3. Innovation for sustainability

The European Innovation Scoreboard considers Spain as a “moderate innovator”. In 2022, Spain had a performance at 88.8% of the European Union average, below the average of the moderate innovators (89.7%) (European Commission, 2022[1]). This score positions Spain below peers such as Germany, France, and Italy. Spain performs particularly well (above the European Union average) in digitalisation, human capital, and environmental sustainability. The Global Innovation Index (GII) ranks world economies according to their innovation capabilities. In 2022, Spain ranked 29th among the 132 economies featured and 18th among the 39 economies in Europe, improving one position with respect to 2021 (WIPO, 2021[2]; WIPO, 2022[3]).

There are disparities in the level of innovation of Spain’s Autonomous Communities (ACs). According to the Regional Innovation Scoreboard, the Basque Country and the Madrid Community are strong innovators, while Andalusia, the Canary Islands, Castile-La Mancha, Ceuta, Extremadura, the Balearic Islands and Melilla are emerging innovators. The remaining ACs are classified as moderate innovators (European Commission, 2022[1]).

The governance of Spain’s public system of research is to a large extent the by-product of historical factors that have resulted in a system with intertwined policy responsibilities for the central government and the autonomous regions (OECD, 2021[4]). This has led to an Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation System (AKIS) with a multiplicity of actors that is more disperse and fragmented than in other EU countries where the AKIS is integrated, such as Ireland, Denmark, and France (Knierim, 2015[5]).

According to Knierim (2015[5]), a fragmented AKIS is characterised by several independent knowledge networks that operate in parallel, which are typically not well co-ordinated, rarely co-operate and might even compete. Conversely, an integrated AKIS features a co-ordinating structure, often a public body, and the system is supported by national policies on AKIS and advisory services that frame the interactions of AKIS actors. The fragmentation of the Spanish AKIS is partially explained by the distribution of powers established in the Spanish Constitution in which the ACs assume responsibility for agriculture and livestock, in accordance with the general organisation of the economy and for the promotion of research, while the central government has exclusive competence for the promotion and general co-ordination of scientific and technical research (MAPA, 2021[6]; MAPA, 2021[7]). The level of development of the AKIS and, therefore, the performance of these systems also differs among the ACs.

The government has recognised the need to improve co-ordination to ensure that the high level of fragmentation does not result in overlaps or gaps. As planned in the 2023-27 CAP Strategic Plan (CSP), the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPA) is working on the creation of the “AKIS Co-ordination Body”, a collegiate body of a mixed nature that will ensure the co-operation, participation, and co-ordination of the AKIS system with the main actors on a national scale and in the ACs. Likewise, the MAPA is working on the development of a platform that will gather information on advisory services, courses, and training.

Spain does not have a specific strategy for agro-food innovation. The general framework, provided by the Spanish Science, Technology, and Innovation Strategy (EECTI) 2021-2027, is a strategic cross-sectoral plan to organise research and innovation, which is defined by the central government. Concrete measures of this strategy are outlined in the State Scientific, Technical and Innovation Research Plan (PEICTI) for 2021-2023 – currently under implementation. The PEICTI 2021-2023 has six thematic priorities. One of them focuses on food, bioeconomy, natural resources, and environment. Regional governments can define and carry out regional research priorities within the national framework.

Having a diversity of science, technology, and innovation policy experiences at the regional level offers lessons for policy making at the national level and can help promote innovation initiatives that are more targeted to regional needs. However, a recent expert assessment noted that the lack of adequate integration through governance mechanisms and knowledge flows, adapted to the reality of AKIS structures in Spain, has indeed affected the system’s efficiency (MAPA, 2021[7]). Specifically for the agricultural sector, several analyses identify a low co-ordination between the different agents and levels of the AKIS (i2Connect, 2020[8]; MAPA, 2021[6]). This low level of communication can make it difficult to align regional and national strategic priorities and to develop critical mass and synergies.

There are also limitations in the availability of information: the absence of an integrated information and follow-up system at the national level, as well as the lack of specific and detailed information at the regional level on innovation in agro-food are weaknesses of the sector and might be indicators of the low co-ordination (MAPA, 2021[6]).

The Spanish AKIS is a network of actors that shape and stimulate research, development and innovation (R&D&I). It is very diverse, involving numerous actors at national and regional level, with different degrees of co-ordination between them. The wide network of actors in the Spanish AKIS generate, disseminate, and apply knowledge and innovation for the agro-food sector.

In a schematic way, the Spanish AKIS can be divided in five main groups of actors, consisting in central and regional governments, public and private research centres, education and training, technology centres, and the private sector. They play different roles in the generation, adaptation and adoption of new technologies and the promotion of innovation for sustainability in the agro-food sector. Despite having different roles and contributing in varying ways to the AKIS, they are expected to focus on generating knowledge that is useful for farmers to meet consumer and societal demands.

Several drivers, such as new demands for public goods and services, climate change, circular bioeconomy, emerging technologies, changes in food consumption, sustainability, agricultural digitisation, and a redefinition of public and private relationships, have led to the emergence of multiple sources and flows of knowledge, also accelerating the processes of generating knowledge and innovation (Cruz, Sayadi and Albisu, 2021[9]).

Figure 3.1 shows a representation of the Spanish AKIS. Given that the system is composed by a varied set of actors with complex interrelations between them, it is not uncommon to find overlaps between the actors and in the limits of their roles and functions with respect to knowledge. Knowledge flows can be more complex than those depicted by the figure.

Farmers (and their organisations) should be at the core of the AKIS. Managing agricultural production and its links with land and natural resources, they take decisions based on the knowledge they can generate and receive and, thus, are one of the main actors generating and using innovations for sustainability.

The central government defines the basic national objectives and provides guidelines of the general research policy, including agricultural-related research, and is in charge of the overall co-ordination of the agricultural-related projects. Also, the central government sets the overall legislative framework, co-finance initiatives, and can influence the strategy and activity of shared institutions through co-governance mechanisms (OECD, 2021[4]).

Regional governments can define and carry out regional research priorities within the national framework, based on their own regional innovation strategies (regional research and innovation strategies for smart specialisation (RIS3 strategies)). RIS3 strategies, as the national research and innovation strategy, are economy-wide; yet – in most regions – they include specific priorities for the agricultural sector and the bioeconomy. In the decentralised system of Spain, regional bodies play an important role in linking farmers’ needs with public authorities. Furthermore, as in any complex system, for it to be efficient and effective there is an important need of co-ordination between regions and the central government (i2Connect, 2020[8]).

Public research centres and universities are relevant players in generating knowledge that can lead to innovation for sustainability. Similarly, there are also examples of private and public-private research centres. Universities also provide training together with public non-formal training centres at the national and regional level. In general, the education and training sector is composed by universities at the regional and national levels, vocational training schools at the regional level, and some private institutions providing education for agriculture. These actors generate knowledge that helps improve the functioning of the AKIS and helps create and acquire agricultural skills for farmers.

Spain has a wide diversity of advisory providers from the public and private sector. Advisory services play a fundamental role in linking farmers with the knowledge generated by research centres, universities, or government authorities. Often, they also act as a channel for farmers to transfer their knowledge and innovation to other actors and institutions of the AKIS. Advisory services have gone through important transformations and many roles of the traditional public advisory service are now performed by the private sector.

The private sector is composed by a wide variety of heterogeneous actors such as farmers, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), multinational enterprises (MNEs), input and services companies, self-employed workers, co-operatives, firms from agro-food industries, and agro-food industry associations. They can also act in partnership with the public sector, and they are increasingly active in performing R&D&I activities.

Other actors, such as farmers’ professional organisations, public-private partnerships and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), complete the landscape and play different roles in generating knowledge in the Spanish AKIS.

The Spanish AKIS is characterised by the combination of the features of national with those of regional governance systems based on the country’s decentralised political landscape, while entailing the additional attributes resulting from the EU membership. The result is a complex governance system in which central and regional governments exercise competences in R&D&I policies relevant to agriculture within the EU framework.

The central government has the exclusive responsibility for the promotion and general co-ordination of scientific and technical research. At a national scale, the Ministry for Science and Innovation (MCIN) together with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPA) lead the definition of the general national strategic research priorities and execute and fund most R&D&I policies for agriculture. Most often, they delegate their tasks to different implementing agencies that co-ordinate the defined policy programmes and earmark the corresponding funds. The regional governments perform and implement R&D&I tasks based on their own regional plans and budgets, within the national framework and in co-ordination with ministries and implementing agencies. Public funding is provided by the European Union, the national government, and the regional governments. The main sectors of performance of R&D that use the funding are the private, the research, and the education sectors.

Figure 3.2 provides an overview of the funding ecosystem of the Spanish AKIS, depicting the main authorities and implementing agencies, the most important funds, funding streams, and relevant R&D&I performing actors, which include private and public actors, such as partnerships, research centres, and universities.1

The European Union contributes to different national and regional programmes with several types of funds from different programmes. Some of them are directly linked to agriculture and to agricultural R&D&I while most are not sector-specific and do not fund these activities separately.

The European Union contributes with directly managed funds (except in the case of partnerships that have co-financing) through its main innovation programme Horizon 2020 (2014-20) and its successor Horizon Europe (2021-27). Spanish entities obtained over EUR 6.1 billion in funds from the Horizon 2020 programme, making Spain the fourth beneficiary of this programme, with 10.4% of the total EU-28 funding. Moreover, Spanish entities received the largest share of the available Horizon 2020 funding under its societal challenge 2 – which covers the agro-food sector – in 2014-20, with the total grants amounting to EUR 396.3 million (12.4% of the EU-28) (CDTI, 2021[10]; MAPA, 2022[11]). Spanish entities have been involved in 454 funded activities and 107 of these have been co-ordinated by Spanish organisations (CDTI, 2021[10]).

Under the new Framework Program for Research and Innovation 2021-27, Horizon Europe, most funding for the agro-food sector will be provided under Cluster 6 “Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment’’. In this context, the European Union aims at fostering knowledge, building capacities and developing novel solutions to promote sustainable land use and a more sustainable, resilient and inclusive agricultural sector, for example through activities such as partnerships, research networks and initiatives. Also, Interreg, LIFE, Digital Europe, Invest EU, Cohesion Funds, and other European programmes have been a source of funding for the entities of the Spanish AKIS.

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the European Union is another key tool to fund R&D&I activities in the agricultural sector. The CAP’s Pillar 2 fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) has part of its funds directed to R&D&I activities in the sector, as it channels the European Union’s rural development policy. Specific measures to fund R&D&I in agriculture under Pillar 2 of the CAP include knowledge transfer, advice and innovation through co-operation. Particularly, the European Innovation Partnership for Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability (EIP-AGRI) cooperation-innovation measure of the rural development programmes for the period 2014-22 and the co-operation intervention within the CAP Strategic Plan serve this purpose. It is co-financed by the European EAFRD and country funds (national and regional) and managed by the country. In Spain, the EIP-AGRI innovation was programmed at the supra-autonomous level within the National Rural Development Program (NRDP) 2014-22 – managed by MAPA and funded with EAFRD and funds from the State Public Budget (PGE) – and at the regional level in 15 ACs, with funds from the EAFRD, PGE, and ACs.

The European Union provides additional R&D&I funding through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), which can contribute to innovation for a sustainable agro-food sector through smart specialisation strategies. These strategies help to identify research and innovation priorities in strategic sectors in specific regions of the country, including agriculture and food, to channel knowledge-based investments and co-operation. In this context, the European Union supports, for example, health and safe food in Andalusia through innovation in the agro-food industry targeting consumers’ food habits and food traceability, among others (European Commission, 2022[12]).

The Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), the European Union’s recovery instrument in response to the COVID-19 crisis, is implemented through a series of aids managed by the General State Administration through various ministries, with different tools and funds, some of which are direct transfers to the ACs. One stream is dedicated to agriculture and supports, for example the Spanish rural development programmes (RDPs) and the Digitalisation Strategy of the Agro-food and Forestry Sector of the PERTE Agroalimentario (Section 3.3.2).

PERTE Agroalimentario is one of several strategic projects of the Spanish Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan (RTRP) and which receives funding from the RRF and the central administration (2022-25). The PERTE includes a set of measures that seek to strengthen the agro-food chain with tools to confront the environmental, digital, social and economic challenges of the next decade. It has a budget of around EUR 1 800 million, which is divided in three parts. The first has a budget of EUR 500 million (initially EUR 400 million), is implemented by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism (MINCOTUR) and seeks to strengthen the agro-food industry; the second has a budget of EUR 454.4 million and is implemented by MAPA and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transition (MINECO); finally, the third part, with a budget of EUR 148.6 million, focuses on research, innovation and technology transfer, and is implemented by MCIN and MAPA with the support of CDTI and complementary plans between regions and MCIN.2

The PERTE Agroalimentario includes programmes and measures such as the Digitalisation Strategy of the Agro-food and Forestry, the establishment of the AKIS advisory and knowledge exchange digital platform, as well as the creation of a Digitalisation Observatory for the agro-food sector which was recently kick-started with the signature of a collaboration agreement with the financial institution CAJAMAR (Gobierno de España, 2022[13]). It also includes the establishment of a Digital Innovation Hub, which aims to promote the implementation of digital technologies. Also linked to this strategy are the actions under AgroInnpulso, a financing line established between MAPA and the state-owned company Empresa Nacional de Investigación S.A. (ENISA) to provide credit to agro-food SMEs to implement digital and innovative technology-based projects (MAPA, 2021[14]).

The Ministry of Science and Innovation (MCIN) holds the main responsibilities for research, technological development, and innovation policies across sectors and is in charge of the EECTI and PEICTI. It is the main R&D&I funding body and encourages R&D&I, co-ordinating with the ACs and overseeing the public research organisations. Among the latter, the most relevant is the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). The role of the CSIC has become increasingly important for agro-food since 2021, when the National Institute for Agricultural and Food Research and Technology (INIA) was integrated under its umbrella (Section 3.2.5).

The Spanish State Research Agency (AEI) – created in 2015 and attached to the MCIN – plays a significant role as it is the agency responsible for the management of the PEICTI. Its programmes, measures, and corresponding funds are financed from the General State Budget and co-financed with EU funds.

Other relevant institutions that depend on the MCIN are the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT), a public foundation that seeks to strengthen the link between science and society, and the Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI), which is a public business entity that promotes innovation and the technological development of Spanish companies. It channels the requests for aid and support for R&D&I projects from Spanish companies, both nationally and internationally. The CDTI supports projects by granting economic aid to companies and facilitating access to funding from third parties (such as the EU Framework Programme, the European Space Agency funds, or international multilateral initiatives for technological co-operation such as Eureka and Iberoeka).3 In 2020, the CDTI provided funding of EUR 819 million for 1 601 R&D&I projects involving companies. The sectors that benefitted the most from the CDTI’s contributions were industry (36% of the total), ICT (20%) and food, agriculture, and fisheries (18%) in 2020. The allocation of funding shows a strong territorial imbalance, indicative of the uneven development of the industrial sector in Spain (CDTI, 2021[10]).

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPA) is responsible for proposing, formulating, and implementing government policy in the areas of agriculture, agro-food, nutrition, livestock and fisheries and rural development. Additionally, it represents the state in international organisations dealing with these topics and co-ordinating the actions of ACs in these areas. Moreover, the MAPA manages and provides support at the supra-autonomous level (i.e. in two or more ACs) to operational groups and innovative projects of the EIP-AGRI. To this end, MAPA has co-financed 177 supra-autonomic operational groups under the RDP 2014-2022 and financed the implementation of 124 innovative projects of general interest to the agro-food sector with EUR 62.4 million of total public expenditure granted so far. Beyond that, MAPA develops demonstration thematic networks to encourage knowledge transfer and knowledge exchange programmes among AKIS stakeholders and implements different aid programmes to support training and advisory services in digitalisation (MAPA, 2022[15]).

Within the MAPA, the Directorate-General for Rural Development, Innovation and Agro-food Training co-ordinates and spurs the advisory, training, and knowledge transfer systems in the agro-food sector. To this end, it works on the national AKIS and takes part in various multi-actor projects under Horizon related with the European AKIS (such as FairShare and i2connect under Horizon 2020, and EU farmbook, and Modernakis under Horizon Europe). Additionally, it manages EIP-AGRI innovation aid of rural development at supra-autonomous level, directs the co-ordination and the dialogue with other ministries regarding R&D&I and digitalisation, and is in charge of exchanging with the European Commission on EIP-AGRI related matters.

The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism (MINCOTUR) develops national policies for industrial innovation with relevance to the agro-food sector. ENISA is integrated into the MINCOTUR. It collaborates closely with the MAPA through AgroInnpulso. These projects are expected to result in a business project with a clear innovative and digital component that will contribute to the profitability and competitiveness of the beneficiary SME. Also, MINCOTUR implements the first line of the PERTE Agroalimentario.

The Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (MITERD) relates to the MAPA’s work as it has various competencies with respect to the agro-food sector, particularly in environment and forestry, waste management, energy and demographic challenges. To this end, it develops strategies, by proposing and implementing policies and elaborates state legislation in its fields of responsibility. Especially its strong focus on climate change mitigation and biodiversity protection should be highlighted. Attached to MITERD is the Biodiversity Foundation, a publicly owned entity. It executes activities related to the study, conservation, and sustainable resource use of the environment, specifically natural habitats, and biodiversity. Its main goals include fostering scientific education and research in the area and serving as a platform for exchange. Moreover, it supports innovative projects and entrepreneurial activities in biodiversity matters and has launched funding lines for sustainable agriculture projects.

Additionally, the Ministry of Universities and the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MEFP) define and co-ordinate education policies, with important implications on innovation capacities for sustainable agriculture, and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transition (MINECO) also runs several programmes of digital development with repercussions in the agricultural sector.

The allocation of funding shows some territorial imbalances, indicative of the heterogeneity of the Spanish regions

One of the most important changes derived from the decentralisation process is that competencies in agriculture, research and education were transferred to the ACs. This led to the development of local entities with their own and diverse dynamics, which form regional AKIS. Despite the general trend towards a greater involvement of regional governments in science and innovation policies, there are large differences in the scale and scope of such policies driven by income inequalities across autonomous regions, the heterogeneity of regional industrial specialization patterns, their different institutional profiles, and their different use of EU structural funds over the past decades (OECD, 2021[4]).

In brief, the funding for agricultural research at the regional level comes from regional sources (such as EIP-AGRI regional co-operation projects or regional R&D&I projects funded by the departments responsible for research and innovation), national sources (such as the PEICTI calls managed by the AEI, national co-operation measures of the EIP-AGRI, projects funded by the CDTI, and the PERTE Agroalimentario), and from European sources (from programmes such as Horizon 2020, LIFE, Interreg POCTEP, Interreg Sudoe and Interreg Atlantic Area, among others).

Advisory services are under the responsibility of the ACs and funded through their regional budget or support granted to them in the regional RDP. Formal training (both vocational and university training) is funded by the ACs, while non-formal training is funded by the regional RDP (Section 3.4.1).

According to the OECD survey of AC authorities, seven out of the eight ACs that responded have a long-term strategy for agro-food innovation (OECD, 2022[16]). However, the ACs are very heterogeneous in several areas. In terms of R&D&I, the interregional differences are due to differences in the level of economic and scientific development and of political support and commitment.

Unfortunately, the information on R&D investment for the agricultural sector at the regional level is not available. However, as an indicator to illustrate the heterogeneity, Table 3.1 shows the differences in the total investment on R&D in all sectors and the share of each AC. Two ACs, Madrid and Catalonia add up to 50% of total R&D, while smaller ACs do not even reach 1% of total funding. Similarly, there is high disparity in the number of employees and researchers in the different ACs. More importantly, the indicator of R&D per researcher also shows heterogeneity, indicating that the differences are not only related to the different sizes of the ACs but also to differences in available resources. The information on agricultural R&D&I for the regions is not easy to gather, reflecting the need of more public information and a co-ordinating agent for the generation of systematic data on the agro-food innovation efforts in Spain across all ACs.

The left panel of Figure 3.3 shows some differences in the key priorities and the focus areas of innovation in the ACs, according to the survey (OECD, 2022[16]). Six out of the eight responding ACs indicated that sustainable natural resources management in the agro-food sector is a key priority. Digital technologies in farming and along the supply chain, and increased value added from the agriculture and agro-food sectors are key priorities in four out of eight ACs. Other less common priorities are adaptation to climate change (three out of eight), collaboration along the agriculture and agro-food supply chain (two out of eight), and animal health and welfare and plant health. Only one AC identified modernisation of rural areas and restructuring of farms and agro-food firms as a key priority. Similarly, the right panel of Figure 3.3 shows that digitisation is a main research area for innovation in six out of eight ACs. It is followed by bioeconomy and food systems (four out of eight), circular economy and organic farming (three out of eight), and education and skills (indicated by only one AC).

In brief, the differences seem to be linked to the specific features of each region that derive from a variety of factors such as the stability of regional governments that allows to develop long-term projects; the strategic planning at regional level for the agro-food sector; the regional economic development; the relevance of the agro-food sector in the regional economy; and improvements in the administrative structure of the centres, especially regarding the economic and human management, which have increased their capacity to compete.

The CSIC is the main public research organisation in Spain. It provides R&D&I services in many sectors and has 13 330 employees (4 345 of which are researchers). In 2021, the CSIC had revenues of EUR 799 million. The CSIC is organised in 121 research institutes (50 of them are joint centres with other organisations) and three national centres, among them the National Institute for Agricultural and Food Research and Technology (INIA). It produces an important scientific output. In 2021, the CSIC took part in 4 226 national projects and 586 projects of the Framework Programme. In addition to the research activities, the national centres provide expert technical advice to the public sector. CSIC’s institutes are spread all over the country, although with a large concentration in Madrid (42 institutes), Andalusia (20 institutes) and Catalonia (18 institutes). The CSIC is the Spanish organisation receiving more funding from the Horizon 2020 programme. The CSIC has 36 centres or institutes related to agro-food sector, 215 research groups, and 1 694 projects in progress.4 Particularly relevant are the Centre for Edaphology and Applied Biology of Segura (CEBAS-CSIC) in Murcia, the Aula Dei experimental station (EEAD) in Zaragoza and the Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (IAS), in Córdoba.

The INIA is an institute of reference in the agro-food science and technology research at national and international level. It participates in numerous projects in the areas of biotechnology, environment, animal genetics improvement, plant protection, animal breeding and food technology. The main sources of funding are the PEICTI and Horizon 2020. The INIA collaborates closely with the MAPA through specific mandates or contracts. At the European level, the INIA-CSIC represents Spain in the Standing Committee on Agricultural Research (SCAR), which is responsible for co-ordinating agricultural research in Europe. Moreover, the INIA-CSIC participates in different European networks of national and regional funding agents, such as ERA-NET or PRIMA. Some of the institutes or centres attached to the INIA are the Forest Science Institute (ICIFOR), the Animal Health Research Centre (CISA), the Biotechnology and Plant Genomics Centre (CBGP), and the Plant Genetic Resources and Sustainable Agriculture Centre (CRF).

All ACs have a public research centre focusing on R&D&I in the agro-food sector. These regional centres have focused their research in the areas more relevant and in line with the needs of agriculture in their region. In addition to undertaking research projects, regional research centres have other duties: promoting the conservation of plant varieties, performing official food and agricultural analysis, and organising technology transfer actions for the agricultural sector (field trials, technical seminars, visits, etc.).

Altogether, the regional centres employ more than 3 500 people, including more than 850 researchers, and manage a budget of over EUR 250 million for personnel costs, infrastructure, and R&D&I.5 In addition, some of the regional centres have additional functions beyond research, such as advisory services, testing laboratories, analysis services and ensuring food quality, among others. Figure 3.4 (left panel) shows that almost all the regional agricultural research centres have the aim of generating knowledge through academic research as one of their main activities. Others also aim at developing innovative products and services, providing advisory services and technical assistance, and providing training capacity building. In the right panel of Figure 3.4, we observe that half of the responding regions have sustainability as one of the thematic research areas. Animal production, one health, food systems, food quality, bioeconomy, and competitiveness are thematic research areas mentioned by less ACs, but nonetheless relevant.

The development of the regional research centres in the last decades has been heterogeneous both in terms of funding levels and staff increase. This has led to divergences not only in terms of the research carried out, but also in terms of transfer of results and advisory services. Some ACs such as Catalonia, Andalusia or the Basque Country have very robust centres, while the centres of other ACs have lost relevance due to the low public investment and lack of a clear commitment from some regional governments with agricultural innovation.

Over the last 20 years, many ACs have developed their agricultural research management, aiming to enhance the autonomy of the research centres through the creation of organisations with their own legal personality to have greater operational capacity to achieve their goals within the AC. These changes aimed at finding more agile and specialised practises for staff management, promoting public-private collaboration, and facilitating access to funding. Some centres have adopted the form of societies and public companies with greater autonomy for economic and staff management. Others took the form of agencies or other bodies governed by public law; these have been more affected by public expenditure and recruitment limitations established in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis.

Most of the regional agricultural research centres are agencies or bodies governed by public or private law (Table 3.2). In the regions with more developed systems, they tend to be public companies. For instance, this is the case of the INTIA in Navarra, the NEIKER in the Basque country and the IRTA in Catalonia.

Different reforms enacted since the 1980s have caused the INIA to lose some of its competences. As part of the decentralisation process, the responsibilities around agriculture were transferred to the ACs. This included the transfer of research material, human, and budgetary resources from the national level, with the purpose of building the regional research services. The ACs took on very broad powers in agricultural research. Among them are directing and managing the research units transferred; implementing national research projects and those linked to international agreements; processing agricultural research projects of interest for their territories; selecting, implementing, monitoring and controlling agricultural research projects not included in the national programmes; co-ordinating agricultural research, experimentation, dissemination and information in their territories; and negotiating and reaching agricultural research and experimentation agreements with public and private entities.

The responsibilities maintained by the national government maintained include: establishing the basic national objectives and general guidelines for agricultural research policy; directing and managing the units that were not transferred to the regions; implementing research projects under the responsibility of these units; co-ordinating the projects included in the national agricultural research programmes; maintaining international scientific relations in the area of agricultural research; and disseminating the results of national agricultural research programmes (Fundación Alonso Martín Escudero, 2003[17]).

The Co-ordinating Commission on Agricultural Research was created in 1987. This collegial body involves the central state administration through the INIA (which holds the presidency), the ministry in charge of the public administration, the MAPA and the representatives from the 17 ACs. The INIA was chosen as co-ordinator because it had been leading agricultural research through the Regional Centres for Agricultural Research and Development until the transfer of responsibilities to the regions.

Up until 2017, the INIA acted as a research centre and a funding body for the regional research centres, managing calls for proposals, for pre and postdoctoral researchers, for infrastructure and to invest in machinery, laboratory equipment, etc. These calls were vital for the regional centres – especially the less competitive ones and those that received less funding – as they allowed them to fund research directed at the problems of regional agriculture through restricted calls where they did not have to compete with public research organisations, universities and others. In 2017, INIA’s funding competences were transferred to the AEI, and the INIA only maintained its research responsibilities. In 2021, the INIA merged into the CSIC, losing its status as a public research organisation of the MCIN. This watered down its importance within the AKIS and its capacity to effectively lead and co-ordinate the network of regional research centres. Responsibility for the INIA has also been assigned to different ministries: while it initially belonged to MAPA, it was later transferred to the Ministry of Education, and later to the MCIN, under which it currently operates.

The existence of a decentralised set of research centres can be a source of strength and diversity to the extent that they are integrated through adequate mechanisms to facilitate the flow of knowledge and the co-operation in innovation activities. A scattered set of resources that are not aligned through a strategic vision of priorities may undermine the capacity of the innovation system to respond to the big challenges ahead of the agro-food sector.

The agro-food private sector comprises a variety of players: companies of different sizes, from SMEs to multinational enterprises, industry associations, farmers, farmers’ organisations, and agro-food co-operatives. These actors play a key role in the adoption of new technology and the promotion of innovation in the agricultural sector.

Agro-food companies often have links with the business-supporting public authorities and research centres to facilitate knowledge flows and the promotion of their innovations. They do so, for example, by participating in the EIP-AGRI funding lines implemented both at a supra-autonomous level by the MAPA and at an autonomous level by the ACs. By including the participation of the private sector, operational groups seek to engage companies in the innovative project, for it to respond to a need of the sector and to improve the adoption of innovations.

Another example are public-private partnerships through technology platforms or Agro-food Clusters/Innovative Enterprise Clusters (IEC). Technology platforms are industry-led exchange networks where relevant actors of the AKIS collaborate on technological research and innovation needs. In Agro-food Clusters/IECs, companies collaborate with public/private research and training centres on specific topics of the sector within a region. Such initiatives are often promoted by the national administration (MINCOTUR). There exist several examples of agro-food technology platforms (Wine Technology Platform, Spanish Technological Platform for Plant Biotechnology, Spanish Technological Platform for Biomass – BIOPLAT, Spanish Technology Platform Food for Life – Spain), and agro-food clusters or IECs (INOLEO, AEI of the olive sector, AGROFOOD, Agro-food Cluster Foundation of the Region of Murcia, VITARTIS, Association of the Food Industry of Castilla y León, CLUSAGA, Food cluster of Galicia) (i2Connect, 2020[8]).

The Spanish Federation of Food and Beverages Industries (FIAB) is another example of a private sector organization promoting innovation. This federation groups almost fifty associations and represents the Spanish agro-food industry while working on the future challenges of the sector. It aims at promoting and fostering the sector economically, socially, and environmentally, with innovation at the core of its activities. To promote business innovation, FIAB collaborates with companies and actors that perform research to boost R&D&I in the industry. At the national level, FIAB is actively engaged in some of the public administration’s R&D&I projects, tackling issues concerning the consolidation of public-private collaboration in R&D&I.6 In collaboration with MAPA and the Plataforma Tecnológica Food for Life-Spain (PTF4LS), FIAB gives out the Ingenia Startup Prizes, rewarding innovation and entrepreneurship efforts in private R&D&I efforts.7

There are also important technological centres such as the National Centre for Technology and Food Safety (CNTA), the Extremadura National Agro-Food Technological Centre (CTAEX), and the Technological Institute of Food (AINIA), a private technology centre with more than 30 years of experience in R&D&I (Box 3.1). The Spanish Federation of Technology (FEDIT) has worked since 1996 to encourage innovation, technology development and private research so as to increase the competitiveness of companies by improving technology via 43 technology centres across the country.

In addition to agro-food companies, Professional Agricultural Organizations (OPAs) and agro-food co-operatives play a key role in knowledge transfer and innovation on the farm . In particularly, several OPAs work closely with farmers, acting on their behalf , and as the bridge linking research, politics, and farmers as recognised partners of the government. There are three main OPAs: the Co-ordinator of Organizations of Farmers and Stockbreeders (COAG), the Agricultural Association of Young Farmers (ASAJA), and the Union of Small Farmers (UPA).

Although private companies have taken on an increasingly relevant role in the Spanish AKIS, it is still below international comparatives. Spanish companies leave most of the responsibility for high-level knowledge generation to the public sector (OECD, 2021[4]). Therefore, the AKIS is highly government-driven, and private innovative outputs to promote a sustainable agro-food sector are low. Among the reasons for the low private sector contribution is the low rate of collaboration between private business actors and public research. The limitation in the usage rights of research results from public funding is one of the reasons. Another reason is the limited scope of the central government’s R&D programmes financing, which are not necessarily tailored to the private sector’s needs.

Private investments are still low, especially considering that the mobilisation of private funding for R&D&I activities will be critical to sustain investments once European recovery funds run out, and a prerequisite to avoid a sharp funding reversal as damaging as that caused by the global financial crisis (OECD, 2021[4]).

The business sector is the main source of funding for R&D (upper panel of Figure 3.5), accounting for 50.2% of the funds (2021), followed by the government (37.5%). It is also the main actor undertaking R&D activities (56.2%), followed by the higher education sector (26.6%) and the government (16.9%).

In the specific field of agro-food, the source of funds changed significantly in recent years (lower panel of Figure 3.5). The share of the government decreased with respect to previous years while the share of the business sector notably increased from 26.5% in 2000 to 42.2% in 2021. Agro-food companies stand out as important investors in R&D, however, the number of innovative firms in the agro-food sector has decreased in the last ten years (MAPA, 2022[11]). According to the National Statistics Institute’s (INE) Innovation in Businesses Survey, which includes companies with more than ten employees, there a total of 2 103 companies in the agro-food sector (Agriculture and Forestry, and Food, Beverages, and Tobacco) were carrying out innovation activities in 2020 with an expenditure of EUR 959 million. The data show that 22.5% of companies in the Food and Beverages sector invest in R&D activities, higher than many other manufacturing sectors in Spain (Instituto Nacional de Estadística, 2020[18]). This not the case, however, in the primary sector, where only 7.4% of firms with more than ten employees invest in R&D and innovation activities, which is below the average of all sectors.

The Spanish Government supported R&D aimed at promoting agriculture with nearly 7% of the entire R&D budget in 2021 (Figure 3.6). This significantly exceeds the EU27 average of 3%. An additional percentage is dedicated to support agricultural and veterinary science through funding for the general advancement of knowledge.

However, resources directly allocated to R&D for agriculture decreased in real terms from their peak in 2007 at a faster rate than the entire R&D budget between 2007 and 2021, with the main decline following the financial crisis of 2008 and continuing until 2014. Since 2017, the total government budget allocation for R&D for agriculture has been slowly increasing in real terms, although there is still a large difference with respect to the pre-crisis levels.

Spain’s overall gross domestic expenditure on R&D (GERD, which covers public and private expenditure on R&D carried out by all residents in a country) increased by 18% in real terms between 2006 and 2019 (OECD, 2022[20]). It reached 1.4% in 2019, below the 2.2% of the European Union (Table 3.3). This level was comparable with those of Italy, Portugal and Canada, but significantly lower than in the Netherlands, France, and Germany.

Similarly, the intensity of the agricultural R&D in Spain from all sources was relatively low and has decreased in time: public gross domestic expenditure on R&D on agricultural innovation represented 1.2% of the sector’s value added, lower than in some EU peers and other leading OECD countries, and lower than the 1.4% shown in 2006. However, an examination of the data by source and sector of performance shows a mixed picture. The government budget allocation for R&D as a percentage of sector’s value added (1.34%) was slightly above the EU aggregate of 1.33% and higher than for France, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, and Portugal. Moreover, in 2020, the investment from all sources for private R&D as a percentage of the GDP (BERD) was 0.8%, and in 2019, the investment from all sources for the development of private R&D in the agricultural sector (BERD) was of 0.3%, both figures below most OECD countries and the EU27 average. In the food and beverages sector, it was of 0.9% of the sector’s value added, which was close to the EU total and above the shares of Germany and France.

The investment intensities for private R&D in agriculture and in the food and beverages sector have both increased between 2009 and 2019. Conversely, the intensity of the government investment in agriculture (GBARD on Agriculture) has decreased, as has the intensity of the public R&D from all sources.

Spain has a generally well-developed communication infrastructure, notably high-quality broadband, such as fibre networks. The country has made considerable progress in improving access and in reducing the difference in access between urban and rural areas.

Less than 40% of households in Spain had internet access in 2007, close to but below the 40% in the European Union, and above the 30% of households in Portugal (Figure 3.7). Coverage has increased dramatically since then, reaching almost 96% in 2021. The average number hid notable differences between the households living in rural areas and those living in small and large urban areas that have been diminishing over time. In 2007, only 25% of the households in rural areas had broadband internet access at home, while 46% of households in large urban areas could access internet at home. Although the gap persisted through the years, it has recently narrowed. In 2021, 94% of households in rural areas, 96% in small urban areas, and 97% in large urban areas had broadband internet access at home.

Despite this progress, other indicators still show a gap between rural and urban households’ digitisation. Large differences persist in the coverage of high-quality broadband access and in next generation access, which includes fixed-line broadband access technologies capable of achieving download speeds meeting the EU Digital Agenda objective of at least 30 Mbps coverage (Figure 3.8). The indicator of Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) coverage shows that a gap remains, even if it has become smaller. In 2016, the digital divide in this area was of 53%. In 2021, this difference had narrowed to 20%, as coverage reached 89% of total households and 69% of rural households. Regarding Next Generation Access (NGA), the digital divide also decreased from 53% in 2016 to 16% in 2021.

According to the SWOT analysis done for the preparation of the new CAP Strategic Plan, this significant gap in connectivity is because the infrastructure deployment plans have so far been based on the distribution of population rather than on the territorial distribution (MAPA, 2021[6]). The private sector is the largest source of investment in communication infrastructure in Spain. Rural and remote areas are less attractive for commercial operators given deployment costs, as core networks are typically located closer to densely populated areas, thus requiring further investment (OECD, 2021[21]).

The OECD survey also reveals differences between digitisation in ACs and, within ACs, between agriculture and in general. While availability and performance in general are seen as good, they are mostly perceived as being of bad quality for agriculture. Figure 3.9 shows that the availability and performance of the digital infrastructure in agriculture is evaluated as good in two ACs, regular in one AC, and bad in four (OECD, 2022[16]).Similarly, the survey reveals differences in the existence of policies promoting access to and adoption of digital technologies and tools. All seven ACs that replied to this question have a general policy as well as a specific policy for rural areas. However, five have a specific policy for the agricultural sector and only three have a policy for sustainable agriculture.

The European Commission has recommended that Spain expands broadband coverage in rural and remote areas to achieve the EU Green Deal Target of 100% fast broadband coverage by 2025. Spain should also accelerate the digital transition of its farming sector through large-scale training efforts and by exploiting the most advanced technology to better monitor and optimise agricultural production processes (European Commission, 2020[22]).

Several studies have identified a large divide in the use of digital technologies, which is due to both economic and educational factors (OECD, 2021[21]; MAPA, 2021[14]). Although Spain ranks 10th in the EU-27 in terms of digital skills, only 64% of the Spanish population has at least basic digital skills. This is slightly above the EU average, but still far from the goal of 80% of the European population having at least basic digital skills by 2030 (European Commission, 2022[23]). In addition, 36% of the Spanish workforce still do not have basic digital skills, which hinders the progress of the digitisation of companies and the acceptance of advanced digital technologies. The gender imbalance remains significant and the percentage of women among all information and communication technologies specialists is still only 10% (in line with the EU average) (European Commission, 2022[23]).

A recent study revealed that only 3% of farms owners are under 35 years, which indicates that a generational change in Spanish farms is still far off. This generation, the so-called “agro-millennials”, consider agriculture to be a long-term stable job (87%) and express a high level of satisfaction for the daily performance of their professional activity (8.48 out of 10). They are usually informed by social networks (76%) and digital press (55%), and much less by traditional media such as radio (38%), television (36%), and print media (10%). They argue that excessive bureaucracy and access to land are the main obstacles to their generation becoming farmers. They understand digital transformation as a necessary tool to achieving more profitable and sustainable farms (Juventudes Agrarias COAG, 2022[24]). Young people who join the agricultural sector have a higher than average academic education for their generation. Almost four out of ten have a university degree and at least 65% have a bachelor's degree or higher vocational training, compared to 48.7% for the Spanish population overall.

The Digitisation Strategy for the Agro-food and Forestry Sector and Rural Areas, which started being developed by MAPA in 2019 and financed by the Next Generation EU Funds through the Spanish Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan (RTRP) and the PERTE Agroalimentario, defines the strategic lines and measures necessary to boost digital transformation in the agro-food and forestry sector and rural areas, and the instruments for their implementation. It follows three key objectives: 1) better connectivity between rural and urban areas; 2) better use of agricultural data; and 3) fostering business development and new business models while leveraging the potential of new technologies.

The general aims of these measures are to reduce barriers to the digital transformation of rural areas, encourage the use of data, and promote economic growth and development of new business models. As stated in the European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork strategy, there is a need for a smarter agriculture to improve productivity and reduce the environmental impacts of the sector. To that end, it is essential to improve connectivity and training, so smart solutions can be developed for farmers, businesses, and rural communities.

One of the measures financed by Next Generation EU funds contemplates the implementation of a support programme to encourage the use of precision farming and technologies 4.0 in the agricultural sector, to speed up the modernisation of the equipment and the use of technologies. This is expected to promote a more efficient use of natural resources in production. It also allows the use of equipment that is more energy efficient, increasing the environmental performance of the agricultural sector.

Beyond the Next Generation EU innovation projects of the Spanish RTRP, there are diverse examples of measures and actions to promote digitalisation in agriculture, provide training and advice in digital skills and in information generation and processing, and support digital entrepreneurship.

One example is the development of the farm information system SIEX (Section 1.2.2), which aims to simplify the relations between farmers and the national and regional administrations by integrating all the information that farmers must provide, including the new Digital Farm Notebook for crops and the ECOGAN registry for livestock farms (see also Section 2.4.2).

The Smart Specialisation Platform reports ten Spanish DIHs specialised in the agro-food sector of different characteristics and that are located in different regions: the Andalucía Agrotech Digital Innovation Hub; ARAGÓN DIH; Catalonia Digital Innovation Hub (DIH4CAT); CIDIHUB ‒ Canary Islands Digital Innovation Hub; DATAlife; DIGIS3 Smart Sustainable & CoheSive Digitalization; i4CAMHUB (Innovation for Competitiveness and Advanced Manufacturing); INNDIH: Valencia Region Digital Innovation Hub; IRIS: European Digital Innovation Hub Navarra; and DIH Extremadura Tech4E in Extremadura. The MAPA is working on the creation of a Digital Innovation Hub for the agro-food sector to promote the implementation of digital technologies.

The adoption of digital technologies by farmers, agro-food companies, and enterprises in general, is a key challenge. Spain ranks seventh of 27 EU Member States in the 2022 edition of the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) (European Commission, 2022[23]). Spain also ranks seventh in the OECD Digital Government Index, which assesses the adoption of strategic approaches in the use of data and digital technologies by the governments of 33 OECD and non-OECD countries (OECD, 2020[25]). Considering the total economy, Spain is above the EU average on integration of digital technologies by firms and has improved the situation in the last year. Particularly, the percentage of SMEs with a basic level of digital intensity and using social media is above the EU average. But Spain’s enterprises are still lagging behind on new and advanced technologies such as cloud or big data. Unfortunately, the data available for the agro-food sector is scarce. The INIA has information on the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs), but it covers only firms with over ten employees, leaving aside a large number of firms. In addition, there are issues with the sectoral disaggregation. The information at the farmers’ level is even more difficult to obtain. Thus, there is not enough data to assess the digitalisation of the Spanish agro-food sector. This requires urgent attention.

Data is essential to achieve a smarter agriculture. On this basis, the European Union approved the European data strategy in 2020 and the Digital Europe programme 2021-27. The European Union is also promoting the establishment of a Common European Data Space. The objective is to improve the sustainability and competitiveness of the agricultural sector through data processing and analysis. The programme stresses the relevance of the DIHs for the digital transformation of European industry to stimulate the wide acceptance of Artificial Intelligence (AI), High Performance Computing (HPC), and Cybersecurity, as well as other technologies.

In addition, in March 2022 a new European Partnership under Horizon Europe “Agriculture of Data” was presented. It seeks to support a sustainable agriculture in Europe as well as strengthening policy monitoring and evaluation capacities, by using the potential that digital and data technologies in combination with Earth observation and other environmental and agricultural data offer. It is expected to start operating in 2023 and will have a budget of EUR 100 million.

In line with the European framework, Spain has launched the strategies Digital Spain 2025 and 2026 to develop the digital transformation of the country to become a reference in data economy. Axis 4 of the Digital Spain 2026 strategy is devoted to data economy and artificial intelligence. One of the measures to achieve these objectives is the creation of a data office, which will be in charge of designing and proposing strategies to boost data sharing, management and use throughout all the productive sectors of the economy and society, guaranteeing good governance and security. This office is under the responsibility of the Secretariat of State for Digitalisation and Artificial Intelligence in the MINECO. The digital chapter of the main PERTE has also begun implementation. This includes setting up programmes to create big, shared data spaces (data lakes) in strategic sectors, such as the health sector, the tourism sector, the agro-food sector, the economy of care work, and electric mobility.

Although the European Union has some common framework and supranational institutions governing the protection of intellectual property rights (IPRs), each member has its own national intellectual property protection system. Spain is a member of the European Patent Organisation (EPO) since 1986. According to the index of patent protection of the World Economic Forum, Spain provides a relatively low level of IPRs protection compared to other EU Members (Figure 3.10). In 2019, the index score for Spain was 4.8, lower than the OECD and EU averages, and below peers such as France, Germany, and Portugal.

EU Members have national IPRs systems protecting their plant varieties and agricultural-related innovations in place. These nationally defined systems are based in common standards defined by international conventions, such as the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which allows comparisons between them.

Spain has been increasing the legal IP protection provided for plant varieties. The country adhered to the UPOV convention for the first time in 1980 and, in 2007, became a member of the latest UPOV convention of 1991. In 2000, Spain reformed its legislation for the IP protection of plant varieties. An academic study found that the enactment of the Plant Variety Rights has had a positive incentive, especially for the private sector, which increased its market share because of higher appropriability conditions (Diez, 2002[27]). The Spanish plant breeding industry consists of both international and small domestic firms. Many foreign breeders focus their research efforts on hybrid varieties, which provide “natural” property rights. The study states that because of a significance innovative activity of foreign breeders, Spain has expanded seed imports and reinforced technological dependence.

Spain has significantly increased its level of IP protection for plant varieties. Between 1995 and 2018, an index of legal protection for plant varieties increased from 1.5 to 3.9, approaching the average level of protection of the European Union (Figure 3.11). The entry into force of the World Trade Organization (WTO) TRIPS agreement has made IPRs systems worldwide more homogeneous and stronger,8 a process that is illustrated by the evolution of the index.

As an EU Member, Spain is part of the Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO), the supranational organisation ruling plant variety protection in the European Union. The CPVO oversees implementing the Community Plant Variety Rights (CPVRs) system, an independent protection scheme for new plant varieties with a unitary effect throughout the European Union. CPVRs are a type of “plant breeder's rights” (PBRs), which often refer to the types of IPRs granted by national authorities. Both CPVRs and national-level PBRs provide the breeder of a new variety of plants exclusive control over associated propagating and harvested material for a certain number of years. The CPVR is legally valid throughout the entire European Union, which provides exclusive exploitation rights for a plant variety in all Member States through a single application to the CPVO (Würtenberger et al., 2021[29]).

The advisory services in the Spanish AKIS have gone through a process of transformation in the last decades. In particular, the roles of public and private advisors changed notably. A set of reforms enacted since the 1980s blurred the functions of the previously existing public extension services. Until then, agricultural advisory services used to involve technical advice and were in general more specialised in productive aspects linked to the agricultural activity. Following Spain’s EU accession in 1986 and its adoption of the CAP, agricultural extension officers started focusing more on processing applications for the CAP and on the administrative management of CAP compliance. As a consequence, there are at present almost no public advisory services in Spain, except in some specific regions such as Navarra, which has a public entity providing agricultural advice – the INTIA – and the Canary Islands, whose public extension offices continue to offer technical advice to farmers and are not funded by the CAP (MAPA, 2021[7]).

The gap left by the diminishing role of agricultural extension public advisors has been partly filled by private advisors, advisory entities and, especially, commercial advisors linked to input providers (plant varieties, plant protection products, fertilisers, and machinery). Although they provide an essential service, their advice is often linked to their commercial interests and might not necessarily cover all farmers’ needs.

In the previous CAP period (2014-20), a new type of actor emerged: advisory entities that receive public funding from the Rural Development Program (RDP). Advisory entities include mainly co-operatives and agricultural organisations, although there are also independent advisors. The role of private consulting companies in this area is also increasing (i2Connect, 2020[8]).

It has not been possible to assess the effectiveness of this type of advice, given that both the managing bodies and the advisory entities have had to devote most of their efforts and resources to administrative tasks. It was also not possible to improve the interrelations between advisors and research in the 2014-20 period, except for the joint participation in operational groups (MAPA, 2021[7]).

Among the problems that have been identified in the advisory services model of Spain are the existence of complex and heterogeneous rules and standards for advisory services and the potential of an oversupply due to the coexistence of non-commercial advisory services that compete with those established within the framework of the CAP (MAPA, 2021[6]).

The training needs of the agricultural sector are changing and evolving beyond the current legal requirements governing advisory services, and a good connection between knowledge transfer systems and new forms of business and innovation, including the adoption of new technologies, is key. However, the link between scientists, knowledge transfer systems and the business sector in Spain is weak and affected by several limitations, such as the absence of effective intermediaries, lack of business demand, legal and administrative barriers, lack of skills or experience, and lack of financial or other incentives, among the most relevant (OECD, 2021[4]). Furthermore, there is a low level of training of farm managers: 78% of them have only practical experience and have not had any formal training. There are also generational and gender gaps in the levels of training9 and a low share of young farmers interested in new digital technologies (Juventudes Agrarias COAG, 2022[24]). The European Commission has recommended Spain to improve the access to knowledge and innovation by the farming community, by fostering the integration and organisation of advisers within the AKIS, improving the interaction of research with farmers and advisors, and better integrating farmers’ needs in research and innovation projects (European Commission, 2020[22]). Considering this, the MAPA is developing measures to promote training and advice on digital matters at a supra-autonomous level, included in the digitisation strategy and in the PERTE Agroalimentario.

Figure 3.12 shows that there are heterogeneous interests in the main subjects of regional farm advisory services. The farm advisory services of the ACs that replied to the OECD survey are mainly focused on farm management and compliance with regulations or policy requirements. Conversely, many regional farm and advisory services do not focus on skills development such as digital or entrepreneurial.

Advisory services should be up to date with the increasingly complex demands of the agricultural sector. A greater public and private effort is required to improve co-ordination among them, strengthen their relationship with farmers, and improve their capabilities and skills to cover all dimensions of sustainability (economic, social, and environmental). Training of advisors must be comprehensive, so they can become smart advisors, to strengthen their role as the link between the needs of the agricultural sector and the technical and management solutions. In the years to come, it will be essential to provide training for the advisors in areas such as new technologies to improve sustainability, collaboration, and networking, marketing, and entrepreneurship skills.

In line with the Spanish CAP Strategic Plan 2023-27, the MAPA (at the supra-autonomous level) and 14 of the 17 ACs will implement measures related to advisory services, including granting aid to the creation of advisory and management services and mentoring (MAPA, 2022[30]). The estimated amount of investment for advisory services and digitalisation programmes adds up to EUR 105.3 million. Therefore, there exist financial resources to respond to the needs of a changing sector with sustainability challenges. There are several models that could be followed to improve the efficiency of advisory services (Box 3.3).

Upgrading skills and attaining a right balance of skills is essential for agricultural innovation. Figure 3.13 shows the composition of employment in agriculture, forestry and fishing in Spain and the European Union by broad occupations. The Spanish agricultural sector employs mainly low-skilled occupations. Elementary workers in Spain add up to 40% of total workers, while in the European Union the average is of 14%.

The educational level of workers in the agricultural sector is also relatively low. Figure 3.14 shows the percentage of workers with high, medium, and low educational levels for two types of agricultural workers: agricultural labourers and farmworkers. The first type are agricultural labourers that perform simple and routine tasks as part of agriculture, forestry and fishery production processes. Farmworkers and gardeners, on the other hand, plan, organise, and perform farming operations to grow and harvest field or tree and shrub crops and to produce a variety of animals and animal products for sale or delivery on a regular basis to wholesale buyers, marketing organisations or at markets. They usually need to have completed the first stage of secondary education but in some instances, they will need to have completed the second stage of secondary education, including through specialised vocational education and training (CEDEFOP, 2022[35]).

Three-quarters of agricultural labourers have a low education attainment, which is striking given the characteristics of their work. However, 64.6% of farmworkers and gardeners also have a low level of education attainment. The general level of education of Spanish agricultural workers is well below that of the European Union: 11% of total agricultural workers have a high level of education in the European Union compared to 8% in Spain, 51% a medium level (18% in Spain), and 38% a low level (75% In Spain).

According to the OECD PIACC survey,10 the level of participation in adult education and training in the Spanish agro-food sector (including agriculture, forestry and fishing, and food and beverages manufacturing) only reaches 35% while in the all-sector average it reaches 58%, which are well below the rates of participation in adult education observed in the agro-food sectors of other European countries, such as Denmark (66%), the Netherlands (66%), and Ireland (42%), but higher than in France (31%) and Italy (17%).

Most of the ACs that responded the OECD survey identified long-term skills needs and knowledge gaps in digital technologies and environmental management for the food and agriculture sector. A smaller number of ACs recognised gaps in areas such entrepreneurship, farm management, accounting, and marketing (Figure 3.15).

Moreover, there is evidence of field-of-study and qualification mismatches in Spanish agriculture. Figure 3.16 Panel A shows that agriculture, forestry and fishing is the sector with the highest field-of study mismatch, which implies that almost 60% of workers in agriculture were specialised in a different field of study. Panel B of Figure 3.16 also shows the qualification mismatches that arise when workers in an economic sector have an educational attainment that is higher or lower than that required by their job. In the case of agriculture, forestry and fishing there is a total qualification mismatch of 48%. In particular, 26% of workers have a higher education level than that required by their job (overqualified), while 22% of workers are underqualified.

Generating skills and reaching a balance on their use and distribution within the economy is very relevant for sustainable innovation. Skills shortages, skills surpluses, and skills, field-of-study, and qualification mismatches can exert a negative impact on economic growth through their effects on increased labour costs, lower labour productivity growth, slower adoption of new technologies, and lost production associated with unfilled vacancies. Firms experiencing skills shortages may be constrained in their ability to innovate and adopt new technologies and might face larger hiring costs. Skills mismatches can cause individuals to experience a higher risk of unemployment, lower wages, and lower job satisfaction (OECD, 2016[36]; OECD, 2020[37]). Also, some skills mismatches are a potential waste of valuable resources that could be better used.

Formal education is usually offered by universities and vocational training schools, which are under regional supervision. According to the Integrated System of University Information (SIIU), the national university education offer includes 86 undergraduate courses (91% of them public), 90 master’s courses (96% of them public) and 37 PhD programmes in the field of agriculture and related areas. There is a wide range of higher education courses in the agricultural field, well distributed across the country. They cover different areas of knowledge linked with agriculture and forestry, including agroecology, gardening, and animal health. Some groups of higher education institutions together with other institutions constitute Campus of International Excellence, a programme developed by the Spanish Ministry of Education to enhance strategic alliances and knowledge exchange, and 16 of these Campus are related to the agro-food sector.

There exist three levels of vocational training courses: basic, mid-level and advanced level. Typically, the regional ministries for education are responsible for agricultural vocational training, but in some regions, it falls under the supervision of the regional ministries for agriculture or other public or private institutions. Vocational training can be regulated or non-regulated.11 Regulated training is provided by regional governments, under the umbrella of the Ministry of Universities and the Ministry of Education. In the case of non-regulated training, there are several actors involved. For example, MAPA offers courses to professionals of the agro-food sector and to advisors. MAPA recently launched a Digital Training Centre for Digital Skills in collaboration with two universities (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and University of Córdoba) for professionals of the agro-food sector. Additionally, there are several other interventions under the CAP Strategic Plan (CSP), at regional and national level for boosting training and advice.

A 2021 focus group that evaluated advisory services in the Spanish AKIS identified a lack of interaction among the relevant stakeholders who are active in the different types of education (vocational training, university education and lifelong learning) (MAPA, 2021[7]). This may be due to the excessive compartmentalisation of the educational areas and to the split of competences among different government departments at national and regional level. Furthermore, there is a very weak connection between formal education, the agricultural research centres, and the advisors. Improving the links of agricultural education (including both teachers and students) with the rest of the AKIS actors will be vital in the new CAP programming period. An interesting example in this direction is the recently created technological platform of wine12 with the educational initiative focused on innovation, digitisation and new technologies applied to the wine sector, that seeks to share the experience of the most advanced wine producers with the rest of the sector.

Spain is the 12th country in the world in scientific production, and 24th in patents. That means that the large number of scientific papers is not necessarily linked to patentable innovations. This points to a disconnection between scientific research and business R&D leading to innovation. In 2019, Spanish universities collected only EUR 4.1 million in licences and other intellectual property agreements. In the same year, 84 spin-off companies (companies created in the university environment to develop knowledge or research results) were created, fewer than ten years ago (118) or the maximum in the last decade (133 in 2013) (Fundación CYD, 2020[39]).

Table 3.4 shows patents and publications in agro-food as outcomes of the agriculture and food science R&D. Spain has a relatively high specialisation in patents on agro-food science, which represented 7% of total patents at the national level. This was above the average of EU (5%) and OECD countries (4%). Patent specialisation in agro-food has generally decreased worldwide over the last decades, from 5% in 1990-96 to 4% in 2014-18. In Spain, this share remained very similar over the whole period, and the country has one of the highest shares of agro-food patents of OECD countries. However, despite this high level of specialisation, Spain’s contribution to the world’s agro-food patents was of only 1% in 2014-18, well below the average of the OECD and the European Union, but also below the averages for Germany, France, Italy, and Canada.

With over 6% of publications in the agro-food science, Spain is relatively highly specialised and above the mean of the European Union and the OECD, even if this specialisation has slightly decreased from around 7% in 2006-16. Moreover, the almost 14% of publications in the fields of agricultural/biological science publications in the top 10% most cited of the world (an indicator of "excellence") indicates a relatively high quality of Spain’s research output in agriculture. This is over the EU27 average (13%) and that of the OECD (12%) and close to the countries presented in the table.

Spain’s contribution to the world agro-food science output has decreased from around 4% in 2006-16 to 3% in 2016-20. On the other hand, the collaborations with foreign partners in agro-food publications as a share of the total agro-food outputs have increased significantly, from 27% in 2006-12 to 39% in 2016-20.

Over one-quarter of Spain’s patents in agro-food are the result of collaborations with foreign partners. This is similar to France, Canada, and Germany, and well above the share of OECD countries. However, there is relatively less collaboration in the case of publications, with 39%, much closer to the OECD average. Collaborations with foreign partners are very relevant because they provide avenues for knowledge sharing that can potentially derive in knowledge inflows.

Spain has recently modified the Science, Technology and Innovation Act. One relevant driver for the changes was that the Spanish Science, Technology and Innovation system had achieved excellence in research, but that this excellence in scientific production had not been effectively transferred to the productive sector and to the society, nor had it led to a stronger knowledge-based economy. The main deficits were found in the protection and exploitation of research results, as well as in the lack of investors (Gobierno de España, 2022[40]).

Since the creation of the CPVO in 1995, there has been a shift of IPRs applications from national offices to CPVO. Although there are differences depending on the country, in most cases applications at national offices – particularly those made by non-residents – have been decreasing, while applications at CPVO, both from EU Members and from other countries, have followed increasing trends.

In line with this, before the introduction of the CPVO, applications at the Spanish national office where mainly performed by non-residents (Figure 3.17). Since 1995, both residents and non-residents’ applications decreased but non-residents’ applications decreased more and were outnumbered by residents’ applications. In more recent years, there is a slight increase in residents’ applications at the national office. In addition, applications at CPVO made by Spanish firms have been increasing since the creation of CPVO.

Spain is a member of the International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies (CIHEAM), an intergovernmental organisation composed of 13 Member States. One of the four institutes through which CIHEAM operates is the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Zaragoza, which offers a series of master’s degrees and participates in research projects on rural development and animal production, among others (CIHEAM, 2017[41]).

Spain participates in PRIMA-Partnerships on Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area, an initiative in R&D&I in the Mediterranean that seeks solutions for a more sustainable management of water systems and the agriculture and agro-food chain through co-operative R&D projects in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN 2030 agenda.13

In addition, Spain is a member of two relevant agricultural research organisations: the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture (GACSA) and the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA). GACSA works under the umbrella of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and aims to have a positive impact on food security and nutrition under the threat of climate change by promoting the three main pillars of Climate-Smart Agriculture: sustainable productivity improvements, resilience building, and greenhouse gas reduction and removal. For this purpose, the Alliance and its members aim to incorporate climate-smart approaches, share knowledge and support the implementation of climate-smart agriculture, among others (GACSA, 2014[42]). Focusing on GHG emissions from agriculture, GRA intends to strengthen knowledge systems and to foster partnerships to improve research co-operation and increase investment in mitigation practices and technologies. To this end, the Alliance focuses on increasing co-operation, collaboration and investment efforts in research (Global Research Alliance, 2010[43]).

There are also examples of international agricultural development support made by Spain. The Spanish Agency of International Co-operation for Development (AECID) is the country’s main actor on matters of development co-operation. Since 2014, the AECID has been financing the line of subsidies Development Cooperation Actions in the field of innovation through competitive competition, for multi-stakeholder consortia, aligned with Spain's priorities in terms of development co-operation. This line finances projects that promote innovative solutions that have already been developed and successfully tested at the pilot level, to demonstrate the possibility of replicating them at a larger scale. Some of the topics of interest are: access to food for people at risk of food insecurity by promoting its production for sustainable consumption, nature-based solutions and circular economy initiatives focused on the reduction, elimination and management of waste, decontamination, soil and water conservation, emission reduction, climate adaptation, and efficient use of resources. A total of 269 initiatives worth EUR 51 million were financed in 2014-22, many in the field of innovation for environmental sustainability. In 2020, more than EUR 40 million were directed to programmes relating to SDG2 (Zero Hunger). The regions receiving the largest share of SDG2-related spending from AECID are Sub-Saharan Africa, Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Programmes targeting good agricultural practices and disaster risk management within the co-operation sector “Rural Development, Food Security and Nutrition”, as well as further projects in the sectors “Food Crises” and “Employment Generation” show the strong links between development co-operation, agriculture, and innovation (AECID, 2020[44]). For example, the project “BOVINOS” in Nicaragua links development aid and innovation by providing ranchers with improved technological innovation services to reduce rural poverty (AECID, 2019[45]).

The genetic diversity of Spain’s livestock has been affected by landscape changes, rural abandonment and more intensive production, and many of the country’s indigenous breeds have become endangered. As these breeds have historically adapted better to the Spanish natural systems, their disappearance could make farming more vulnerable to threats such as climate change. Therefore, enhancing the development of activities linked to indigenous breeds can have a potential interest in terms of innovation for sustainability (FAO, 2016[46]).

Innovation – a new product or a new process – is usually linked to modern technologies. However, novelty can also be related to recovering abandoned practices that are rescued to improve something. In agriculture, there are examples of rediscovering and innovating knowledge, skills, and technologies that have been abandoned, to improve sustainability. These so-called “retro-innovations” arise from the active rediscovery of marginalised and often forgotten knowledge and result in effective linkages between old and new knowledge (Stuiver, 2006[47]). Therefore, retro-innovations might be simply defined as the purposeful revival of historical practices, ideas, or technologies that are fostered by heritage, tradition, nostalgia, and revival (Zagata et al., 2020[48]; Castellano et al., 2013[49]). Retro-innovations can have a large potential for developing viable alternatives for rural development. Some authors identify positive effects on the quality and healthiness of food, social conditions, and environmental sustainability (León-Bravo et al., 2019[50]; Kilis et al., 2021[51]; Ferrario, 2021[52]; Garre, 2022[53]).

Spain’s initiative to protect endangered native breeds can be analysed as a retro-innovation with potential benefits for environmental sustainability. The MAPA has established a National Program for the Conservation, Improvement and Promotion of Livestock Breeds (see also Section 2.5.2). Being part of the animal genetic heritage of Spain and having a potential impact on social and environmental sustainability, native breeds are being revalued. The production systems linked to native breeds are associated with extensive systems, which might entail beneficial consequences for the sustainability of the rural environment.

The National Program, following the demands of breeders’ associations, implements a logo to identify the origin of products that derive from indigenous breeds.14 This also gives more traceability to consumers that increasingly demand information about the origin of the products they consume. Therefore, a regulatory regime exists for the voluntary use of the “native breed” logo that allows products from native breeds to be recognised by their labelling and where they can be marketed or consumed.

The production of indigenous breeds has several potential environmental benefits beyond the direct impact on the conservation of biodiversity. It allows for the development of a productive activity without large changes in the landscape. Indigenous breeds could bring better adaptation to climate change given that their production systems and genetic resources have been adapted to changing environmental conditions over millennia (FAO, 2015[54]). These breeds are particularly resilient to hard conditions in some remote areas. Most often these indigenous breeds are linked to extensive livestock practices with additional environmental benefits (Box 3.4). However, it was difficult to find breed-specific empirical evidence on these environmental gains. Efforts to gather data and evidence in this direction may help to incorporate this type of retro-innovation in the mainstream policy set.

The use of rescued traditional practices can certainly develop along with modern practices and technologies. An interesting example is the virtual fencing for extensive livestock, with GPS location and movement detection collars that allow to monitor and detect abnormal movements to protect cows against predators, thus helping the coexistence of animals and improving biodiversity protection (Blanco et al., 2021[55]). Virtual fencing also helps pasture management.

Enhancing the recuperation of genetic diversity is very relevant, especially considering the high levels of biodiversity in Spain. Furthermore, the protection of genetic diversity is one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Target 2.5 of SDG2 aims, by 2020, to maintain the genetic diversity of seeds, cultivated plants, and farmed and domesticated animals and their related wild species, and to promote access to and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilisation of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge. The three indicators related to this target show an improvement in terms of genetic diversity in Spain: the proportion of local breeds classified as being at risk as a share of local breeds with known level of extinction risk decreased from 76 in 2000 to 66 in 2022, while the number of local breeds for which sufficient genetic resources are stored for reconstitution increased from 21 in 2014 to 37 in 2022, and the number of plant genetic resources accessions stored ex situ increased from 69 465 in 2000 to 74 662 in 2020 (United Nations, 2022[56]).

Different AKIS actors collaborate in the development of these initiatives. For example, breeders’ associations often work with INIA and the MAPA for analysis. INIA provides knowledge, and its work in genetics is very important for some breeders’ associations, such as the Avileña association. Other indigenous breeds’ associations work with the regional governments, research centres, or universities.

Greenhouse agriculture has emerged as a vital component of the dynamic Spanish fruit and vegetable sector. Occupying less than 0.5% of Spain’s utilised agricultural area, it produces with significantly higher yields than other types of cultivation, allowing Spain to grow into one of the most important suppliers of fresh produce to the European market.

Over half of greenhouses in Spain have a medium level of technification. As the agro-climatic conditions and the products grown do not always require heating systems without airtight roofs, only 3% of the greenhouses in Spain are classified as “highly technified”, with a rigid cover and climate control or heating systems (MAPA, 2022[57]). Spain is committed to increasing the share of technified greenhouses, with support of the Next Generation EU funds. Most greenhouses in Spain operate on solar energy, with a cover of plastic, anti-insect netting or flexible sheets (Molina-Aiz et al., 2022[58]). These solar greenhouses may contribute to reducing dependence from fossil fuels.

Over half of the Spanish greenhouse area is in the province of Almería, in the south of the peninsula. Almería greenhouse farms are gradually incorporating technology (such as active climate control and productive analysis systems) and making improvements to the greenhouse structures (Valera et al., 2016[59]). The sector increasingly uses biological pest control with predatory insects and mites (Cajamar, 2022[60]), and the use of fertigation for localised application of nutrients is widespread (Gallardo et al., 2023[61]). The activity has driven the development of a supporting industry cluster in areas including plant nutrition and phytosanitary products, seeds, irrigation and climate, packaging, biotechnology, greenhouse materials, and related services. The supporting industry employed 6 200 workers in 2021, an increase of 58% since 2013. Over half of the workers in the industry were qualified (Cajamar, 2022[60]).

While the sector has advanced in incorporating technology, the production system – particularly at the greenhouse level – can still be considered low or mid-tech. Even if downstream agents (e.g. marketing co-operatives) have more sophisticated technology in their facilities, at the greenhouse level the use of technologies such as sensors to increase water use efficiency or control climate conditions is still incipient (Castro et al., 2019[62]). The new requirements on soil nutrition and water use under the 2023-27 CAP also apply to the sector and may trigger sustainable innovations.

Almería’s local productive system has the potential to facilitate knowledge and technology transfer to greenhouse farmers and the supporting industry, with support and technical advisory from public and private organisations including sector associations, research centres and the local university. The sector often works together to respond to changes in market signals and promote improvements in greenhouse management practices. Regional and supra-regional actors have joined efforts in several EIP-Agri operational groups to find solutions for the activity’s environmental challenges (Box 3.5).

The agro-food sector has been increasingly shifting to a more mechanised and digitalised system of production. Agro-tech companies are important players for the generation and diffusion of modern practices allowing the agro-food sector to take advantage of the latest technologies, enhancing and automating production processes. Although the agro-tech has been recognised as a sector of high relevance that improves the input and output of agricultural processes, it is difficult to have up-to-date information on the sector, including companies. This is because it comprises a variety of technologies such as drones, weather forecasts, automated irrigation, and software for disease prediction that help increase crops yield and disease control.

Undoubtedly, agro-tech companies play an important role in innovation activities in the agro-food sector. Along the entire agro-food value chain, agro-tech companies make up 17% of technology enterprises in the sector, conducting research and engaging in the development of software and data analysis, aiming at increased automatization and monitorisation, and improved input use (Sánchez-Zamora and Gallardo-Cobos, 2022[66]). It is not easy to find data on agro-tech companies. According to the Spanish Association for the Digitalisation of Agriculture, Agrofood, Livestock Farming, Fisheries and Rural Areas (AgroTech España), there are currently more than 750 agro-tech companies in Spain, placing the country among the global leaders (AgroTech España, 2021[67]). This Association aims at promoting the benefits of digitalisation and new technologies, as well as matching agro-tech companies with their potential users. The entire sector in Spain engages in more than 40 technologies or services, based on data as a tool to drive innovation, and is expecting EU initiatives such as the Green Deal and the Farm to Fork Strategy to further drive growth in the near future (AgroTech España, 2021[67]).

The Spanish innovation system has a moderate performance relative to other EU countries, although this hides regional heterogeneity. The country has succeeded in generating very good results in agricultural science but has faced difficulties in developing agricultural innovation and inducing adoption of innovations. Low public and private investments, the fragmentation of the agricultural knowledge and innovation system (AKIS), and regional heterogeneity in approaches are the main obstacles to harnessing innovation for a sustainable and resilient agriculture.

Although government spending on R&D for the agro-food sector has been increasing in recent years, it remains below the level observed before the 2008 financial crisis. The private sector has become the main source of agro-food R&D funding, though it relies on increasingly fewer innovative firms. More funding is needed, but also other incentives to induce innovation for sustainability.

The Spanish AKIS involves many actors at the national and regional levels. Autonomous communities (ACs) lead the regional AKIS, which includes R&D, innovation, and knowledge transfer policies. Central and regional governments exercise competences in agricultural-relevant R&D and innovation policies within the EU framework. ACs are very heterogeneous in terms of resources and have not always committed enough funding to the AKIS. In several ACs, policy responsibilities linked to the development of the regional AKIS are dispersed among different institutions, which are often not able to co-operate effectively with each other, hampering co-ordination at regional level. Spain’s 18 public agricultural research centres are heterogeneous, relatively small, and are not well connected and co-ordinated in the whole AKIS system. Spain successfully participates in collaborative multi-actor innovation approaches and multi-country mission-oriented research at the EU level. Yet, a similar collaboration model has not been replicated at the national level among ACs.

Having a diversity of science, technology, and innovation policy experiences at the regional level can help promote innovation initiatives that are more targeted to regional needs. However, the lack of adequate integration through governance mechanisms and knowledge flows, adapted to the reality of AKIS structures in Spain, affects the system.

While a decentralised system allows for the development of local strategies that respond better to the local needs and specificities, it also requires co-ordination and joint planning to strengthen knowledge flows. The co-ordination of the national AKIS has so far been weak, hindering collaboration between ACs, which is needed to face global problems. There is no national strategy specifically defining agricultural innovation priorities, and the only reference to AKIS in the CSP is in relation to the advisory services without designing an overall vision on agricultural innovation.

Spain has made important progress in reducing the rural-urban gap in access to digital technologies. However, differences persist between rural and urban areas in access to high quality broadband and in digital use and skills, often linked to farmers’ age and farms’ size. Further reducing this gap is critical to ensure that digital becomes an enabling technology that fosters innovation in the agro-food sector. Spain needs to work on an improved system to collect data for monitoring and evaluation that allows self-assessment by farmers and other actors and enables policy assessment and implementation by the government. There are already some initiatives in this direction that should be strongly supported.

The level of education of most agricultural workers remains well below the EU average and there is evidence of skills mismatches, which can exert a negative impact on the dynamism and innovation capacity of the agricultural sector. The training needs of the agricultural sector are evolving, but currently there is a disconnect between the knowledge transfer systems and the new forms of business and innovation, which require high entrepreneurship, digital and environmental skills to facilitate the adoption of new technologies. Spanish advisory services have been transformed in the last three decades. The traditional public agricultural extension services have been partly replaced by private advisors, advisory entities and commercial advisors linked to input providers. There is an important role for advisory services to help Spanish agriculture achieve environmental sustainability, but to do so, they also need to change.


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← 1. The figures on funding correspond to different periods and are indicative. They aim to provide an idea of the magnitude of the different funds.

← 2. See https://planderecuperacion.gob.es/como-acceder-a-los-fondos/pertes/perte-agroalimentario.

← 3. Eureka is a public network for international co-operation in R&D&I. It was established in 1985 by 18 countries and the European Commission to foster competitiveness and market integration, and to encourage R&D co-operation. At present, over 45 countries are part of Eureka. Iberoeka is a network that supports technological business co-operation among Spain, Portugal and 19 Latin American countries

← 4. See https://www.csic.es/es/investigacion/areas-y-produccion-cientifica/area-global-vida/ciencias-agrarias.

← 5. These numbers are estimated using data from the websites of regional centres.

← 6. See https://fiab.es/fiab-presentacion/areas-de-trabajo/i-d-i/.

← 7. See https://fiab.es/la-cuarta-edicion-de-los-premios-ingenia-startup-premia-la-innovacion-y-el-emprendimiento/.

← 8. The TRIPS made compulsory the protection of plant varieties either by patents or by a sui generis system. Moreover, it made the patentability of microorganisms and non-biological and microbiological processes for the production of plant varieties compulsory for WTO Members.

← 9. Information provided by MAPA in response to the OECD questionnaire.

← 10. The Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) is a programme of assessment and analysis of adult skills. Adult education and training (AET) refers to participation in formal or non-formal AET in 12 months preceding survey. Data for AET is from international surveys conducted in over 40 countries/economies in 2012 and 2015.

← 11. In Spain, the concept of regulated training (formación reglada), refers to training that is regulated by the Ministry of Education and that leads to an official degree with academic validity. Non-regulated training (formación no reglada) does not lead to an academic certificate.

← 12. See https://escuelaptv.com.

← 13. See https://www.cdti.es/index.asp?MP=101&MS=842&MN=2.

← 14. The Royal Decree 505/2013, of June 28, regulates the use of the “native breed” logo on products of animal origin. https://www.mapa.gob.es/es/ganaderia/temas/zootecnia/razas-ganaderas/arca/raza-autoctona.aspx (accessed August 2022).

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