OECD Reviews of Regional Innovation

1997-6585 (online)
1997-6577 (print)
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These reviews of regional innovation examine issues connected to innovation as the regional level as well as reviews of innovation policy for specific regions.
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OECD Reviews of Regional Innovation: Catalonia, Spain 2010

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03 June 2010
9789264082052 (PDF) ;9789264082045(print)

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This review of regional innovation assesses how to improve Catalonia's current strategy and actions in order to boost its innovation system through both its own programmes and those of Spain and the European Union.

It finds that with over seven million inhabitants and a GDP of around EUR 204 billion, Catalonia is not only an important region within Spain, but within the OECD as well. Indeed, its economic output is similar to countries like Portugal and Norway. The region experienced massive population growth over the past decade, due to immigration, which in part drove GDP growth. However, Catalonia’s productivity is slipping, relative to other OECD regions, necessitating the transition to a productivity-driven growth model through a stronger regional innovation system. The region has successfully strengthened its research base, with investments in R&D having increased four-fold over the past decade. Catalonia is now mobilising actors across the innovation system in regional centres, such as Barcelona, to improve productivity and address social challenges.  

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  • Acronyms and Abbreviations
  • Assessment and Recommendations
    Similar to Spain, Catalonia’s strong period of economic growth since the early 1990s has now ended. In terms of gross domestic product (GDP), Catalonia (3.2%) grew at almost the same average annual growth rate as Spain overall (3.3%) from 1995-2005, and higher than OECD regions (2.9%). For Spain generally, this slowdown is attributed in part to the reduction of the housing construction sector and the adjustment of the financial markets. Catalonia has experienced important increases in unemployment, particularly with its large population of lesser-skilled workers, many being immigrants. Between first quarter 2008 and first quarter 2009, Catalonia’s unemployment jumped by 8.6 percentage points to 16.3% – above the national increase of 7.8 percentage points and the increases of other advanced Spanish regions. Recognising its need for sustainable competitiveness, Catalonia has increasingly made science, technology and innovation a focus for regional action in support of economic development.
  • Introduction
    Catalonia, like many other places in the OECD, has embarked on a development path that emphasises innovation. Globalisation and rapid advances in new technologies, notably ICT, have spurred competition and opened new markets for the creation and delivery of innovative products and services. Globalisation has also increased the pressure on OECD member countries to move up the value chain and engage in a continuous process of adjustment. By strengthening innovation, countries, regions, cities and firms can become more competitive, and better prepared to face the challenges of globalisation. Innovation, a process that is generally managed by private firms, has become a concern for policy makers at all levels, from supranational to local actors.
  • Innovation and the Catalan Economy
    With over 7 million inhabitants and a GDP of around EUR 204 billion, Catalonia is an important region within Spain and the OECD. It has a strong identify with its own language and distinct cultural heritage. The industrial tradition has lead to a diversified industrial base, concentrated in mediumlow and medium-high technology sectors. The region has had an influx of over 1 million immigrants since 2000, many low-skilled, to feed expansion of the service and construction sectors. Like Spain generally, the Catalan economy and GDP per capita has grown due to increased labour force participation while productivity has remained stagnant. Innovation is therefore essential to ensuring sustained economic growth – especially for its SMEs. Catalonia contributes significantly to Spain’s innovation system due to its size and strength, making it one of the top Spanish regions. For the OECD, however, Catalonia’s innovation performance is only average. Boosting the region’s innovation performance will therefore benefit both Catalonia and Spain.
  • Catalonia's S&T and Innovation Policies
    Since the first autonomous elections of 1980, Catalonia’s government has recognised the importance of investing in R&D and innovation for the economic growth, industrial diversification and social welfare of the region. Yet the development of a comprehensive innovation system has experienced vicissitudes and been slow to emerge. Over the last three decades, Catalan approaches to S&T and innovation policies have evolved under the influence of several factors whose interdependence may continue to orient these policies and the innovation performance of the region in the future:
  • Multi-level Governance of Catalonia's S&T&I policy
    Catalonia’s S&T and innovation policies are embedded in a multi-level governance context. In this policy field, both EU and Spanish policy streams are significant. Catalonia must also co-ordinate across its different local governments. Local actors are increasingly making efforts to support innovation in terms of both soft and hard infrastructure. As discussed in Chapter 2, Catalonia has developed its own policies in part as a function of the objectives, policy content, resources and evaluations set by policy makers elsewhere. Given this mutual dependence, Catalonia needs opportunities to co-design, when possible, the policies originating at other levels of government. Secondly, it needs instruments to help effectively share and co-ordinate these S&T and innovation competencies. The governments of both Spain and Catalonia recognise that more co-ordination is needed to guarantee greater effectiveness in co-design and implementation in this policy field.
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