Science, Technology and Innovation Cooperation
Between Sub-Saharan Africa and Europe

Policy Context

Africa-EU STI policy landscape



Spain has a quasi-federal decentralised political system and so its R&D and innovation-related policies are on the same basis.

Profile developed by: Centre for Social Innovation (ZSI), Austria (data as at 2013). To submit comments and/or requests for corrections, write to 

In the past, allocation of competences in R&D and innovation were not clearly assigned to the different administrative levels, which led most regions to develop similar R&D plans and to launch similar and often overlapping instruments, programmes and agencies at both regional and national administrative levels (Erawatch Country Report 2010 and 2011). Some recent developments might improve the coordination of national and regional R&D and innovation policies. For example, the new Law of Science, Technology and Innovation (LCTI 2011) is aimed at improving national and regional coordination through the Council of Science, Technology and Innovation (CPCTI).

R&D Expenditure

Four regions accounted in 2012 for 69.7% of all R&D expenditures: Madrid (25.6%), Catalonia (22.3%), Andalusia (11.1%) and the Basque Country (10.7%). In relative terms, the leading regions are the Basque Country, Navarre, Madrid and Catalonia with a GERD by GDP of 2.2%; 1.9%, 1.8% and 1.5% respectively. The Basque Country is the only region that has increased its yearly R&D Intensity over the last three years (2%, 2.1% and 2.2%). All Regional authorities “Comunidades Autónomas” have registered to the Smart Specialisation Platform (S³P), which “assists Member States and regions to develop, implement and review Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation (RIS³)” (RIS³: on-line). Currently, all the Spanish regions are developing their RIS3 strategies, which have to be finished by the end of 2013 (NRP, 2013) The new Spanish Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation (EESTI) (2013-2020) includes the concept of “smart specialisation” in one of its 6 priority axes (Priority 5) (see section 3 and 5.1).


Important public budget cuts have seriously affected national and regional budgets for R&D and Innovation. Government Budget Appropriations or Outlays on R&D (GBAORD) has been decreasing importantly over the last three years, by -4.5% in 2010 by -12.7% in 2011 and by -13.1% in 2012, reaching a budget of €6,300m. Data on the general government budget for R&D and innovation (PGE) showed that, after decreasing in 2012 by -25.6%, public investments in R&D and innovation decreased in 2013 by -7.2% leading to a budget of €5,932m (Molero and de No, 2012, Molero and de No, 2013). This means that public R&D investments went back to the levels of 2005-2006. (see section 6). Theses severe cuts in R&D and innovation investment have reduced the opportunities for Spain to change its economic structure and to overcome the current economic crisis. They also indicate that it will be very difficult for Spain to reach the target of 3% GERD per GDP set by the Europe 2020 strategy. Actually, the new Spanish Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation (EESTI) (2013-2020) has recently set a new lower target of 2% GERD per GDP for 2020.  A 3% target was set by the National Reform Programme (NRP) in 2011 and ratified in the NRP of 2012, translating the EU-level targets of the Europe 2020 strategy into national targets.


The national research and innovation priorities and goals are set by the national and regional “strategies” and “plans”. The LCTI 2011 foresaw two strategies and plans that aimed to set out the general common objectives and priorities on R&D and innovation policies. These should be shared by all the national and regional administrations, thereby ensuring an efficient implementation of policies at different political levels (regional, national and European). The strategies and plans aim to transform the Spanish economy into a sustainable and knowledge-based economy and policy goals are in line with Europe 2020 strategy. These envisaged two strategies and two plans have been merged into two single documents: The Spanish Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation (EESTI) (2013-2020) and the strategy implemented by the Spanish State Plan of Scientific and Technical Research and Innovation (PECTI) (2013-2016) approved on 1st February 2013 (see section 2.3).

Spain showed a decreasing trend in most key R&D funding indicators over the last years, breaking the rising trend of the previous period and making it difficult to reach the Europe 2020 objectives (see Table below). Spanish Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate during the period 2009-2012 has been showing negative or close to cero values (2009 and 2010) and below the EU-25 average (-1.6 in 2012 against the EU -0.4). The Spanish Goss Expenditures on Research and Development (GERD) as a percentage of GDP (R&D intensity) decreased over the same period from 1.39% to 1.3%, remaining below the EU average of 2.06%. The GERD per capita has yearly declined from a 315.4€ in 2009 to 286€ and is also below the EU average (528.8€). The GBAORD in totals have also declined between 2009 and 2012.

Role of Business

R&D funded by Business Enterprise Sector as a percentage of GDP is stagnated in 0.6%, far from the EU average of 1.12%. Regarding the distribution of GERD by sectors of performance, the business enterprise sector increased its share from 51.9% in 2009 to 53.0% in 2012. This increase went mainly against the decline in shares of Government Sector.

Available figures on R&D performance indicators (last 10 indicators) do not yet reflect the consequences of this decrease in R&D investments. However, in general terms and especially for the case of human resources and international co-publications, figures tend to increase and are above the EU average. In 2010 the number of New doctorate per 1000 population aged 25-34 was below the EU-average (1.5). The proportion of population with completed tertiary education (per 1000 and aged) increased from 39.4 in 2009 to 40.6 in 2011 and was above the EU average (34.6). The level of international co-publications per million also increased over the same period (from 493 to 599) and was also higher than the EU average (300). However, the relative number of scientific publications among the top 10% cited is still lower that the EU average (for the latest data available 2008, this indicator was 10.2 against 10.9 of the EU-27 average). Innovative intellectual assets were clearly below the EU average. PTC patent application per billion GDP (in PPS€) was, in 2009, 1.43 far from the EU average of 3.9 as well as the figures on patent applications in societal challenges (0.39 against 0.96 for 2009). Regarding the indicators that measure economic effects tend to be below the EU average, Contribution of Medium and high-tech product exports to trade balance (103.05 against 101.28). It is not the case of service exports of knowledge intensive sectors that are clearly below the EU average (21.6 against 45.1). License and patent revenues from abroad as a % of the GDP are stable and show very low levels (0.07) compared with the EU-27 average (0.58).

Source: ERAWATCH Platform on Research and Innovation Policies and Systems

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