Dr. Eduard Matito

Quantum Chemistry


You get what you invest

Posted on July 26, 2011 at 6:10 PM

The Starting Grant (StG) is a prestigious research award from the seventh framework program (FP7), the EU's chief instrument for funding research. This award gives a considerable amount of money [ca. 1.5M€] to young talented researchers. This call is very competitive and it can be taken as a rough measure of the young talent in a given country. 2010's call reported 23 researchers awarded in Spain (9 Catalonia, 6 Madrid, 3 Basque Country, 1 Navarra).

The Advanced Grant (AdG) is the equivalent of the StG for senior researchers. It awards more money [ca. 2.5M€] to brilliant consolidated researchers and thus one can also take the number of AdG per country as a measure of research excellence. 2010's call reported 13 researchers awarded in Spain (7 Catalonia, 2 Madrid, 1 Basque Country).

Let us make some plain statistics. 78% StGs and 76% AdG are accumulated in three autonomous communities (CA) of Spain: Catalonia, Madrid and the Basque Country. Catalonia gets 39% StGs and 53% AdGs. But Catalonia is big enough; 7.54M people live in Catalonia, 2.15M people live in the Basque Country and 6.44M people in Madrid. We may calculate the number of awards per inhabitant to make reliable comparisons among CAs. The number of StG per million people are: 1.19 (Catalonia), 0.93 (Madrid) and 1.40 (Basque Country); the AdGs numbers are 0.92, 0.31 and 0.46 respectively. It is indisputable that Catalonia is particularly good at attracting senior talented researchers, but the Basque Country attracts more young brilliant researchers per inhabitant. Particularly worrying is the situation in the rest of Spain which shares less than 25% of the StGs and AdGs among 29.9M people, i.e. it gets 0.16 StG and 0.10 AdG per million inhabitant.

Smaller wonder... if we look at how much each CA invests in research as compared to its GDP (País Vasco = Basque Country):

Among the four CAs that invest more GDP we find Catalonia, Madrid and the Basque Country which accumulate more than 75% of the StG and AdG awards given to Spain. I'm particularly surprised at the good performance of Catalonia taking into account that it gets much less %GDP [1.68%] than the Basque Country and Madrid [2.06%]. Excepting for Catalonia, Madrid, the Basque Country and Navarra, the other CAs invest below 1.15% of GDP in research.

Look at the %GDP investment over the years. Catalonia's investment has increased about 58% over the last ten years, Madrid's 30% and the Basque Country's 78% (!). So again, it comes as no surprise that the Basque Country is leading the attraction of young researchers. I guess it is just a matter of time for them to lead also the attraction of consolidated researchers in Spain.

All in all, Spain [1.38%] is well below the average investment of %GDP in research for the EU-27 [2.01%]; only Madrid, the Basque Country and Navarra reach the EU-27 standards. Catalonia is so-so [1.68%]. Obtaining funds for research is getting more and more complicated in Spain and many talented researchers are leaving the country to never come back. Only a few CAs can resist the unavoidable brain drain. 

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