Innovation is the only way forward
20 June 2010
Spain has grown more than the rest of Europe over the past years, but the country is now forced to transform its economy into a sustainable model. The Director of the official body promoting innovation amongst companies states that the Government already started this process back in 2004 by pledging its firm commitment to R+D+i.
Spain has experienced an extraordinary growth since it entered into the EU. In 2006 our per capita income in USD was 344% of its value in 1986. The evolution of income in that same period was 172% in the case of Germany, 165% in France, 189% in Italy, and 295% in the United Kingdom. Year after year, and having gone through several crisis, our economy has widely surpassed the growth of the most developed countries in our region.
The current crisis is casting doubts— unfortunately sometimes in an intentional and rather unfairly biased manner—on the soundness and capacity of our productive tissue. It should be stressed, however, that this crisis did not arise in Spain, but in the U.S financial system, and rapidly expanded to other Western countries.
Curiously enough, innovation-based companies take this crisis as an opportunity. For instance, the Spanish pharmaceutical company Grifols has just acquired a strong competitor, the North American Talecris for EUR 3,300m, positioning itself as the third haemoderivatives multinational in the world. Or Telefónica, which in the midst of this crisis is making a EUR 6,500m bid for the Brazilian mobile operator Vivo.
It is unquestionable that the Spanish economy will recover and will come out stronger of this crisis. But the real challenge we face is not just recovery, as significant as this is, but the radical transformation of our economy, so that we are able to continue on having high growth levels in the next 20 years.
With this aim, we must accomplish the goal set by the Government of transforming our economy into a sustainable one, based on innovation and knowledge, strongly internationalized, with a positive technological balance and employment prepared for high added value work. An economy in turn that is able to attract and retain international talent.
Since 2004, the Government has promoted this transformation by strongly increasing R+D+i support and by designing new mechanisms for structural change. Now, in 2010, the Ministry of Science and Innovation Ministry of Science and Innovation (Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación) of Spain is finalizing a national innovation strategy (e2i), which envisages a multi-annual plan structured into five axes, and based on a profound structural change of our current socio-economic and cultural model. We have to transform Spain into one of the best places in the world to innovate.
This change, which is being promoted through the e2i strategy, shall affect many areas in society, including the social perception of innovation; the assessment of entrepreneurial technological success, as well as of failure; mechanisms to protect intellectual property; a bilingual Spanish-English Primary and Secondary education oriented towards creativity, initiative and entrepreneurship; the promotion of innovative public procurement; the orientation of businesses towards innovation and international markets; the cooperation and search for synergies amongst Administrations; the encouragement of private investment in R+D+i and business activities focused on innovation; an excellence- based scientific environment that actively contributes to the commercial application of its discoveries; a quality higher education scheme that is internationally competitive and brings the best international talents to our universities.
But this is not a task to be accomplished by the Government alone; it is a task to be achieved by us all.
Author: Arturo Azcorra (Director General of the Spanish Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology-CDTI)