Dear Reader

Business Development is a complex topic. In such case the questions raised are more important than potential answers. Therefore, this blog will focus on presenting questions. There will be answers, full or partial, to be supplamented by links presented when relevant. The answers from my experience will be clearer once the questions are clearer.

While this is not a discussion forum, readers are invited to comment, and the comments will help determine the topics and current issues to be explained in the future.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Spanish research policy – is that the real problem?

In a recent article published by the Guardian, the sad story of the last two years in the life of Spanish Research are being told, with the recommendation: " Spain urgently needs an internationally credible science policy", which also serves as the title for the article. The gist of the article by Amaya Moro-Martín, is the following: 1. Spanish research funding has been cut severely, Spain is failing to meet EU research investment standards; 2. Promised funds have not been forwarded; 3. Research institute reserves have been used for daily expanses instead of investment in research; 4. Research positions are being lost and the research community is aging; 5. A credible research policy combined with a restructuring in government and a national research agency will solve most problems. The article raises a serious issue one that could, due to damage to international standing Spain in research, brain-drain to other countries and reduction in R&D investment damage the economy to an extent that will take a long time to recover. The article ignores to a certain level the EU commitments of Spain and the impact the events described have on the EU general goals. In Barcelona (part of Spain?) the EU declared the Knowledge Based Society as it target, and set quantitative goals for it. The picture described in the article gives the impression that Spain at least may have given up on the Barcelona Declaration. I would like to contest the title of the article. Why is an international credible policy required? The international aspect is a small issue compared to the national credibility issue discussed in the article. Brain drain, lack of R&D investment, delaying projects etc. are firstly a national problem. There is more, a policy is only good if you can make sure it is implemented. Regarding R&D, EU policies and member states included, do not have a shining history when it comes to implementation. The R&D goals have been moved due to none compliance of member states. So what will change? What will permanently change so that future governments restructure and changes in the freedom of councils cannot change? The article offers going back to the situation of 2009, and what from there? How would you prevent 2013 from happening again? Unlike the Guardian I do not think that policy making with or without financial power is the long term answer. But there is another issue that I wish to discuss, how could the government do it? Not morally, but in fact, how could they get away with it? Living in a country with a fuzzy if at all research policy, such a thing could not happen here as both research organizations and the industry would not allow the government to do it. The strongest friend of Research in Israel is the industry. It feeds on it, it requires it for the industry's future development, and it is these sectors which will not allow such a decline. Moreover, over 70% of Israeli R&D investment is private. Therefore, at least to some extent, any government reduction in R&D funding would be taken up by the industry. This is the long term answer. The Spanish research sector has failed to integrate itself with the industry, make it its partner in economic development. Any of the steps mentioned in the article would probably solve the current situation and allow some respite, but unless the Spanish research community finds its way to cooperate and make itself indispensable to the Spanish and EU industry, it will remain open to danger from restructuring, government cuts etc., the respite the steps mentioned can bring is dangerous as it may tempt the research community in Spain to think all is well and not prepare for the future.