The legal framework in terms of research, technological development and innovation in the Canary Islands is established by the Law 5/2001, of July 9, regarding the promotion and development of scientific and technical research. It also provides a systematic regulation of the activities of the public authorities in the matter. The Canary's research, technological development and innovation (RTDI) system follows the so-called “Triple Helix” model as it is composed by three interconnected components: companies, public administrations and research centres.
The main agents of the public RTDI system are the two Canary universities along with their research centres and the research and technology centres subordinated to the Canary administration, such as the Instituto Canario de Ciencias Marinas (ICCM), the Instituto Canario de Investigaciones Agrarias (ICIA), the Instituto Tecnológico de Canarias (ITC) and the Fundación Canaria de Investigación Sanitaria (FUNCIS), as well as the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC), with shared property. These institutions play an important role in the training of researchers as well as the generation of scientific knowledge and they are also an important source of technology for the industry sector.
Another public system agent is the Administration that provides a vital contribution through planning, financing, promoting and facilitating support services and innovation support structures. The RTDI system also involves companies that invest in innovation, financial providers and private service companies specialised in supporting public organisations and enterprises.
In addition, the Canary Islands Government has created the Canarian Spaces and Technology Parks conceived as physical spaces in which knowledge-based companies have the environment needed to engage in high productivity and high value added activities. The spaces have shown their great importance as change agents in the production model in Spain, aiming to increasingly support the application of science, technology and innovation in businesses. The parks stimulate and manage the flow of knowledge and technology amongst universities, research institutions, companies and markets, promoting the creation and growth of innovative companies through incubation and provide value-added services as well as high-quality space and facilities.
The development of technology parks in the Canary Islands, driven from the public sector, enables in a short-term basis unemployment mitigation investments. At the same time they establish a solid foundation for changing the Canarian production model in the mid-term. In Canarias, there were 39 companies established in high-tech services and four in high and medium-high technology manufacturing industries (INE, 2015).
The research & development (R&D) expenditures were €202.1m in 2015 (Instituto Nacional de Estadistica - INE, 2017). This represents 0.47% of the regional gross domestic product (GDP), below the national average (1.24%) and far below the EU average (2.04%). Unlike in other regions, higher education is the sector that contributed the most, with more than half of the total expenditures, followed by the public administration that provided 31.8%. Private companies and non-profit private institutions only assured 17.9% of the expenditure, experiencing the biggest decrease (ISTAC).
R&D expenditures by sector in 2015 was made up of:
- Company and non-profit private institutions (PNPI): €36.1m (0.5% of the total Spanish expenditure by this sector);
- Public administration: €64.3m (2.6% of the total Spanish expenditure by this sector); and
- Higher education: €101.7m (2.7% of the total Spanish expenditure by this sector).
In 2016 there were 3,101 people working in R&D, particularly in the high education and public administration (INE, 2017). In high technology sectors, the number of employees was 11,500, which corresponds to 1.75% of the total employment of Spain in the area (Eurostat, 2017).
The population aged 30-34 with tertiary education in the region reached 34.9% in 2016 (Eurostat, 2017), below the national and EU average of 40.1% and 39.1%, respectively. On the other hand, Canarias is very close to the national average when it comes to broadband diffusion: 80.9% of the households have internet access, while the national average is 83.4% (INE, 2017). The region submitted 11 patent applications to the EPO, which constitute 0.7% of the total applications presented by Spain in 2015.