In a world immersed in the shadows of uncertainty, support for research, development and innovation (R+D+i) always illuminates the path to progress. Your financial support, both public and private, is essential to nurture the flame of knowledge and also serves as a beacon in a storm, directing the path with the necessary tools to overcome various challenges. It has been proven in the pandemic and in the express creation of a remedy that has helped save millions of lives. And we will continue to see it in the future, because it will not be the last time we need science to get out of a rut. Because without it it would be like sailing without a compass towards unknown horizons. “Out there there is a deafening noise and the drums are already beginning to beat, not of innovation, but of involution, the drums of intolerance and setback,” said Diana Morant, Minister of Science and Innovation of the Government of Spain.
In a meeting organized by EL PAÍS and Acciona, the government representative stated that “this is not the time to change what already gives excellent results. It is not the time to return to the darkness. It is time to consolidate all the reforms and to ensure that our country completes this ongoing reindustrialization process”. In this sense, she highlighted the different actions that the Executive has carried out and that have served to gain strength in the rankings international. “It is more than evident that we are modernizing our economy, thanks also to the deployment of a set of profound reforms such as the law of start-ups, the Telecommunications Law, the Climate Change and Energy Transition Law, and the Science, Technology and Innovation Law. And it is what we want to continue doing. This is our country plan,” he added.
During the meeting, held on Friday in Madrid, Morant explained that Spain is the second European nation that allocates the most recovery funds to science and research. “The budget is the largest in R + D + i in history”, she added. And the results of that bet, he assures, are already bearing fruit, since in one year the economy has climbed one position in the ranking Innovation European. “We cannot let this innovative train stop.” The minister indicated that the Government’s objective is to position the country among the top 20 world powers in this matter. “We want this germ to have its origin in all Spanish cities and municipalities, where diversity is concentrated and people live together, and where problems will find their solutions. A whole revolution of the future that will give strength and roots to our democracy to protect it from the threats that hit us”.
According to the Global Innovation Index 2022, Spain is ranked 28th among the most innovative countries (out of a total of 132) and 18th among European countries, being classified as a moderate innovator. “Innovation is a fundamental driver for society. We need it for the energy transition, for decarbonization, for everything that has to do with biomedicine”, stressed Raúl Rivero, head of investment (CIO) at Acciona, at the opening of the meeting entitled Innovation in Spain: challenges and opportunities. Jumping into the top 20 is not an easy thing. In addition to financial resources, it is also necessary to attract and retain talent, define the sectors with the greatest opportunities for development, and join forces between public and private entities.
“We must focus on research and the most disruptive technologies that are going to mark the future,” said Carmen Camuñas, head of digital hub at Acciona. Innovation, according to this expert, is not only artificial intelligence, which is now in vogue, but many others such as robotics, 3D printing and the application of IoT (internet of things). “It is important to invest in this type of technology. Spain is a benchmark and a large part of it is the investment of companies like Microsoft, Meta and Google in Spain, which means that it is a safe bet ”, she asserted.
“We have to be aware that we have made a lot of progress in recent years, but we still have a long way to go and there are many and varied things to do,” added Miguel Escassi, public policy director at Google Spain. The expert from the US firm commented that the great challenge is to translate the broader concepts related to digitization and new technologies into specific applications. “Spain is already a benchmark in many things related to innovation, for example, in clinical trials and high-impact publications,” acknowledged Rocío Arroyo, winner of the European Commission’s Innovation Capital Award and co-founder and executive director of Amadix. “We have the strengths to be one of the main generators of knowledge… Now, it is also true that there is an imbalance between scientific production and real innovation performance. And one of the most important is technology transfer: how much are we applying that knowledge that we generate? The expert mentioned that the objective is for basic science to be oriented from the beginning towards the needs of the market, because this is not always the case. “This requires greater proximity between the hospital, university and research center, so that in the industry we can transfer feedback and contribute to where that innovation is going”.
“The word transfer gives a sequential or linear image of someone creating knowledge and someone using it, when it doesn’t have to be that way. It has to become a co-creation from the outset, those who generate the knowledge have to be in contact with those who are going to use it”, stressed Juan Manuel Muñoz, assistant vice-rector for innovation and transfer with the function of director of the Research Results Transfer Office (Otri). “Innovation is a culture, it is a way of doing things. You have to work together with many more people and know what the impacts of your work are, positive, negative, but also the economic, environmental and social impact”.
For Carles Sierra, director of the CSIC’s AI Institute, one of the keys to making the leap in the ranking is defining the R+D+i model that the country needs. In the US it is based on high salaries and concentration of talent that makes the country super attractive, while in China it is focused on a gigantic investment from the Government. The expert added that in the United Kingdom there is a great focus on talent and its mass generation. “For example, in the field of AI, in the last five years, 800 new PhDs were generated in this field in 12 universities.” In addition to this, he stressed that it is necessary to focus on the points in which the economy is a reference. “I would focus efforts on issues that affect the environment, such as water and energy management,” he emphasized.
This meeting falls under the Regeneration Cycle: Positive Impacta series of events organized by EL PAÍS and Acciona that seek to put the most important issues of the Spanish economy and society on the table.
Five Days agenda
The most important economic appointments of the day, with the keys and the context to understand their scope.
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