Diana Morant - Minister of Science and Innovation: "There will be no cuts in research even if there is a crisis"

Diana Morant - Minister of Science and Innovation: "There will be no cuts in research even if there is a crisis"

Diana Morant looks out her office window. / OSCAR CHAMORRO | Video: Virginia Carrasco

“If another massive immunization against covid is necessary, it can be done with a Spanish vaccine, which improves the current ones”

Alfonso Torres

Diana Morant (Gandía, 1980) has dedicated her eight months in government to designing a new science law and reversing the extremely poor investment in R&D&i. This Telecommunications engineer is going to distribute twice as much funds as she did four years ago and she hopes that Parliament will approve before the summer the rule that must reorder "a failed system" and help researchers to get out of precariousness.

- «To investigate in Spain is to cry». Many argue that Ramón y Cajal's lament is as relevant as it was a century ago.

-They are right. There is a feeling of accumulated frustration, of abandonment of talent by the country. They saw how the way out of the 2008 crisis was drawn under the premise of cuts. That meant the disappearance of 5,000 research positions in a depleted public science system. It caused the brain drain of many and plugged the careers of many of those who remained. We have a broken system that needs to be fixed. That is the commitment of the science law and the rest of the ministry's policies.

-What will you do to excite young researchers?

-End the lack of opportunities. The 2022 Science budget doubles the last of the PP (2018). That means more opportunities to research and innovate and new equipment to improve the centers. Of every ten researchers who retire, twelve will be replaced. The law will also establish a new framework for work that will provide stability and certainty. It converts temporary contracts into indefinite contracts, recognizes the right to compensation for the end of employment and adds new remuneration.

- Do you aspire to recover those who left?

-We want everyone who wants to return to their country to be able to do so and we want everyone who wants to do science not to have to leave, not to be expelled. At the same time, we will motivate more children and adolescents to choose to be scientists.

-What will they offer?

-The law will recognize the research merits achieved abroad to improve remuneration and access to Spanish public research organizations. They won't have to leave their backpack of experience outside. Training abroad will help them get a place in Spain. We are going to make an extra budgetary effort to help Spanish researchers who are abroad come here and to attract excellent talent born in other countries.

-The science law commits to doubling public investment in R&D&i by 2030, until it reaches the EU average. Will it be possible to fulfill it when it seems that another crisis is looming?

-It's precise. This crisis and the next will only have a solution through knowledge. There will be no cuts in science and innovation even if there is another crisis. The PP was wrong. That is a lesson we have learned as a country, both publicly and privately. Knowledge will give us competitiveness and resilience, which is why we want to shield the progressive increase in funding by law.

war in ukraine

“We are working with research centers to welcome scientists who flee this country and even Russian dissidents”

-If the current public investment in R+D+i is scant, the private one is just as insufficient. Is it that the Spanish company is not interested in innovation?

-The cuts of the past decade also discouraged private investment. We are in a culture change. Science and innovation is a public commitment, but also a private one. In Germany, 30% of investment is public and 70% private. Here we are at 50-50. It is necessary to help improve the commitment of private R+D+i. We are going to do it through the strategic recovery plans. There are co-investments for Spain to develop technology and manufacture the electric vehicle and to do the same in clean energy, advanced medical therapies, with the hydrogen plane or with energy storage. Our commitment by law will be a public investment of 1.25% of GDP in 2030 and that private initiative adds up to 3%.

- Do you think that PP will help pass the science law?

-The PP has already participated in the dialogue process to elaborate this law. This is not the law of the ministry. It is the law that the system needs. We have done it by listening to the scientific community and the political parties. Now the last step remains, that it be approved by Parliament, for which I appeal to everyone's responsibility.

-When could it be in force?

-If we all expedite the process, we could have a law before the summer. The sooner it is, the sooner the scientists will have better conditions and remuneration.

-Support precision medicine studies. Will public health guarantee personalized therapies to any Spaniard?

-The law recognizes as such for the first time the researchers of the National Health System. Our country is capable and has the talent to develop advanced therapies. It is already doing it, but what did not exist were manufacturers of advanced therapies. Now, with European funds, we will promote, with 1,500 million, more research to design more precision therapies for more diseases and for them to be manufactured in our country and administered to everyone through public health. That is the big project.

-If a new mass immunization process against covid is necessary, can a Spanish vaccine be used?

-You can. We have a Spanish vaccine, Hipra's, designed and produced here. According to the company, if all goes well, we would have millions of units of the drug ready to distribute this summer. Also, it is an improved vaccine. It is capable of adapting to future variations and does not need to be stored frozen. We would like the EU to include it in centralized purchasing.

- Should Spanish scientists cut off their collaboration with those of Putin's Russia?

-Science is an instrument of peace, but there can be no cooperation with a country that has broken all international agreements. The Government, organizations and universities will cut all their contracts, agreements and institutional scientific collaboration with Russia and Belarus.

-Are you going to offer jobs to Ukrainian scientists?

-We are working with research centers and universities to welcome scientists fleeing Ukraine and even Russian dissidents.

"Don Juan Carlos must clear up the unknowns about his actions"

-Macrofarms, tax increases, military aid to Ukraine. When are the government partners going to stop airing their disagreements in public?

-Focusing on Ukraine, the government has only one voice, which is that of the president. Spain's decisions are clear: united action with Europe in solidarity with Ukraine and in condemning Putin.

-The king emeritus has disappointed much of the country. What is the least that Don Juan Carlos owes the Spaniards?

-The least he owes are explanations to the people of which he was king. With absolute respect for the decisions that he can make about his life and where to direct it, he must clear up all the unknowns that the citizens have about his past actions. You have to explain.

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