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31 DE julio DE 2017

Spain looks towards 2020

  • Spain ranks fourth in terms of ROI from Horizon 2020 R&D&I programs between 2014 and 2016

Ricardo Migueláñez. @rmiguelanez

The European Union Programmes Division of the Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI) published provisional data relating to Spain's participation in Horizon 2020 in 2014-2016. It revealed that around 2,000 Spanish entities obtained aid amounting to 1,933.8 million euros in the 300 projects awarded in the three-year period, during which there were 23,000 proposals and 2,893 R&D&I activities were financed.

Spain's return on investment was 9.8% in the EU-28, ranking it fourth in terms of aid granted, trailing innovative countries such as Germany (return of 17% and aid amounting to 3.361 billion euros), the UK (return of 16.5% and aid of 3,265.9 million euros) and France (return of 11.1% and aid of 2,204.9 million euros) and surpassing Italy (return of 8.8% and aid of 1,742.3 million) and the Netherlands (return of 8.8% and aid of 1,731.5 million).

These are fantastic results for the CDTI as they exceed both those obtained in the EU's Seventh Framework Programme for Research, when the return was 8.3%, and the ambitious objectives established for the whole of Horizon 2020 (return of 9.5%).

Spain obtained a leadership position in 15.1% of the projects (research and innovation actions, RAI, and innovation actions, IA) that were approved (378 coordinated by Spain, making it a leader in the EU). This represents an improvement compared with the previous Framework Program, when the return on investment was 8.3% and Spain led 10.7% of the projects.

Despite the positive degree of detail from the CDTI on investment and funding for R&D&I in Horizon 2020, it's also interesting to see a breakdown by sector and department themes and, in our case, the results achieved by the farming (farmland, cattle, forest), agri-food (industry and cooperatives), and fishing-aquaculture sectors, regardless of how small they may be, with a view to understanding their participation.

According to the CDTI, of all of the R&D&I activities financed to date, entities from Spain participated in around 2,893 of them, and Spain coordinated almost half.

Among the beneficiaries, companies are the group with the greatest contribution to returns, accounting for 38.2% of funding obtained by Spain. The remaining Spanish subsidies are distributed among universities (19.5%), public research centers (11.4%), research associations (11%), technology centers (10%), public administrations (5.8%), associations (4%) and European entities (0.2%).

The Spanish region that obtained the greatest amount of funds/economic return to date is Catalonia, with 28.6% of the total and 552.2 million euros, followed by Madrid (25.1% and 485.7 million) and the Basque Country (15.7% and 303 million).They're followed, at a distance, by Valencia (7.7% and 149.2 million), Andalusia (6.4% and 122.9 million), Castile-León (3.2% and 61.8 million), Aragón (3% and 58.7 million), Galicia (2.8% and 53.8 million), Navarre (1.8% and 35.3 million), Asturias (1.2% and 22.8 million), the Canary Islands (1.1% and 20.2 million), Murcia (1% and 18.8 million), Cantabria (0.9% and 16.7 million), Castile-La Mancha (0.7% and 14 million), La Rioja (0.6% and 11.9 million), the Balearic Islands (0.2% and 4.9 million) and Extremadura (0.1% and 2 million).

Innovation in SMEs

As for areas/themes, Spain ranks first in terms of the greatest returns from "Innovation in SMEs," with 17.4% of the total in the EU-28, due to results from "SME Instrument", "Societal Challenges" and "Climate Action, Environment, Resource Efficiency and Raw Materials," with 13.9% of the EU-28.

In the case of "Nanotechnologies, Advanced Materials, Biotechnology and Advanced Manufacturing and Processing" and "Science With and For Society" it ranks second, with 14.4% and 10.7% of returns in the EU-28, respectively.

In the H2020 program on Societal Challenges, the goal of which is to respond to society's main problems, Spain obtained 782.2 million euros, i.e. 10% of the total aid provided for all 28 countries in the European Union.

In accordance with the seven Societal Challenges for R&D&I in H2020, the largest subsidies went to "Secure, clean and efficient energy," with 194 million euros, which accounts for 10.8% of the EU total; followed by "Health, demographic change and wellbeing," with 158 million euros and 7.7% of the total; "Smart, green and integrated transport," with 156.2 million euros and 10.7% of the EU-28 total; "Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials," with 121.9 million euros (13.9% EU-28) and "Food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine and maritime and inland water research" with 90.7 million euros and 10% of the EU total, with Spain ranking sixth in the European Union.

The regions that obtained the greatest economic return on their investments in the Societal Challenges theme were Catalonia, Madrid, and Andalusia. Between 2014 and 2016, 140 R&D&I activities which included Spanish companies received funding, of which 19 (9.8% of the total) were coordinated by Spain.

Public research centers accounted for 26% of those activities, followed by companies (24.5%), universities (22.7%), and technology centers (9.6%).

Associations and entities with the greatest ROI in this area of the Societal Challenge project included CSIC, IRTA, INIA, IRIS, UAL, AZTI and IEO.

It's also worth noting the ROI from Industrial Leadership, the goal of which is to speed up development of the technologies and innovations that will underpin tomorrow's businesses and help innovative European SMEs (with less than 250 employees) grow into world-leading companies.

Technological Leadership

Spain obtained 660.5 million euros in this area, i.e. 12.6% of the total, with 219.7 million euros (9.2% of the EU-28 total) for "Leadership in enabling and industrial technologies" in connection with information and communications technology (ICT), and 224.1 million euros (14.6% of the EU total) in nanotechnology, advanced materials, biotechnology and advanced manufacturing and processing. It received another 34.9 million euros (11.6% of the EU total) for research into Space. In Access to risk finance and innovation in SMEs, which includes projects under SME Instrument and the "Fast-Track to Innovation" pilot project, the ROI was 181.7 million euros (17.4% of the EU total).

With regard to this pillar, Spain ranks provisionally in first position in terms of returns in the EU. In the first phase of SME Instrument, Spanish institutions participated in 381 activities, with 19.2 million euros in aid, i.e. 22.1% of the EU total. In the second phase, Spain participated in 105 activities, with 136.9 million euros in aid (18.6% of the EU-28 total).

In Excellent Science, which aims to reinforce and extend the excellence of the EU's science base and to consolidate the European Research Area in order to make the EU's research and innovation system more competitive on a global scale, Spain obtained 474.5 million euros (7.5% of the EU-28), of which 234.3 million euros (6.8% of the EU total) were for the European Research Council (ERC); 33.8 million euros (9.3%) for Future and emerging technologies (FET); 169.5 million euros (8.9%) for Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSC); and 36.9 million euros (6%) for Research infrastructure (IIN).

Lastly, in the Science with and for Society programme, Spain ranked second in the EU in terms of returns, with 14.2 million euros, i.e. 10.7% of the total. Spain participated in 38 R&D&I activities, of which 11 (16.2% of the total) were coordinated by Spain. Moreover, for Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation (WID), there were returns of 2.5 million euros, i.e. 1% of the EU total.

Horizon 2020 (H2020), the EU Framework Program for Research and Innovation, is the main instrument for funding activities in Europe related to research, technological development, dissemination and innovation. The 2014-2020 budget amounts to 74.828 billion euros.

It's organized mainly through competitive proposals, which are centrally managed by the European Commission and its executive agencies.

New calls

On May 19th, the government authorized the funding of 370 million euros for the two main calls for research projects in Spain: "R&D Excellence", provided with 125.5 million euros, and "R&D&I Challenges-Research", with 244 million euros.

These calls, which will soon be published in the Official State Gazette, represent the largest amount of funding to date to promote scientific and technical research. Beneficiaries include universities, public R&D centers, and private, non-profit R&D centers.

They are managed by the State Research Agency, and the goal is to provide researchers with funding for their project on a competitive basis. These funds enable research groups to obtain the necessary equipment and technical staff and support the research projects' function as an adequate framework for training research personnel.

The projects may be completed individually or jointly with other groups so as to promote the creation of more powerful scientific cooperation schemes in order to achieve objectives that would otherwise be difficult to attain where execution is more limited.

The 2017 call for "R&D Excellence" aims to finance high-quality experimental and theoretical research products with no pre-defined focus, the goal of which is to obtain results that provide a significant advancement in knowledge and which have a high scientific-technical, international, social or economic impact.

The "R&D&I Challenges-Research" call for proposals focuses on projects, both experimental and theoretical, whose objectives help resolve any aspect reflected in society's eight main challenges, as set out in the Spanish Strategy for Science and Technology and Innovation and "Food quality and security; productive, sustainable agriculture; sustainability of natural resources, and marine and maritime research."

Applicants must choose which of the two calls they will apply for. In the case of "Challenges-Research," applicants must select the challenge that best aligns with the project objectives, which may have one or two main researchers and be requested for three or four years, and exceptionally for two provided that there is sufficient justification.

The funds cover project execution costs, such as staff salaries, the purchase of materials, travel expenses associated with the project and costs related to patents and publications.

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