The Loyola University National Award for Research in Development aims to disseminate the research of excellence carried out in the field of Human and Sustainable Development linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and this year, of the two nationally awarded works, the second has come to the Region of Murcia. The professor of the Department of Economics, Accounting and Finance of the Polytechnic University of Cartagena, Carmelo Reverte, has been awarded for the work ‘The importance of institutional differences between countries in the level of achievement of the SDGs: an empirical study on a global scale ‘. In addition, recently, Professor Reverte has been included in the prestigious and exclusive Stanford University list of the 2% of the world’s most cited researchers in the area of Economics and Business.
The award-winning study analyzes whether the differences in the level of performance in the SDGs, from a list of 64 countries, can be explained by a series of institutional variables related to five dimensions such as the cultural system, economic development, the educational system- labor, the governance system and innovation. In order to rank countries based on their overall performance across the 17 SDGs, Reverte has used the SDG index developed by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (RSDS) and the Bertelsmann Stiftung Foundation.
“The results of the work highlight the crucial role of public policies in the level of progress in achieving the SDGs by improving governance systems, promoting education spending and boosting the innovation ecosystem. In this sense, the adoption of the “five-fold helix” model through the interrelation between the government, the University and the company is very appropriate to face the social and environmental challenges posed by the SDGs ”, explains the UPCT professor.
The EU Next-Generation funds represent a great opportunity for SMEs to boost their growth and development in the productive fabric
And he adds: “The study highlights that the countries that are in the best position to achieve the SDGs are those that, according to the World Bank’s Global Governance Indicators, are characterized by a higher quality of institutions and greater control of the corruption”.
In relation to the educational-labor system, the work has determined that the countries that allocate more budget of GDP to education and those that present a greater union culture are those that have a better performance in the level of achievement of the SDGs as there is a greater public awareness of social, labor and environmental problems, which corroborates other previous studies on the existence of a positive association between the levels of higher education in a country and its level of environmental sustainability.
In terms of innovation, the study reveals that the countries with a better performance in the SDGs are those that present a greater culture of innovation, which has been measured through several indicators: companies’ spending on R&D, University collaboration -company in R&D and technological knowledge (measured by the number of patents per million inhabitants). “In this sense – points out Carmelo Reverte – the implementation of sustainable production systems requires investments in new clean and environmentally friendly technologies. Therefore, those countries with a greater culture of innovation will be more prepared to find the innovative solutions proposed in the SDGs to arrive at a global consumption model that allows the sustainable growth of society and the transition from the linear model to the circular model based in a better use of waste.
Only 10% of the companies in the Region of Murcia carry out R + D + i projects through the University
Finally, in terms of the cultural system, countries with greater promotion of individual freedom, less hierarchical distance, less aversion to change and a longer-term orientation are those that are best prepared to achieve the SDGs in the future.
Reverte, who is also coordinator of the Doctoral Program in Economic, Business and Legal Sciences at the UPCT, highlights that several years after its approval in 2015, there are significant differences between countries in the level of progress in achieving the SDGs . “The Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Denmark and Finland) have the highest values of the SDG index, which is a reflection of their traditional approach towards sustainability and the defense of the environment and social rights. Spain ranks 22nd out of 193 countries in the 2020 report of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and the Bertelsmann Stiftung Foundation, although the global index has risen slightly from 77.8% in 2019 to 78.1% 2020 (out of a maximum of 100) ».
Where Spain fails
Sustainable Development Goals 2 (Zero Hunger) and 13 (Climate Action) remain in the red for Spain, with major challenges still to be resolved, among which are obesity rates, CO2 emissions and the effective rate decarbonisation, which hinders both SDGs from being achieved in the expected timeframe.
«In relation to the problem of emissions, a couple of weeks ago the Law on Climate Change and Energy Transition was recently approved with the aim of achieving the so-called« climate neutrality »before 2050 by promoting renewable energy and sustainable mobility . This Law is in line with the European Green Pact (‘Green Deal’), which establishes a roadmap to provide the EU with a sustainable economy where it aspires to be climate neutral in 2050 ”, says the researcher.
However, Spain also has negative aspects in the following SDGs: 8 (Decent work and economic growth), with a high percentage of young people between 15 and 29 years old who neither study nor work (NEETs) (youth unemployment); 10 (Reduction of inequalities), economic inequality (wage gap) in the population; 15 (Life of terrestrial ecosystems), cleaning of marine ecosystems (in the Region the negative case of the Mar Menor stands out). Regarding youth unemployment, it is worth highlighting the recent approval of the Youth Guarantee Plan Plus 2021-2027, which will have a budget of 4,950 million euros. It includes 69 measures with which it is intended to incorporate the younger population into the labor market, and thereby reduce the youth unemployment figures, which currently reaches 37.7% of those under 25 years of age.
National recognition of the study is not its only value, but the results of the study have important implications for the development of public policies, showing that, if we want to improve the level of achievement of the SDGs worldwide by the most Delayed to date in their achievement, an improvement in institutional quality and governance systems is necessary, as well as a promotion of spending on innovation. “Thus, given the important role of innovation documented at work, it would be very convenient to introduce public programs to promote innovation by companies, either through tax incentive programs or support for R + D + i” , says Reverte.
In this sense, Spain will receive until 2026 from the European Recovery Fund and the Next-Generation Funds of the EU 140,000 million in the form of grants and loans (equivalent to 11% of our GDP) that will be derived to three destinations main ones: the Green Pact (promotion of renewable energies and the circular economy), the digital transition (SMEs digitization plan) and reindustrialization. The UPCT professor considers that “these Next-Generation funds from the EU represent a great opportunity for SMEs to promote their growth and development in the productive fabric. It is important that companies anticipate and identify their projects that must be adapted to the levers and components of the National Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan in which the funds are framed.
Likewise, in the light of the results obtained in the variables related to educational spending, Carmelo Reverte warns: «Public policies should boost spending on education by increasing its weight in GDP and encourage the introduction in the study plans of the subjects related to sustainability so that the acquisition of a critical awareness of social and environmental issues is progressively generated from secondary education to university ”.
“In fact,” he says, “when the United Nations approved the 17 SDGs and the 2030 Agenda in 2015, the key and cross-cutting role of education was already manifested to achieve a citizenship that reflects and has a critical conscience that leads it to develop actions that contribute to the sustainable development outlined in the said 2030 Agenda ”.
In this sense, “governments should promote the link between education and technology by promoting knowledge transfer programs between universities and companies. The transfer of knowledge from universities and research organizations to the company can be a key factor that leads to a competitive advantage. Only 10% of the companies in the Region of Murcia carry out R + D + i projects through the University. To promote this University-company knowledge transfer, the UPCT has an extensive Network of Chairs both in technology and in entrepreneurship and technology. Additionally, public administrations should stimulate tax incentive programs for R & D & I more ambitious than the current ones. Other interesting measures would be to encourage the incorporation of Doctors to companies (such as the Torres Quevedo Program) and the Industrial Doctorate, as well as to promote the ecosystem of startups and entrepreneurs ”, he concludes.