One of the great projects of the new science law is the takeoff of the Spanish Space Agency. What kind of projects can we expect from this organization?
The Spanish Space Agency was born as an ambitious project focused on promoting the aerospace industry. On the one hand, it will inherit projects already underway and, on the other, it will promote new ones. Spain is already a leading country in space. Right now, for example, we have the capacity to design, manufacture and market aircraft. In the space field, the last part was missing. For this reason, with this new body we are also launching a new tender to develop the first completely Spanish microsatellite launcher.
«The Spanish Space Agency will inherit projects already underway and promote new ones»
Will there be space projects in Catalonia?
Yeah. In the industrial part, the programs of large companies such as Indra and GTD will be managed from the new agency, as well as the work of new companies of the so-called ‘New Space’ such as Open Cosmos, Sateliot, Lobelia or Satellogic. As for the research centers, the Barcelona Supercomputing Center, the Polytechnic University of Catalonia or the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM-CSIC) are also reference institutions in space projects and will surely develop future projects of the Spanish Space Agency.
The great promise of this law was to create more stable funding for research centers. What has been done to achieve it?We have deployed the largest R+D+i budget in the history of Spain. In the European Commission we are the fourth country that has allocated the most recovery funds to science and innovation. It is a crash plan, but we do not want it to be a mirage. That is why we have shielded by law a stable financing of science. We are deploying the recipe that is totally antagonistic to the one made by the Popular Party during the financial crisis. In the five hardest years of cuts, more than 10,000 research positions in Spain disappeared. Now we’re putting up more speed, so ten each investigator who retires joins 12.
«In Europe we are the fourth country that has allocated the most recovery funds to science and innovation»
The scientific community denounces the large number of bureaucratic obstacles to access financing. What do you plan to do to get around this problem?
Today science is financed based on projects. The research groups apply for calls and, if they benefit, they have time to develop their project. Now we want to bet on a new model that provides basal funding for research. In this way, also from a contest, the groups will have a basic economic amount from which they will be able to work during the following years. Thus, on January 1, they will have guaranteed funds with which to investigate beyond the projects. This model is already applied in other countries. This same year we will launch this model with a pilot test endowed with 30 million euros.
«We want to bet on a new model that provides basal funding for research»
Another of the great problems of Spanish science It’s the brain drain. Is anything being done to recover escaped talent?
We are working to create better conditions in science. For example, with the new law we have shielded an indefinite contract model for researchers and created a stable itinerary for a scientific career. We have deployed the most ambitious job offer in the last 15 years. Just last year, with this new model, 10% of Ramón y Cajal’s research contracts went to researchers who had gone abroad. 25% were people with foreign nationality, so we also understand that these measures are serving to attract talent.
So do you consider that Spanish science is recovering from the structural crisis in which it has been immersed for years?
Yeah. We are facing a revolutionary change. We have gone from expelling talent to recruiting it. A key piece of information is that right now, just as record employment figures are being recorded, one in four jobs in Spain is in the science and innovation sector. In Catalonia this figure is even higher. One in three jobs has to do with the scientific sector. This means that the measures deployed to date are paying off.