Spanish companies dedicated 8,741 million euros to research and development (R&D) activities in 2019, which represents only 0.7% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and places the country far from a large part of its European partners . For example, in Germany 2.15% of its annual national wealth was dedicated to that purpose, while in France it was 1.44%.
In turn, at the State level, Spain spent a total of 15,572 million euros on R&D activities, which is 1.25% of GDP. Against this, the European average stood at 2.2%.
This is clear from a report presented a few dates ago by the Fedea Observatory, which is based on data from the INE’s R&D and Innovation surveys obtained in 2019 and published at the end of 2020. That is, this information still did not have taking into account the consequences of the covid 19 pandemic. In any case, its authors point out that the registered figures confirm that Spanish business R&D “resists international comparisons very poorly.”
This study, however, also confirms the slow recovery path of R&D and innovation indicators that had begun in 2015. The problem is that this progress has slowed down in the last year, with spending growing by only 4, 2% compared to 2018, which is almost two points less than during the two previous years.
Large public dependency
Likewise, the report shows that the distribution in Spain of the execution of R&D spending between the public and private sectors is different from the usual one in more advanced countries. The international objective is for one third to be carried out by the Administrations and the rest by companies. However, in Spain spending by public centers still has a lot of weight, accounting for 43.6% of this item compared to 56.4% contributed by companies.
This means that Spanish companies continue to have a significant deficit in their spending on R&D. To get an idea of the consequences of this distribution, while in Spain 62% of researchers are in public centers, in South Korea they are only 17% and in Japan they do not exceed 25%. Just over 11,000 Spanish companies had and implemented R&D plans in 2019. Most of them, just over 10,000, were SMEs: they had fewer than 250 employees.
In addition, almost 8,500 companies claim that R&D plans are in their organizations continuously. Industry, with almost 4,000 companies, and the service sector, with more than 4,500, are the most important in the task.
In this sense, the Fedea report recalls that the percentage of companies that declare themselves innovative in Spain has always been lower than in its main European partners. According to the 2014 Eurostat Community Innovation Survey (CIS), the percentage of innovative companies in Germany was already double that of Spanish at that time, it was one and a half times higher in France and 30% higher in Italy.
It is also highlighted in the 2019 analysis that Madrid, Catalonia, Andalusia and the Basque Country continue to account for the majority of Spanish R&D. Thus, 6 out of every 10 euros allocated to innovation were spent in these territories, which account for 53% of the population and 58% of GDP.
The postcovid world
Pending to know the impact that the economic crisis derived from this pandemic will have on investments in R&D, the authors of the report point out that, in the case of Spain, some negative and other positive consequences are already in sight. In this last field, from Fedea they maintain that the part of Spanish society that was aware of deindustrialization and also of the importance of the generation of assets in the field of science and technology has become even more evident.
For this reason, they consider that “it would be desirable” for both administrations and companies to echo this greater social sensitivity towards research. In addition, they are concerned that falls in GDP are always associated with lower investments, less collaboration between companies and more difficulties in attracting talent.