Title: Challenges for R&I policy
After the economic crisis, the Spanish economy is on a positive path of economic growth. The annual growth rate for 2016 was 3.3% and the economy is expected to keep growing at a rate of 3.1% in 2017. Unemployment decreased from 22.1% in 2015 to 19.6% in 2016, but remains at the second highest rate in the EU. Regarding Research and Innovation, Spain remains a ‘moderate innovator’ with a declining overall performance relative to that of the EU between 2010 and 2016 (by 1.8%). The central government budget for R&I has been growing slightly in nominal terms since 2013, but the relative level remains very low. In 2017, R&I intensity reached 1.47% but remained far from the pre-crisis level (2.7% in 2008). Spanish Business Expenditure on Research and Development intensity is modest (0.64% of GDP in 2016; EU-28, 1.3% in 2015). For the first time since the economic crisis, total BERD increased in 2015 and 2016, by 2% and 3% respectively
- Improving framework conditions for R&I. The high GDP growth rate over the last two years has not triggered an increase in Research and Development (R&D) intensity. In this context, a number of support schemes have been developed. The consolidation of the governance framework in this regard is essential to stimulate a favourable R&I ecosystem.
- Improving funding and governance of the R&I system. Despite the slight increase in total Gross Expenditure on Research and Development (GERD) in 2016, R&D intensity has continued to fall since 2010 and remains below the 2007 level. Fiscal deficit and public debt constraints have limited the action that the government can take regarding R&I funding. Ensuring sufficient investments in R&I and strengthening the governance of the R&I system remain essential.
- Improving the labour market for researchers. Human resource constraints were considered one of the most pressing challenges for the Spanish R&I system after the economic crisis. In recent years, a number of policy measures targeting R&I human resources have been adopted. These include the recognition of research as a ‘priority sector’, which has made it possible to set a special rate for replacement of retirees (maximum of 100% in 2017). While these measures appear ambitious, their implementation has so far affected only a limited number of researchers.
- Stimulating regional R&I potential and performance. Spanish R&D activities and funding are highly concentrated in four regions, all of them displaying an R&D intensity below the EU average. Reducing the lack of synergies between regions and improving coordination mechanisms could foster better regional R&I performance.