How does the Research, Development and Innovation system works in Spain?

Spain is a nation of science and technology. It is world renowned for its history, language, tourism and diversity but Spain is more than that and research and development are built on a solid foundation.

The public research system plays an important role in the development of R&D&I. The Spanish government has developed, through the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness and its Secretariat of State for Research, Development and Innovation — SEIDI for its initial in Spanish, a strategy for the years 2013–2020 and a National Plan 2013–2016, and contributes with nearly half of the capital invested in research in Spain.

Universities and businesses also play an important role. Thanks to their efforts Spain is now herald across the globe as a benchmark in sectors such as medical research, clean energy, intelligent infrastructure, bio and health technologies, molecular biology, biochemistry, information and communications technologies, aeronautic and space research and naval technology.

Autonomous communities, foundations, associations and non-profit institutions contribute also decisively to the conduct of medical and scientific research.

Spain is also involved in the most important international scientific projects and our researchers and personnel devoted to research and development contribute to the diffusion of a scientific, innovative and entrepreneurial culture.

Which are the cutting-edge sectors on Spain’s R&D&I?

Spain is headed to the future thanks to the high technological level of its industry, companies and scientific institutions.

Spain’s aerospace industry is the fifth largest in Europe in terms of turnover and employment and boasts high investment intensity. Our businesses have participated in some missions and projects such as the Rosetta mission and the exploration of the planet Mars, in addition to providing leadership in areas such as the manufacture of satellites, in the defence sector with sophisticated flight systems, radar simulators or border surveillance. Spain is one of the few countries in the world with the capacity to carry out the complete manufacturing cycle of an airplane.

Spain is the number two car manufacturing country in Europe and has production plants from practically all of the industry’s multinational corporations.

Naval industry is a benchmark in the construction of multifunctional ships, frigates, submarines and floating platforms able to hold from an electrical power station to a regasificación plant or power station platforms.

The experience accumulated by Spanish companies in the ambitious infrastructure construction projects carried out in Spain in recent decades is their finest recommendation when making the leap abroad.

Spain and its companies today occupy a privileged position in the application of new information and communication technologies, holding 5th place in Europe for volume of business. It has first-class infrastructure, research centres and leading companies for the implementation of TiC tools in sectors as diverse as environmental, health, naval, space and automotive technology. Spain’s TiC sector consists of some 30,000 firms, most of them small and medium-sized enterprises, with billing of 104.3 billion euros per year, directly creating 459,000 jobs. Its estimated contribution to the GDP, Gross Domestic Product, is on the order of 5.85%.

The Spanish companies are committed to the environment and on the front line of water and natural resources management, and also of power generation through techniques and processes designed to environmental conservation.

Given the de-centralization also the regional governments in the Autonomous Communities have specific programmes, as the Clarín programme in Asturias, the ICREA offered by the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies, or Ikerbasque programme offered by Basque Foundation for Science.

Which are the Spanish leading companies on R&D&I?

Spain’s large companies are among the most productive internationally. The OECD~Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development says so. Spanish firms are heading leading projects worldwide.

Spain is a world leader in the field of infrastructures and industrial engineering and construction. Spanish firms are involved in the most important infrastructure projects in 85 countries across all 5 continents, and managing nearly 40% of the major transport concessions in the world. Spain is an international reference, a high-tech power in areas such as air and road transport, infrastructure management, railway infrastructure, and public works.

There are many examples like the Mecca–Medina high-speed railway line — ADIF, Indra, OHL, Renfe and Talgo; the Panama Canal’s new locks — Sacyr-Vallehermoso — or  the management of dozens of airports in several countries — Abertis or Ferrovial. Spanish firms have developed air traffic control systems — Indra — and systems to manage flight bookings — Amadeus. The construction of the Ankara subway, or the weather station for the Curiosity Mars Rovers — EADS-CASA and Crisa — are all projects done by Spanish companies. For several years there have been more Spanish companies in the annual ranking of the world’s top transport developers by the US publication Public Works Financing than any other country.

Spanish companies can boast a 2014 portfolio of international projects topping €74 billion. In 2013 Spanish companies won bids for contracts abroad worth more than €45 billion. Today, contracts abroad constitute 82% of Spanish companies’ portfolios. Other Spanish companies ranked among the world’s largest in terms of export figures: Abeinsa, Acciona, FCC, Isolux Corsán, OHL, Sacyr-Vallehermoso and Técnicas Reunidas, all of which rank among the world’s 50 largest.

In the oil industry, Repsol and Técnicas Reunidas rank high among engineering companies for oil and gas sector.

We are a world leader in sectors of high R&D&I, as in renewable energy and offshore wind farms — Acciona, Gamesa, Iberdrola, Repsol; desalination — Acciona — or pharmaceutical research — Grifols.

Spain ranks third worldwide in number of companies with activities in biotechnology.

Telefónica operates in 25 countries with more than 306,600.000 customers is one of the leading telecommunications sector integrated operators which provides communication, information and entertainment solutions.

Today, Spain is a very attractive destination for foreign direct investment and is home to 12,800 foreign capital companies that provide jobs to more than 1.2 million people, 6.6% of the national total.

Which are the most important research centres in Spain?

The public research system plays an important role in the development of R&D&I and innovation in Spain. Almost half of the investment in this field comes from public authorities.

Our country has Public Research Organisations or PROs — OPIs for their Spanish abbreviation — which, along with universities, develop most of the Spanish scientific production, given that they carry out most of the activities included in the National Plan for Scientific and Technical Research and Innovation. OPIs are made up of six large centres and are responsible for fields of research, such as agro-biotechnology, aerospace technology, marine science or molecular biology, among others. They are also leading pioneering research in the world.

These six PROs are
The National Scientific Research Council — CSIC
The Energy, Environmental and Technological Research Centre — CIEMAT
The Geological and Mining Institute of Spain — IGME
The National Institute for Aerospace Technology — INTA
The Spanish Instituto of Oceanography — IEO
The National Institute for Agrarian Research — INIA

They were joined in recent years by
The Carlos III Health Institute — ISCIII
The Canadian Institute of Astrophysics — IAC

The most important public research institution in our country is the National Scientific Research Council — CSIC — which is also the third national research agency in Europe, open to collaboration with Spanish and foreign entities. The work of the CSIC ranges from basic research to knowledge transfer to the production sector in areas as Agricultural Sciences, Biology and Biomedicine, Chemical Science and Technologies, Food Science and Technology, Humanities and Social Sciences, Material Science and Technology, Natural Resources, or Physical Science and Technologies. The 6% of the personnel devoted to research and development in Spain are in the CSIC. These public researchers generate approximately 20% of the Spanish scientific production and have placed the national agency as a world reference in scientific and technical research.

In addition to the OPIs, the Spanish public research system has Singular Scientific and Technical Infrastructures — ICTs. They are large facilities, resources, equipment and services devoted to high quality, state-of-the-art technological research and development, as well to fostering knowledge transfer, exchange and preservation and technology and innovation transfer. These 29 ICTs which embrace a total of 59 infrastructures.

The 29 Singular Scientific and Technical Infrastructures have been divided into eight areas from an operating point of view:

Great Canarian Telescope — GTC
Canary Islands Observatories — OOCC
Calar Alto Astronomic Observatory — CAH
IRAM 30M Radiotelescope — IRAM30m
Yebes Astronomic Centre — CAY
Javalambre Astrophysics Observatory — OAJ
Canfranc Underground Laboratory — LSC

Canary Islands Oceanic Platform — PLOCAN
Balearic Islands Coastal Observing and Forecasting System — SOCIB
Spanish Oceanographic Fleet — FLOTPOLs
Spanish Antarctic Bases — BAEs
Doñana Biological Reserve — RBD
Research Aircraft Platforms — PAI

Spanish Extended Supercomputing Network — RES BSC–CNS
Spanish Research and Education Network — RedIRIS

Integrated Infrastructures for the Production and Characterisation of Nanomaterials Biomaterials and Systems in Biomedicine — NANBIOSIS
Integrated Infrastructure of Omic Technologies — IOT
Network of High Security Biological Laboratories —RLASB
Biomedical Image Integrated Infrastructure — ReDIB
Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Laboratory — LRB

Almería Solar Platform — PSA
National Fusion Laboratory — LNF

Integrated Maritime Experimentation Infrastructure — MARHIS

Synchrotron — ALBA
Network of Micro- and Nano-manufacturing Clean Rooms — MICRONANOFABS
Integrated Materials Electronic Microscopy Infrastructure — ELECMI
Ultra-Intense Pulsed Lasers Centre — CLPU
National Accelerators Centre — CNA

National Centre for Human Evolution — CENIEH

What about the Spanish National Health System and biomedical research?

The Spanish National Health System ranks high among the best ones in the world due to its great network of hospitals, and specialised and primary care centres. In its basis there is a solid system of medical research and innovation that leads our country to be a role model in the technological healthcare sector.

Additionally, Spain’s health professionals are top-rated, being highly required by the rest of the European countries due to their high qualifications and their ability to design management systems being an international reference model.

WHO~World Health Organization leads the Spanish National Health Service to the 7th position of the world ranking of health systems. In Spain there are 3,006 Health Centres, 10,116 Primary Care Centres and 790 hospitals — 1.8 for each 100,000 inhabitants.

The Spanish National Health System is complemented with a solid and renowned private health system becoming more and more widespread. Approximately the 30% of the population use this private system, with 483 hospitals and 53,985 beds.

The leadership in healthcare quality and touristic services makes of Spain an ideal health touristic destination, a growing sector in our country.

The Spanish model of management and digitalization is on the cutting-edge worldly. Companies as Everis, Indra, Oesía and Telefónica, among others, ranked the leading positions having projects in this field in a many different countries. A survey in 2013 about the Spanish Information Society — siE, of Fundación Telefónica, highlights the use of e-health rates in our country, being one of the highest. A 54% of Spanish patients make the appointments to see their doctors in the internet, while almost 90% of doctors access to the information through a tablet, smartphone or laptop.

Our country leads the ranking in Europe and ranks the third position in the world in the agrobiotechnological field and the fifth in biochemical and molecular biology sectors, occupying the same position in medical technology exports. Spain is also in the third in assisted reproduction. The Spanish National Cancer Research Centre  — CNIO — is the number one in publishing scientific articles having a high impact.

In addition, the Spanish pharmaceutical industry plays a key role in boosting R&D, leading the development of innovative drugs for cancer, malaria, Alzheimer’s disease and HIV. Spain-based Grifols is the leading company worldwide in blood-derived and plasma products. Also, it is among the top companies in clinical diagnostics and medical/healthcare material, while PharmaMar — Zeltia Group — is among the world’s leaders in the development of next-generation marine-derived anticancer drugs.

With nearly an 8% share of GDP, the Spanish pharma-industry is contributing almost the same as stronger sectors like tourism or the auto industry. There are more than 3,000 biotech companies focusing on R&D in our country, specifically in the medical and agri-food sectors, with almost 200,000 employees.

It is also the ninth in the world of biomedical research, according to the data of group SCImago. biomedical research in Spain is best represented by the Centre for Genomic Regulation — CRG, a European leader in the field of basic research into the human genome aimed at understanding the role it plays in cancer and other genetic diseases, including the so-called rare diseases. CRG ranks 16th worldwide among 3,000 biomedical research centres and fifth in Europe.

Spain has been leading the organ donation and transplantation field for for 23 years. The European Union and the Council of Europe recommends the rest of state members to implement the Spanish system partially if not totally. This system is based on a wide network with a transplant coordinator in each hospital, doctors trained to identify potential organ donors and speak to bereaved families in the midst of grieving. Being the leader of the organ donation and transplantation for 23 years, demonstrates that solidarity is one of the characteristics of the Spanish people, well above the rest of the countries, because donations are made exclusively in an altruistic manner. The Organización Nacional de Trasplantes — ONT — heads the System. Up to now, the ONT has transplant 90,000 organs, 300,000 tissues and almost 50,000 bone marrow and umbilical cord blood. According to the organization, the patient benefit is close to half a million, approximately 1% of population. At the same time, the ONT became a WHO collaborating centre, where some Spanish people gained a high management level as proof of excellence and recognition of the Spanish system.

Not only is Spain a world leader in organ donation and transplantation, but also is giving a lead on the umbilical cord blood stem storage and its therapeutic use in its public banks. Spain is the third in the worldwide ranking, being the United States in the leading position, followed by Japan.

How is the Spanish knowledge-based system?

Spain has an innovative and high quality education system, and one of the highest level of per-student expenditure in the developed countries. The OECD~Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report Education at a Glance 2014 confirms that Spain invests 9,285 dollars — €7,451— per student per year in public education, a 4% above OECD and the European Union.

The Spanish university system, whose origins go back to the 13th century, is formed by 77 universities, 50 of them public and other 27 private. Totally, there are 236 university campus offering 2,413 degrees, 2,758 official masters and 1,680 Phd programmes.

Spain has universities enjoying international prestige, such as Complutense University of Madrid, University of Barcelona, University of Sevilla, University of Granada and the University of Valencia, out of other. The ranking The Times Higher Education 100 Under 50, which analise the quality of the best universities having less than half a century, places four of our universities in the top 100 of the world: University Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona — ranking 25, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid — 52, Universitat Politècnica de València — 80 — and Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya — 99. Our universities are the preferred by the European students of Erasmus+ programme.

The system is completed with the wide range of executive education programmes offered by the business schools. The 2014 ranking elaborated by the Financial Times places in the top 5 of the world two of them, IE Business School and ESADE Business & Law School Ramón Llull University.

Spanish universities carry out mobility programmes with foreign counterpart centres. As a magnet for international talent they offer and important training programmes in Master and PhD levels. In 2011, the percentage of doctoral candidates from another EU-27 member state was 5.1% in Spain. In the same year, the percentage of none-EU doctoral candidates as a percentage of all doctoral candidates was 18.0%.

Given the de-centralization also the regional governments in the Autonomous Communities have specific programmes, as the Clarín programme in Asturias, the ICREA offered by the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies, or Ikerbasque programme offered by Basque Foundation for Science.

Which is the best programme for a foreign researcher who lives in Spain or is thinking to move there soon?

The Guide for the Management of the Mobility of the Foreign Researcher in Spain, 2014 may be very useful if you are a foreign researcher who lives in Spain or is moving there soon.

The European Charter for Researchers — 2005/251/EC — points out that the availability of human capital in R&D, sufficient and well-developed, is the cornerstone of advancement in scientific knowledge and represents an essential contribution to European competitiveness. Therefore, human resources dedicated to R&D&I are at the top of the list of priorities for the Spanish Strategy on Science and Technology and on Innovation 2013–2020.

The Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology — FECYT — has since 2004 been leading the Euraxess Spain project, originating from the Euraxess network, a European Union initiative with the aim of facilitating mobility for researchers in Europe.

FECYT elaborates the Guide for the Management of the mobility of the foreign researcher in Spain 2014, in which the main aspects of interest for researchers arriving in our country for the first time are set out simply and practically.

The first chapter of the Guide gives information on the new European Union Research Framework Programme, Horizon 2020, and European grants for researcher mobility and the European Charter and Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers.

The second chapter sets out the characteristics and indicators of the Spanish science, technology and innovation system, the development of a research career in Spain, the protection of R&D and the recognition of foreign qualifications.

The third chapter focuses on entry and residency requirements in Spain, which is one of the aspects that worry research personnel the most. It details the steps and procedures that allow a researcher to enter the country, including the various kinds of visa.

Items relating to work relations in Spain, such as tax, subsidies and the various Social Security benefits, as well as health care under the National Health System, are set out in fourth chapter.

The Fifth chapter explains how to join the Spanish education system, the types of educational centres in Spain, how to secure a place at a state school, university access and useful addresses.

The sixth chapter and final chapter presents the Euraxess Spain Network, a European Commission initiative that seeks to facilitate research mobility. The Euraxess Spain Network has over 85 centres across the various Autonomous Communities which provide information and personalised service to researchers and their receiving institutions.

The guide is for orientation purposes and in no way substitutes the information provided by the competent organisations, with which in any case it will be necessary to conduct procedures.

Which is the value of the the Spanish scientific research in the international context?

Spanish technological research and innovation has made enormous progress over the past two decades. In this time, our country has managed to place itself as a world reference in fields such as the generation of clean energy, molecular biology, agro-biotechnology, biochemistry, medicine or aerospace technology.

Our country leads the renewable energy sector thanks to the development of its technologies and the enormous effort in R&D&I which supports its industrial sector.

Many of the world’s leading company in the field of renewable energy and leader in wind power are Spanish. The fourth largest producer of wind turbines is Spanish, as is the largest owner and constructor of wind farms. Furthermore, our country has the highest installed capacity of thermo-solar power, whereby Spanish firms are the world leaders in this sector. The enormous effort in R&D&I has led to the development of cutting edge technology in the world, proof of which lies in the fact that the largest thermoelectric solar power plant is being built by a Spanish company in the USA. The second worldwide producer of photovoltaic solar power and the leading company in installed capacity in this type of power is also Spanish. A high percentage of the major projects being developed in the world are built by Spanish firms in the sector.

In the field of technology and R&D, the Control Centre of Renewable Energies — CECRE, which is unique in the world, has been operational in Spain since 2006. Its objective is to control and monitor the production of renewable energy throughout the country.

Spain is also a power in all phases of the integral water cycle and in the development and use of desalination technologies. It is the leading producer of desalinated water in Europe and one of the main generators of desalinated water in the world. Innovative Spanish technology enables plants to be built that are increasingly more compact, fuelled by clean energies and with integrated water consumption and flow management systems and Spanish firms are at the forefront of the sector worldwide.

What about the Spanish researchers?

Spain has 54 among the 3,000 world’s most renowned scientists, according to the 2015 edition of the Highly Cited Researchers ranking which is published by the Thomson Reuters agency. The ranking brings together the scientists whose names are most cited in international scientific journals or are most named by colleagues. Spain is the twelfth country out of a total of fifty with the most researchers on the list.

Spanish scientists included in the list are working in almost all science specialities. Biology, chemistry, clinical medicine, computer science, engineering, economics and business, environmental sciences, mathematics, physics … Many of them form part of the National Scientific Research Council — CSIC, public research body, but many other come from universities and research centres all over Spain.

Spain also stands out for being above the European average in the number of female researchers. The Female Scientists in Figures report published by the State Secretariat for Research, Development and Innovation — SEIDI — points out that the number of female researchers in our country has remained stable in the last period analysed (2008–2012). However, the percentage of female researchers, which stood at 38.5% of the total in 2012, has increased faster than that of male researchers in the past decade and is above the European average.

Many of these researchers and scientists are gathering in Associations of Spanish Researchers abroad, as in Australia, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, Sweden and the United States. These associations have been fostered from the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology — FECYT — and receive the support of Foundations, as the Fundación Ramón Areces, and Spanish Embassies in their respective countries.

Spain is also a country of innovation where young researchers. Initiatives as ‘Innovators under 35’ have recognized in 2015, for the fifth time, Spanish young talent.