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Spain has been immersed in a prolonged recession, but growth is expected in 2014 and 2015. The government is currently deploying policies corresponding to two strategic documents, the Spanish Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation (SSSTI) (2013-20) and the National/State Plan for Scientific and Technical Research and Innovation (2013-16), both approved by the Ministerial Council in February 2013.

Hot Issues

Hot Issues are major national STI policy priorities, as self-reported by countries in their responses to the OECD STIO 2014 policy questionnaire.

Improving overall human resources, skills and capacity building

Spain’s investment in tertiary education and the share of tertiary attainment in the adult population are near the OECD median (Panel 1s, t), and the government aims to raise STI skills training capacities to international standards. It also seeks to encourage job placement and opportunities for researchers in the public and private sectors. Both strategic documents establish several instruments to strengthen human resources for STI, including additional resources for doctoral and postdoctoral training grants and the introduction of mobility schemes. Among schemes to promote researcher careers, Ramón y Cajal facilitates the recruitment of national and foreign professors in Spain’s science system, including an initial grant to begin their research projects in Spain and an additional USD 147 058 (EUR 100 000) for institutions that award them permanent contracts after five years. Torres Quevedo promotes permanent employment of PhDs in the private sector, technological centres and other business entities and especially in newly established high-technology enterprises. Emplea offers loans for hiring experts in the management of innovation, including the transfer and exploitation of knowledge, on the basis of three-year contracts, to perform these activities in enterprises, technological centres and technological platforms. The government allocated USD 515.7 million (EUR 350.7 million) for this activity in 2013.

Strengthening public R&D capacity and infrastructures

Spain’s performance in scientific publication is at the OECD median, although the ratio of public R&D expenditures to GDP and the density of global 500 universities are slightly below (Panel 1a, b, c). The government aims to reinforce public research capabilities and to foster research excellence and infrastructures in order to increase the international impact of universities and research centres. To this end, it sponsors individual R&D projects on basic research and interdisciplinary applications of frontier knowledge. It also funds projects carried out in research centres, including investments to acquire equipment and develop scientific infrastructures. The 2013 budget allocated USD 482 million (EUR 328 million) for this purpose. The Severo Ochoa programme identifies, promotes and supports high-quality research centres; in the last three years and on the basis of international peer reviews, it has funded 18 centres, with a total of USD 107.5 million (EUR 72 million).

Encouraging innovation in firms and supporting entrepreneurship and SMEs

Business investment in R&D and innovation output are below the OECD median (Panel 1d, e, f, g), and both the business environment and the supply of venture capital require significant improvement (Panel 1h, j). As the country’s economic structure is characterised by a predominance of SMEs and low R&D-intensive business sectors, policy will focus on the growth and internationalisation of innovative companies, increased business R&D spending in large companies, strengthening demand for HRST in companies and encouraging the generation and dissemination of emerging technologies. In particular, law to support entrepreneurs and their internationalisation, approved in 2013, provides fiscal incentives and easy access to finance and stipulates measures to boost entrepreneurial initiatives (particularly those that are export-oriented). Disbursements in public calls to support STI activities in firms reached USD 929 million (EUR 632 million) in 2013.

Innovation to contribute to addressing social challenges (including inclusiveness)

Retos Innovación is a specific budget line for projects that address social challenges and key enabling technologies (photonics, microelectronics, nanoelectronics, advanced materials biotechnology and ICTs). In addition, the government sponsors co-operation on R&D projects addressing social challenges (Retos Colaboración) between universities, PRIs, private R&D centres and firms. It has also developed strategic actions for health and for the digital society and economy, with a 2013 budget of USD 3.21 billion (EUR 2.1 billion).

Addressing challenges of STI globalisation and increasing international cooperation

By OECD standards Spain’s science and innovation systems are not well integrated in international networks (Panel 1q, r). The government therefore seeks to expand Spain’s participation in the European Commission’s Joint Programming projects (e.g. ERA-NETs, JUs and JPIs). It will also foster international collaborative networks between research groups and centres. Spain participates in two future and emerging technologies (FET) initiatives: Graphene and the Human Brain Project. These EU-wide initiatives address science-driven, large-scale multidisciplinary research that offers substantial benefits for European competitiveness and society.

Country Charts

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Selected Highlights

STI policy governance

The STI Act provides the legal framework for a new research funding and governance structure for the Spanish STI system through the creation of the State Research Agency (a funding body) and comprehensive reform of PRIs. The Act defines new governance mechanisms to ensure co-ordination of central and regional governments (Council for Science, Technology and Innovation Policy; Advisory Committee for Science, Technology and Innovation; and an STI information system to improve information sharing among central and regional administrations). In addition, the new Ministry for Economy and Competitiveness, created in 2012, took over the competences of the Ministry of Science and Innovation.

New sources of growth

Spain invests in enabling technologies, notably ICTs and biotechnology, which are important for health sciences and energy, but also space-related technologies. Spain has in recent years deepened its RTA in biotechnology and nanotechnologies, in environment-related technologies and in ICTs (Panel 3). Programmes and public- private partnerships (e.g. Strategic Action in Digital Society and Economy) target ICTs and research excellence projects and networks in biomedicine and health.

New challenges

Green innovation is a major focus, not least in renewable energy technologies. To support green growth, Spain has created an Environmental Technology Platform (PLANETA) to promote co-operation on environmental technologies by public and private research organisations.

Innovation in firms

BERD is below the OECD median (Panel 1d), and international comparisons of business innovation performance reveal weaknesses (Panel 1e, f, g), and SMEs outweigh large firms in terms of performing R&D (Panel 2). The economic crisis has also affected the number of companies carrying out R&D, which increased by 0.3% in 2012 from 2011, the first rise following a decline since 2008. A goal of the SSSTI is to increase BERD from 0.69% of GDP in 2012 to 1.20% in 2020. The government’s structural reforms seek to improve the environment for business R&D and innovation by removing the limit on the amount of gross tax against which the tax credit for R&D can be taken and by substantially modifying the patent box tax relief. Finally, the Centre for Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI) offers information services to companies interested in developing R&D projects.

Innovative entrepreneurship

The rate of patenting by young Spanish firms is at the lower end of the middle range (Panel 1i). To address the lack of venture capital (Panel 1h) CDTI created in 2012 two venture capital firms (INNVIERTE programme) to promote venture capital in Spanish technological firms and support the creation and growth of new innovative firms. The CDTI remains responsible for funding industrial and innovative activities nearer to the market. It also supports the creation of business consortia in regions (e.g. Andalusia, Extremadura, Galicia) to develop strategic projects. The 2013 budget for these initiatives was USD 194 million (EUR 132 million).

ICT and Internet infrastructures

The Spanish government also attaches importance to of ICT infrastructure (the Digital Agenda for Spain 2013-20 replaces the Strategy for Avanza2). Support for ICT firms to innovate and conduct R&D (Strategic Action on Digital Society and Economy) amounted to USD 808 million (EUR 550 million). The Digital Agenda for Spain also includes ecommerce, eAdministration, health care, and telecommunication networks, with a budget of USD 1.5 billion (EUR 1 billion).

Technology transfers and commercialisation

Spanish PRIs and universities are quite active in patenting (Panel 1p). The challenge is to enhance the contribution of public research to the economy and society. Evaluations involving international assessment monitor and measure the impact and progress of Campus de Excelencia Internacional. The SSSTI (2013-20) has integrated technology and innovation activities with scientific research and aims to promote technology transfer through knowledge circulation and co-creation based on long-term public-private partnerships and commitments and reinforced researcher mobility between public and private research centres.