R&D&I spending in Spain, current situation and future prospects


When it seemed that the Spanish innovative effort was beginning to rise after the economic-financial crisis of 2007, with indicators that encouraged optimism, especially focused on the increase in the private sector’s commitment to investment in R&D&I compared to public investment, the Covid-19 pandemic seems to have caused a very significant drop in this activity in 2020, with a significant impact on the development and competitiveness of the country.

In this regard, the COTEC Annual Report constitutes the most realistic and objective indicator of R& D&I activity in Spain, but we will have to wait a few months until the data for 2020 is known. What does seem certain is that a part very important in the business sector and, above all, in certain subsectors, have ended the 2020 financial year with a significant drop in their turnover and, therefore, in their business results and that this situation has been accompanied by a significant reduction in investment in R&D&I of our companies. Undoubtedly, 2021 is still going to be a difficult year for many of these companies and the recovery of innovative investment could be slow, depending on the recovery of the Spanish and European economy and that of our companies.

The challenge will therefore be to return to the pre-Covid situation that is reflected in the Cotec Report for 2019. This will be Spain’s objective for the years 2021-2022, which should place this innovative bet on R&D. D around the € 15,500 million reached in 2019, which allowed the ratio of R&D spending to GDP to be 1.25% of GDP, 4.2% higher than the previous year, which stood at at 1.24% but still far from the 1.40% reached in 2010, historical ceiling in Spain.

Therefore, we come from a situation in which the business sector represented the highest percentage of R&D spending with 56%, that is, 0.7% of GDP, followed by the Higher Education sector with 26.6%, 0.33% of GDP. At the level of Autonomous Communities, the most important expenditure was carried out in the Basque Country (1.97% of GDP), Madrid (1.71% of GDP) and Navarra (1.67% of GDP), while, at the tail end are the Balearic Islands (0.4% of GDP), the Canary Islands (0.47% of GDP) and Castilla La Mancha (0.59% of GDP).

On the other hand, the increase in staff employed full-time in R&D activities should be highlighted, which in 2019 exceeded 231,000 people, with an increase of 2.5% compared to 2018. Of this amount, 144,000 people correspond to group of researchers of which 40% were women, although in companies this percentage amounts to only 32%. Undoubtedly, this is the fundamental potential that guarantees innovative activity in the agents of the Innovation ecosystem, and more so considering that Spanish legislation has an optimal mechanism for these entities to benefit from the reductions in the monthly insurance settlement of these professional profiles allowed by RD 475/2014.

At ACERTA we consider that the latter is probably one of the most immediate and powerful tax incentives that exist, constituting a strength of our innovation system whose use, in times of crisis and difficulties, makes even more sense so as not to reduce R&D capacity. of companies and research centers. This incentive is even more important in those classified as innovative SMEs that combine to this the tax deduction itself for the availability of research personnel and that generated by their direct participation in R&D or technological innovation projects. In times of crisis like the ones we are experiencing, let us take advantage of all the legal mechanisms of financial return to guarantee the recovery and competitiveness of our companies without reducing our R&D&I activity.

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