The widespread pessimism about the negotiations to form a government in Spain does not prevent the minister of Science, Innovation and Universities and most famous Spanish astronaut, Pedro Duque, from showing positive: "I am an optimist, otherwise I would not have mounted on a rocket" , he says.
"It is clear that Spain needs a government, there is only one option, and therefore everyone will have to finish understanding it," declared the acting minister (Madrid, 1963) in an interview with Efe in Havana, where on Tuesday concludes a two-day visit in which he has signed a framework agreement for university collaboration with Cuba.
Duque, who has placed himself "at the disposal of the president and his team" although he does not participate in the negotiations with the other parties, believes that forming a government as soon as possible is a priority, since it will give a boost to science and innovation through laws and budgets.
"If good sense prevails, there will be an agreement whereby we have more resources for science and innovation, we are playing a lot," he said.
The minister, who has held the position since June of last year, is convinced that "future prosperity will depend directly on how much effort we put into knowledge and innovation", and maintains that Spain should invest more in these areas because "the only asset with real value in the world right now is knowledge. "
"There are already doubts about whether having oil is positive, because soon we will no longer use oil … Diamonds … What else is there? The only thing that exists is knowledge," he argued.
In this regard, he proposed two fundamental recipes: the first and most important, dramatically expand the budget in science: "If the countries we want to look like have an investment in knowledge and innovation double or triple that of ours, maybe we should look like them in the investment to look like them in prosperity. "
In the second place, he reiterated his conviction that we must "let the forces that know" act, that is, grant more autonomy to the universities so that they adapt their offer to the needs of the market and society, which would facilitate today's complicated labor insertion of the graduates.
"We have to increase the allocation of scholarships for students, also the endowment of predoctoral contracts, and introduce a series of new instruments that would be practically done if the previous budget had left," he said.
Duque, who in 1998 went down in history as the first astronaut of Spanish nationality to travel into space, has taken forward in his short time in office various initiatives to promote science, including the investment of 701.7 million euros in the European Space Agency (ESA) during the period 2020-2026.
Despite the barriers imposed by the fragmentation of Parliament before and after the recent elections, the minister is pleased to have succeeded in carrying out specific reforms such as the rule of non-discrimination to scientists in situations of maternity and paternity, the increase in the grace period for the return of loans to students or the streamlining of procedures for purchases and contracts of scientific centers.
"I have not had the slightest feeling of provisionality," says Duque, referring to his thirteen months at the head of the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities.
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