As it has been happening year after year for almost a decade, the state has once again failed to execute a high percentage of the budget allocated to research, development and innovation (R & D + i) activities. According to an analysis of the data published last Friday by the State General Comptroller, of the 7,003 million euros allocated for 2018, only 3,278 were executed, which is less than half of the initial budget (46.8%). With these figures, science becomes again one of the spending policies with the lowest execution rate.
The new results, of which the Cotec Foundation has published its own analysis today, represent the second worst execution rate since this data began to be recorded in the year 2000, just behind the registered last year, which had an execution rate of just 46.6%. These two tenths of increase, corresponding to an investment of 238 million euros, represent the first improvement since 2013.
The current situation contrasts with the first decade of this century, when the execution rate in R + D + I policies was around 90%. However, after the peak reached in 2009, when 81.6% of the more than 8,000 million euros budgeted that year were executed, there has been a drastic fall in both the R & D & I budgets, which today are more than 30% below those figures, as of its execution, which is 35 percentage points below.
The makeup of investment in science
The main item not yet executed is financial funds, essentially loans and credits that are barely used in public research. The execution rate of this item was 19.7%, well below the 80% achieved in 2008, but one point and a half above the 18.1% executed in 2017.
Despite its low execution, financial funds continue to be a substantial part of the R & D budget, reaching 60% of total funds last year, which is 10 percentage points more than in 2008. The expansion of these funds is the way that successive governments have had to make up the science budget, since they are not included in the ceiling imposed by the ceiling of expenditure of the Budget Stability Law, nor do they count for the determination of the public deficit that must authorize the European Union.
On the other hand, the rate of execution of non-financial expenditure, which are those on which the research projects developed in public institutions directly depend, was reduced from 88.6% to 87.4%, which means that there were 352 million euros allocated to research projects that never came out of the state coffers.
The State Agency of Investigation it has had a higher execution rate than the state average, with 82%. However, this new data indicates that the main funding agency for R + D + i in Spain leaves practically one out of every five euros without spending. Despite these data, the newly appointed president of this institution assured this journal a few months ago that one of the objectives of his mandate is for resources to end up reaching researchers.
With these data science is placed as the second policy of spending with the lowest execution rate, only surpassed by Commerce, Tourism and SMEs, which executed 43.4% of the initially budgeted. In addition, these two items are the only ones whose execution was below 75% in 2018. At the other end of the table, with execution rates above 90%, the policies of Pensions, Defense, Justice and Public Safety appear.