Historically, the Basque Country’s economy has focused on agrarian and industrial activities, the later mostly centered on steel and shipbuilding. However, the government of Euskadi — or the Basque Autonomous Community comprised of Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa and Araba — has invested heavily on modernization, with significant expenditures on research and development, particularly by business — of all Autonomous Communities in Spain, Euskadi invests the greatest percentage of its gross domestic product into R&D. The Basque Country has the highest per capita income in Spain and is one of the regions of Europe with the highest numbers of tertiary, or post-high school, degrees. Its success is based on the decision to invest in industry, not tourism.
- Euskadi is growing in scientific leadership. According to Ikerbasque, the Basque Foundation for Science, Euskadi published more than 6000 scientific papers in 2017, a 50% increase over the last 6 years. This is 6.5% of the total scientific productivity of Spain, when Euskadi has 4.7% of the population.
- Science investment in Euskadi is driven by the so-called Plan de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación Euskadi 2020. This plan emphasizes three strategic priorities — energy, advanced manufacturing, and bio-sciences and health — along with four areas of opportunity — agri-food industry; territorial planning and urban regeneration; leisure, entertainment, and culture; and ecosystems.
- One feature of the Basque commitment to scientific R&D is their network of Cooperative Research Centers. Centers focused on Biomaterials, Biosciences, Energy, and Nanoscience are spread throughout Euskadi. These centers were created by the Basque Government to “create an effective framework of cooperation in strategic research areas, strengthen interdisciplinary basic and applied worldclass research in those areas and provide technology transfer to the industrial environment” (from the NanoGUNE website).
- Not everything is smelling like roses. Euskadi’s rankings have fallen over the last year. This is maybe reflected by the drop in R&D expenditures in recent years. Drops in government investment were at least partially offset by increases in private spending. And Euskadi is relatively weak in non-R&D innovation and patent applications.