Research & Innovation
Research and Innovation Observatory – Horizon 2020 Policy Support Facility

Service tools

Navigation path

RIO Country Report Spain 2016

The annual RIO Country Report offers ana analysis of the R&I system in Spain, including relevant policies and funding, with particular focus on topics critial for EU policies. The report identifies the main challenges of the Spanish research and innovation system and assesses the policy response.




  • Spain’s real GDP continued increasing in 2015 (3.2%), with positive forecast for 2016 (3.2%) and 2017 (2.3%).
  • In 2015, budget deficit as a percentage of GDP decreased to 5.1 % (5.9% in 2014). Government debt slightly decreased, but itremains very high (99.8% of GDP; 100.4% in 2014).
  • The unemployment rate has considerably improved over the last year (by 9.8 %). It is however still among the highest in the EU-28 (22.1%)
  • Gross Expenditure on Research and Development has declined in 2015 to 1.22% GDP(1.23% in 2014), reaching a figure below 2007 levels.
  • BERD has been declining since 2009 and although it increased in 2015 it is below 2006 levels. GOVERD follows a similar trend. The GERD target of 25 in 2020 is unlikely to be reached.
  • An acting government was in place between December 2015 and November 2016. This affected the implementation of the reform agenda for R&I

Main R&I challenges

  • Improving framework conditions for R&I. The Spanish industrial structure is characterised by a significant proportion of SMEs in low-tech sectors. Over the crisis, Spain has suffered an important reduction of companies active in R&D. The low productivity of SMEs and micro-companies indicates that additional efforts are needed to improve the framework conditions for innovation.
  • Improving funding and governance of R&I system. The levels of execution of R&I public budgets have kept declining since 2006, although at a lower path since 2011. No significant structural reform has been implemented to reallocate funding towards the most efficient programs. An effective policy evaluation mechanism could help to improve efficiency and increase transparency of the R&I system.
  • Improving the labour market for researchers. The number of researchers in the public sector has declined by 12.0% between 2010 and 2015. The substitution of the replacement rate of 10% for civil servants retirees in universities to a maximum of 50% for 2015 and to a maximum of 100% for 2016 is one of the most emblematic measures taken by the government to reverse the trend.
  • Stimulating regional R&I potential and performance. Spanish R&D activities and funding are highly concentrated in four regions, among which the Basque Country is the only one displaying an R&D intensity above the EU average. Reducing the lack of synergies between regions and improving coordination mechanisms may foster regional R&I performance.

Main R&I developments in 2016

  • In June 2016, 15 members of the governing board of the Spanish Research Agency (AEI) were appointed.
  • Launch of the funding programme Innoglobal.
  • Launch of the CDTI-ERA-NET funding instrument.
  • Increased funding for the State Program for the promotion of talent and employability, including. “EMPLEA grants” aimed at SMEs, young innovative companies and spin-offs.
  • New call to finance the development, consolidation and updating of scientific and technological infrastructures.


Geo coverage
Report year
Official publication date
Friday, 12 May, 2017
Last update: 22/10/2019 | Top | Legal notice | Contact | Search