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Innovation: The Big Loser in These Elections if our Politicians don't Get Their Act Together

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R&D&I: When it comes to innovation and entrepreneurship, our politicians don’t measure up. We analyze the proposals of the political parties in terms of innovation and entrepreneurship.

  • The PSOE is the party that proposes a greater investment in R&D, reaching 2.5% of the PGE. On the other hand, PP, Citizens point to a 2% of total investment in R&D&I and United We can propose a public investment of 2%.
  • VOX is the only one of the five main political formations that does not mention R&D&I within its electoral agenda.
  • From the consultancy firm they point out that “whoever governs, governs, the important thing is that the government’s proposals materialize in greater levels of allocation, execution, and budgetary discipline in the R&D&I programs and thus guarantee Spain’s growth through innovation”.

A few days before the next general elections on April 28th, Spanish citizens already know the opinions and proposals of the main political parties. They focus mainly on issues such as Catalan nationalism, the fight against corruption, and social policy. Ideas that in recent years have gained much ground against proposals for funding and investment in R&D&I.

Investment promises have always been a common factor in Spain’s electoral programs, although the amount actually invested by governments is often far from what was promised. For example, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s government’s 2008-2011 state research plan set a target of 2% of Spain’s GDP by 2010, although it ultimately stood at 1.35%, according to INE figures, while Rajoy’s own plan for 2013-2016 invested 1.19% of GDP when promised 1.48%. On the other hand, the current plan fixes an investment in R&D&I of 2% for 2020, although the latest data indicates that in 2017 only 1.2% was reached.

Added to this is the fact that, of all the public investment budgeted, in the end the governments execute a budget in R&D that does not reach the totality of what was predicted. According to the latest data from the General State Intervention, in 2018 only 3,278 million euros of the 7,003 planned were executed, that is, less than 50%. If we look back, the figures are similar: in the last ten years, the total of budgetary items allocated to innovation has never been reached.

What are the proposals of each party?

Taking this data and the imminent elections into account, we have analyzed the R&D&I proposals in the programs of the main Spanish political parties:

  • PSOE: The Socialists highlight in their program the actions carried out in innovation by the Government in the last legislature, and indicate their objective to continue working in this line. The main objective is to “position Spain at least in the European average of investment in R&D&I”, which would represent 2.07% of EU GDP28. Thus, they speak of allocating 2.5% of the General State Budgets to this matter and stimulating private investment of 2% of GDP. In addition, the PSOE also proposes the creation of a State Network of Incubators and Accelerators, a National Entrepreneurship Office, and a State Pact for Science and Innovation. In the fiscal area, its proposal for the optimization of tax deductions for business R&D&I stands out.
  • PP: On the other hand, the popular ones promise slightly less public spending on R&D, specifically 2% of GDP, combining spending from public coffers with private investment. In addition, its proposals to increase R&D&I, although more numerous, are not very specific. Initiatives such as the development of a Spanish Science, Technology, and Innovation Strategy 2021-2027 to accompany the new European Horizon 2021-2027 program, the complete digitization of public administration, and the impulse of the Startup Spain program. In addition, the PP also proposes the creation of an Innovation Portal and the implementation of the “Plan+Tech” to “attract companies with a high technological content to Spain”. In fiscal matters, they are betting on the drafting of several laws that favor the increase in size of companies.
  • Citizens: The party led by Albert Rivera is also talking about achieving a 2% GDP investment in R&D by the end of the legislature, a far cry from their previous proposals in which they spoke of 3%. And, like PP and PSOE, Citizens focuses its main ideas on R&D&I in startups, highlighting among them, the proposal that these companies do not pay taxes during the first two years and that investment in their shares can be tax deductible. In this sense, they also seek to approve a Promotion Law to “promote a favourable legal framework for innovative companies in their initial stages” and “drastically reduce bureaucracy in the management of R&D&I projects”, as well as the creation of a Cervera Technology Transfer Network to transfer knowledge to SMEs.
  • United We Can: The purple party also bets on a public investment in research and development of 2% in the final part of the legislature, maintaining its support for small businesses and control over the tax incentives of the big ones. Thus, Podemos proposes to “eliminate the tax privileges of large corporations in the corporate tax and lower it to SMEs”, and that subsidies to large companies be entirely dedicated to R&D. With regard to SMEs, they propose the creation of various schemes to “promote their access to technology and provide them with funding and advice“, and in the scientific field they promise to rescue researchers who have moved abroad. Finally, they are also betting on the creation of a Vice President of Digitalization and New Economy.
  • VOX: Unlike the other four major political parties, the formation led by Santiago Abascal does not offer a detailed figure of investment in this matter. In fact, VOX, in its electoral program, only mentions the promotion of “the reindustrialization of Spain in the context of the cooperation company – state”. Equally noteworthy is its support for R&D&I and the international expansion of Spanish companies that have their headquarters and taxes in our country. It is worth mentioning its commitment to the digitalization of the rural economy.

Download the complete analysis here

Our analysis shows that, in general terms, the proposals regarding R&D&I of almost all parties are quite aligned, coinciding in the support for entrepreneurship, the reinforcement of startups, and the commitment to digitalization. Many of the proposals point in the right direction. The solution is to make the regulations more dynamic so that they do not act as a barrier to entrepreneurship and research, which gives room to new business models and new products, and which allows all types of companies access to public funds.

It is essential to guarantee the relationship between Universities, Research Centers, and companies, allowing staff mobility and encouraging cooperative work and joint participation in development projects and activities.

Whoever governs, the important thing is that promises do not remain on paper, but that they are materialized in real actions that encourage a fundamental sector to guarantee Spain’s growth.

Download the complete analysis here.