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RIO Country Report Spain 2017

The R&I Observatory country report 2017 provides a brief analysis of the R&I system covering the economic context, main actors, funding trends & human resources, policies to address R&I challenges, and R&I in national and regional smart specialisation strategies. Data is from Eurostat, unless otherwise referenced and is correct as at January 2018. Data used from other international sources is also correct to that date. The report provides a state-of-play and analysis of the national level R&I system and its challenges, to support the European Semester.



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.

Smart Specialisation Strategies

In 2014, all 17 Spanish regions adopted their Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation (RIS3). Many regions focused on similar priorities. Up to now, Spanish regional governments have implemented their RIS3 mainly through public calls for R&I proposals based on their RIS3 priorities and financed by the corresponding Operational Programme (OP). Some regions have also created new R&I instruments, actions and management structures. The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) budget represents in many Spanish regions more than 40% of planned funding for the implementation of RIS3.

Geo coverage
Report year
Official publication date
Tuesday, 10 April, 2018
National expert name
Ana Fernández-Zubieta, Irene Ramos-Vielba
Last update: 25/02/2020 | Top | Legal notice | Contact | Search