• Although Spain is the world’s 12th most prolific country for scientific production (over 96,500 publications in 2018), this circumstance is not reflected in industrial innovation that reaches the market
  • Of the 10,179 companies that allocated some of their budget to R&D in 2017, only 5.5% chose universities and other centres of higher education as a supplier
  • These data appear in the first Report on Technology Transfer and Business, which concludes that new R&D policies are required and establishes tech transfer as a unique social and economic opportunity for the country

Barcelona, 26 November 2019-. Today, The Collider, the innovation programme of  Mobile World Capital Barcelona, presented its first report on technology transfer and business, which concludes that Spain has huge potential for growth in innovation and competitiveness if it is able to improve tech transfer. The study states that Spain is a leading country in scientific production (12th in the world league table), has one of Europe’s most powerful entrepreneurial ecosystems (with Barcelona and Madrid the six and fifth European hubs with the most startups) and is a pole for attracting talent (third most attractive country for European talent). Despite these strengths, Spain finds it very hard to turn scientific research into innovation that reaches the market in the form of products and services. The study was presented today by The Collider Director, Òscar Sala, at an event involving companies already committed to tech transfer from universities and research centres, such as COMSA, Novartis and ENEL.

Recommendations for growing tech transfer

The report also identifies four key sectors in which a good technology transfer strategy would catalyse disruption and innovation: health and well-being, utilities, mobility and Industry 4.0. According to Sala, “in these sectors we have the chance to be leaders as we have great strengths that others do not have such as scientific excellence and large clusters of startups. We should make the most of this advantage and turn the scientific knowledge we generate into market value.”

The study also includes proposals for improving technology transferestablishing a relationship of full collaboration among different stakeholders (business on one hand and universities and research centres on the other) and encouraging an entrepreneurial attitude at universities and research centres by including market vision. It also defends increasing support from the Public Authorities to encourage business innovation and research with stable policies and more tax incentives, among other items. Other recommendations include improving the technology absorption capacity of businesses to acquire and integrate external knowledge; unifying and systematising the technology transfer system to benefit business activity, and professionalising it and promoting the creation of mixed teams that combine scientists, entrepreneurs and corporations to guarantee good application of research on the market.

State of tech transfer

According to the report, some technology transfer indicators are starting to recover albeit very hesitantly:

  • Although Spain is the world’s 12th most prolific country for scientific production (over 96,500 publications in 2018), this circumstance is not reflected in industrial innovation that reaches the market
  • 8 Spanish institutions concentrate 10% of all patent applications in Europe.
  • In 2017, 93 spin-offs (companies created to exploit products or services resulting from scientific findings) were created at Spanish universities. This is the lowest figure since 2012.
  • In 2017, investment in R&D in Spain amounted to €14,063.4 million euros (1.21% of GDP), which is a long way from the figures for 2008 (€14,701.3 million or 1.35% of GDP). The goal set by the European Union is for it to reach 2% of GDP by 2020.
  • Sweden allocates 3.33% of GDP, Austria 3.16%, Denmark 3.06% and Germany 3.02%. Korea allocates 4.5% of GDP to R&D, Israel 4.54% and China 3.3%.
  • Of the 10,179 companies that allocated some of their budget to R&D in 2017, only 5.5% chose universities and other centres of higher education as a supplier
  • Spanish universities received €393 million euros from companies for R&D in 2017, which is €84 million less than in 2010.

The study therefore stressed the value of creating multidisciplinary teams, a task already underway through initiatives such as The Collider, which brings enterprising and scientific talent together to create startups with a highly innovative profile. These teams have technology as added value, are market-oriented right from the start, have their own R&D team for research, use different approaches to solve problems and perform projects with a social and economic impact.

Production of The Collider report involved the collaboration of experts such as Pep Martorell, Associate Director of BSC-CNS; Manel Arrufat, Entrepreneurship & Innovation Manager at the UPC; Josep M. Piqué, Executive Chairman of La Salle Technova Barcelona and of the International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation (IASP); Eduard Alarcón, Professor at the UPC and The Collider Ambassador; Josep Maria Pujals, Business Development Manager of Ponti, and Roger Cabezas, Project Manager of CERCA Institution.