The Government only spent 46.8% of the research, development and innovation (R + D + i) budget in 2018, with one out of every two euros included in the public accounts remaining unspent.
Last year was the second worst since there are records (2000), according to the budget execution data of the State General Intervention, published today by the Cotec Foundation for innovation. In absolute terms, in 2018 there were 7,003 million budgeted for R & D, of which only 3,278 were spent.
The data suppose a timid rise of two tenths with respect to 2017, the worst year registered with only 46.6% of the budget used. Last year there was a motion of censure that overthrew Mariano Rajoy as president of the Government, who replaced Pedro Sanchez, a process that may have affected the budget execution, admit from Cotec.
Every year, a large part of the total funding for research that the budgets collect is in the form of loans that have to be repaid and that mostly remain unused because no one asks for them. In 2018 this type of funds accounted for 60% of the total R & D & I budget, 10 points more than in 2008. Only 19.7% of all this money was spent, well below the 80% of 2008. However, the figure for 2018 is one point and a half above the 18.1% of the previous year, which means that 122 million euros more were spent up to a total of 827 million. The figure is still far from the historical maximum, 3,877 million euros spent in 2009.
Last year was the second worst since there are records (2000)
Added to this problem is another, more worrisome one; neither does everything budgeted in the form of subsidies, which is the main source of resources for the vast majority of the country's research groups. The rate of execution of this non-financial expenditure went from 88.6% to 87.4%, which means that there were 352 million euros that never left the state coffers. This slight decrease compared to the previous year did not translate into a reduction of what was actually executed, thanks to the fact that the budgetary allocation was greater; so finally 129 million euros were executed more than in 2017.
Especially affected is the State Research Agency, the entity that manages the main calls for projects of the State R & D Plan. The AEI Spent 82% of its budget in 2018, which means that one in five euros of the money budgeted for science did not reach the researchers.
This body was conceived to achieve a "more efficient and flexible" management and to guarantee "a stable funding framework" for R & D & I, something that is not getting judged by the execution data. In 2018, its second year with its own budget, the agency had 526 million euros, but only 432 were spent, almost 100 million euros less. In its first year of operation, 2017, the execution rate was 82%, with 85 million euros that were not spent.
"R & D & I is, with a significant difference, one of the items with the lowest budgetary execution rate recorded among all the policies of the state public sector, only behind trade, tourism and SMEs (43.4%). In fact, they are the only two policies whose execution was below 75% in 2018. At the other end of the table, with rates above 90% of their budget executed, they appear the policies of pension, defense, justice and security citizen, "Cotec explains in a note.
In the first decade of this century, the execution rate in R & D & I policies was around 90%. In 2009, the maximum execution level was registered, 8,476 million euros, 81.6% of that budgeted for that year. Since then, both the budgets assigned to R & D & I, as well as their effective spending, have collapsed, accumulating falls of 33% and 35 percentage points, respectively.