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A study by experts at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has confirmed that the Catalan research and innovation system is making leaps and bounds, boasting massive increases in R&D funding, a network of internationally prestigious universities and research centers, and a high level of creativity. However, although Catalonia ranks first in innovation among Spain’s autonomous communities, accounting for 21% of the national total, it remains below the European average. The OECD has identified several weaknesses inherent to Catalonia, among these: the majority of small and medium-sized companies are ill prepared to adapt to new technologies, there is little culture of intellectual property rights, Catalonia suffers from low patenting rates and the financial market is not well suited to investments related to innovation.

Writing up of the report, entitled OECD Reviews of Regional Innovation: Catalonia, was one of the stipulations of the Catalan Agreement for Research and Innovation (PNRI). It was commissioned by the Catalan government’s Department of Innovation, Universities and Enterprise, to serve as a barometer on the Catalan innovation system one year following signing of the PNRI.

The study was presented in Barcelona last Thursday, in an act presided over by minister Josep Huguet and attended by the Head of OECD’s Regional Development Division, Joaquim Oliveira, and the Head of OECD’s Regional Innovation Unit, Karen Maguire.

Catalonia is the first Spanish autonomous community to be evaluated by the OECD. The methodology used in the study had already been used in pilot studies in three Chinese provinces, northern England, and Piemont, Italy.

SWOT analysis


  • High political commitment to S&T and innovation (CARI).
  • A number of top quality universities and public research centers (Spanish and Catalan centers).
  • A sizeable pool of qualified scientists.
  • International excellence in some sectors.
  • High level of creativity.
  • Regional and local dynamism (including Higher Education Institutions).
  • Good infrastructure, including in S&T.
  • Significant increases in R&D investment.
  • Attractiveness (FDI, top international scientists, students, entrepreneurs).
  • A leading region in Spain.
  • Strength of the regional health care system.
  • Capacity for ex ante research project evaluation


  • Rigidities in the HEI sector (e.g., that pose problems for long-term researcher mobility, competitive salaries, accreditations, contractual arrangements for cooperation).
  • Relative scarcity of middle level HRST (technicians).
  • Low technological absorptive capacity of the vast majority of SMEs (dual industrial structure).
  • Spin-offs that do not grow.
  • Weak intellectual property rights culture and low patenting level.
  • R&D intensity across manufacturing lower than most EU counterparts.
  • Too many public research centers and technology centers (problems of critical mass and performance).
  • Complex governance.
  • Policy fragmentation; low “behavioral additionality” of support instruments; windfall benefits.
  • Fuzzy policy mix and lack of priority focus (strategic priorities).
  • Financial markets ill-adapted to innovation-related investment.
  • Low level of public-private cooperation.
  • Bureaucratic management of support programs, and lack of ex post evaluation of program effectiveness


  • Growing demand for knowledge-intensive social goods, many driven by the public sector (e.g., health, environment and aging).
  • Insertion in global knowledge networks and technological platforms (EU and beyond).
  • Better coordination and complimentarily with external S&T and innovation financing sources (State and EU) to devote larger share of Catalan resources to regional priorities.
  • European and Mediterranean markets.
  • Diversification of production and trade towards goods and services with higher knowledge content.
  • Engaging SMEs in more innovation-driven strategies and clusters.
  • Technology diffusion around multinational enterprises in line with the development of innovation-based global value chains.
  • Knowledge-intensive services.


  • Recent economic growth fueled by immigration but not productivity.
  • Growing competition from emerging economies.
  • Growing competition to attract EU research and innovation funds.
  • Concerns related to alleviation of effects of current crisis (e.g., priority support to labor intensive traditional sectors).
  • Accelerated pace of expansion of the scientific and technological frontier.
  • Intensifying global competition to attract talent.

    Executive summary of the study


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