Wednesday, September 28

Not a Spanish company is among the 100 that invest the most in R&D in the world

  • The big US technology companies take a ranking prepared by the European Commission

  • Grifols repeats as the Catalan company that allocates the most to innovation, but has more than 460 global companies ahead

According to the National Institute of Statistics (OTHER), Spanish companies allocated just over 17,000 million euros to innovation last year. Assuming, as the sector does, that the gateway to this innovation is investments in Investigation and development (I+D), it is relatively easy to put a first and last name on a quarter of this money: there are 14 Spanish firms in the annual ranking of the 2,500 companies in the world that invested the most in R&D in 2020 prepared by the European Comission. This almost fortnight allocated 4,500 million euros in total, but none enough to be among the top 100 investors, an outpost that is deserted of Spanish names.

The ranking also leaves relevant information at the national level, such as that Santander Bank, Telefónica Y Amadeus they lead; that the Catalan representation is reduced to Grifols already Almirall; that the rest are the vast majority companies based in Madrid or that Alphabet (matrix of Google), the company that invested the most in R&D in the world last year, allocated five times more to this than all the Spanish companies that appear on the list together.

The first national, the bank chaired by Ana Botín, invested 1,100 million euros in R&D in 2020. The figure, 18% lower than the previous year, has meant that the group drops twenty positions on the list and ends with another 137 corporations ahead. The Catalan companies, Grifols and Almiralls, also reduced their packages by three and nine points respectively and both also fell in relation to the ranking of the previous year. The first invested in 2020 almost 300 million euros in R&D, a figure that relegates it to position 470. In this sense, despite being in lower positions, the investments of the construction company stand out ACS and of Electric Network, which in the year of the pandemic were 40% higher than in 2019.

“A company does not invest just because”, analyzes the delegate of the rector of the UB for innovation and entrepreneurship, Xavier test. “There is a direct relationship between investment in R&D, innovation and competitiveness,” he continues.

According to his point of view, that a compilation of this type does not have any Spanish company in the first positions, says several things. “The first, the size of the country, because size and investment capacity in R&D are associated; the second, that investment in R&D in the country is low ”, explains this expert. “The third, that there are not enough public programs that make it easier for companies to sign up for R&D,” he completes.

Far from desirable execution

The data that Testar puts on the table indicate that Spain allocates only 1.2% of its Gross Domestic Product (START) to research and development, or that the rate of execution of this type of expenditure among companies in the country (56.8%) is considerably lower than the average for the European Union (67,5%).

“In the most advanced countries in innovation, the percentage of execution of R&D spending by companies is between two-thirds and 70% or more”, contextualizes this position from the UB, while insisting that “In all these countries, there is a part of spending on R&D that is made thanks to public support.” Along these lines, his recipe is to increase stimulus measures for companies to sign up for programs and projects of this kind and, of course, to increase public investment in R&D.

The most obvious example that this synergy works, in their eyes, is found in rankings like this one from the European Commission and, especially, in the predominance of technology companies from the United States in the first positions. In fact, with the china Huawei in second position and the Korean Samsung in fourth place, Alphabet (Google), Microsoft, Apple Y Facebook they occupy the top positions on the list in this order.

Behind them appear the first two Europeans, the group Volkswagen Y Roche, and also American women complete the ‘top 10’ Intel Y Johnson & Johnson. Its investments range from almost 10,000 million euros of the latter, to more than 22,000 million of the leader, which in fact increased this investment by 6% compared to the previous year.

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“Europe has believed for many years the discourse of the United States that research is done in the public sphere and innovation in companies, but that is not true,” says Testar. According to him, the American country subsidizes research through large agencies such as NASA.

The European Commission’s list seems to confirm his thesis, because only one in four companies out of the hundred that invest the most in R&D is based in an EU country.

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