OECD Reviews of Regional Innovation: Catalonia, Spain 2010

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

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


Assessment and Recommendations

Similar to Spain, Catalonia’s strong period of economic growth since the early 1990s has now ended. In terms of gross domestic product (GDP), Catalonia (3.2%) grew at almost the same average annual growth rate as Spain overall (3.3%) from 1995-2005, and higher than OECD regions (2.9%). For Spain generally, this slowdown is attributed in part to the reduction of the housing construction sector and the adjustment of the financial markets. Catalonia has experienced important increases in unemployment, particularly with its large population of lesser-skilled workers, many being immigrants. Between first quarter 2008 and first quarter 2009, Catalonia’s unemployment jumped by 8.6 percentage points to 16.3% – above the national increase of 7.8 percentage points and the increases of other advanced Spanish regions. Recognising its need for sustainable competitiveness, Catalonia has increasingly made science, technology and innovation a focus for regional action in support of economic development.


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