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The Canary Islands

Regional challenge

Regional response

Just over 1,000 km from the Spanish mainland and about 100 km from Africa, the Canary Islands are one of the 17 Spanish autonomous communities and are considered under the EU Treaties as an Outermost Region. The insular character of the region results in a high fragmentation of the territory and its markets and produces extra costs for infrastructure and services. The business fabric mostly consists of SMEs with limited entrepreneurial and innovation cultures. Except within tourism, there are only a few regional companies in overseas markets. An important bottleneck is represented by the high unemployment rate, especially for young people, and increasingly people with higher skills are leaving the region.

Tourism will continue to be the most important growth factor capable of creating employment and the primary and secondary sectors will continue to be regarded as strategic sectors. The knowledge economy must be augmented by improving access to both public and private funds for R&D projects and innovation. Support is needed for the internationalisation of regional firms, for improving the training of the active population and for encouraging the creation of quality employment.

From the policy perspective, the region is making an effort to identify priorities, based on its strengths and capacities. To foster economic growth, the region is defining the Canary Islands Strategy for Growth and Employment (2014–2020), an integral and comprehensive approach devised to fulfil the objectives of:

  • ‘Europe 2020’ - Growth: Smart, Sustainable and Inclusive; synergies with European and national policies; coherent multi-source public funding seeking private leverage;
  • ‘The Outermost regions: Joint Memorandum of Spain, France, Portugal and the Outermost regions’ - A renewed standpoint of the European Strategy for the Outermost regions (2010); ‘The Outermost regions of the European Union: towards a partnership for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth COM(2012) 287 final’;
  • The EC recommendations: ‘Research & Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialisation (RIS3), smart and sustainable growth.’

Starting from a sound assessment of the current socio-economic situation and working towards the involvement of society as a whole, the region is setting a compelling but feasible shared vision for 2020, with a coherent policy mix designed to respond to its priorities.

The voice of the region

“The intelligent modernisation of tourism in the Canary Islands includes the creation of a differentiated destination label acquired through the implementation of innovation in services, sustainability, cooperation with auxiliary sectors and diversification into in-shoring high value-added activities on R&D and ICTs. The Islands are an excellent place for demonstrators; moreover, working with the ESIC experts and other regions is a great opportunity to go one step further in reaching the Europe 2020 objectives.”

Dr. Juan Ruiz Alzola
General Director of the Canary Islands Agency of Research, Innovation and the Information Society

Regional ESIC publications

Regional case: Towards more environmentally friendly Tourism in the Canary Islands

For decades the Canary Islands have been a popular holiday destination for tourists. The region is among the top six regions visited by foreign tourists within the EU, attracting an average of 12.5 million tourists per year. Although tourism is very important for the Canary Islands because of the income and employment it provides, it also generates challenges in terms of the stress on natural resources, as well as increased waste production. The tourists are also becoming more aware of environmental issues and there is additional pressure to step away from the traditional approach of providing just sun, sea and sand.

Read more

Further information

Facts and figures

The total area of the region: 7 447 km²

The size of the population: 2 100 000

Regional GDP: € 41 732 626 (in 2011)

Per Capita: € 19.81 (in 2011)

The share of services in GDP: 82% (in 2011)

Dominant industries: tourism

Emerging industries: knowledge-based economy, sustainable growth and smart cooperation for development

Unemployment Rate: 33.6% (3rd quarter in 2012)

Share of Knowledge Workers in the Economically Active Population: 28.9% (in 2011)

Gross Expenditure on R&D per GDP: 0.58% (in 2011)

Contact details

Dr. Juan Ruiz Alzola
General Director
The Canary Islands Agency of Research, Innovation and the Information Society
Canary Island Regional Government
+34 922568900

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