we are slowly returning to business as usual. After all these months of struggle, one positive outcome is that the need for science, as an essential driver for a better and fairer society, has never been more evident to our world. Also, 2021 is exceptional because it is ICREA’s 20th anniversary!

Consequently, in addition to a brief summary of activities carried out in 2021, the Memoir offers a snapshot of the progress we have made and the ground we have covered since ICREA was created in January 2001. Bill Gates is quoted for saying, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” If he knew the ICREA community, he would probably say, “At ICREA, they overestimate what they can do in a week, but they clearly underestimated what they could accomplish in two decades, with a little imagination, by investing in talent and trust.”

Talent, imagination, trust and community are the key words of this memoir. Twenty years nurturing a protective environment for the best talented researchers willing to work in Catalonia, trusting their imagination and hard work, has created a unique community with a singular and identifiable footprint in science.

I would like to encourage you to look over this Memoir to get a sense of the wide scope of our scientific and academic achievements. We have included a few surprises, which I challenge you to find.

This amazing journey would not have been possible without the enthusiasm and cooperation of our entire research system, which has demonstrated the ambition and boldness it takes to go further and climb higher—a collective achievement of our society as a whole. We are deeply grateful for the support of all the host universities and research centers that have been central to our day-to-day work. Of course, we are indebted and give our warmest thanks to the Catalan Government and the Catalan Parliament for their strong commitment to ICREA’s success. Twenty years of unconditional and continuous support is the best incentive to spur us on as we move forward so that the next twenty years will be even better!

Antonio Huerta