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The Basque Country obtains the most European funds per inhabitant for research

2023 November 15
  • The Basque Country invested close to 1.8 billion euros in R&D in 2022, an increase of 9.1% in the last year. This represents an investment of more than 2.3% of its GDP.
  • The Basque Country is the leader in per capita return of European funds, attracting 240 million euros between 2021 and 2022. Over the past 20 years, it has raised 1.648 billion euros for research.
  • The work of Basque research personnel reached 7,818 scientific publications in 2022. This is an increase of 14% over pre-pandemic production.
  • For the first time in its history, the Basque Country has more than 22,000 people engaged in research work. More than 2 out of every 100 working people are fully or partially engaged in research work.

This morning, the Regional Minister of Education, Jokin Bildarratz,, together with the Deputy Regional Minister of Universities and Research, Adolfo Morais, and the Scientific Director of Ikerbasque, Fernando Cossío, presented the results of the Report on Science in the Basque Country 2023. The report includes the main results of the Basque Country in terms of research personnel, science funding, scientific results and technology transfer through the indicators monitored by Ikerboost, the Basque Science and Technology Observatory.

In 2022, the Basque Country produced close to 8,000 scientific publications per year, specifically 7,818, similar to the extraordinary previous year’s output, and 14% more than was produced before the pandemic. Likewise, the quality of research has increased considerably and two details reflect this: the percentage of scientific research published in journals during the first quarter, recognised as the most prestigious journals, has doubled in the last decade in the Basque Country. By 2022, 60% of scientific research has been produced in world-class journals.

Furthermore, researchers in the Basque Country are collaborate with the main science-producing countries in the world when publishing research: the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Italy. The internationalization of the Basque Country's scientific research has increased by almost 15 points over the last decade, from 40% of publications with international collaboration in 2011 to 55% in 2022. In these international collaborations, researchers from the Basque Country have a significant influence as, in many cases, they are the main authors of the publications.

According to the latest data published by INE, the Basque Country is the Autonomous Community in Spain that invests the most in R&D activities, with an investment of 2.3% of GDP. The latest data on R&D investment in the Basque Country published by Eustat show an increase of 9.1% over the previous year, reaching an all-time high of almost 1.8 billion euros in 2022.

Likewise, the Basque Country is the leading Autonomous Community in terms of per capita return from the Horizon Europe programme, with 240 million euros raised between 2021 and 2022. The Horizon Europe programme has become a key tool for EU research and innovation activities.

Within this program, special mention should be made of the grants from the European Research Council, which are projects that support researchers of any nationality and age who wish to continue their research at the frontiers of knowledge. It has now become an internationally-recognised indicator of excellence, due to the high number of proposals and the demanding evaluation process it follows. A total of 50 ERC projects have been developed in the Basque Country. In 2023, there are 19 ERC projects under way in the Basque Country, the highest number ever.

As for research by sector, Basque universities participate in 65% of total scientific research in the Basque Country - driven by the UPV/EHU, the main Basque scientific institution, with a contribution of around 4,500 indexed publications in 2022 — followed by the health sector, BERC centres (Basic Excellence Research Centres), technology centres and CIC (Cancer Research Centre). Over the last few years, new research centres (BERCs, CICs and IISs) have been promoted in the Basque Country, and have thus enjoyed increasing importance in the Basque science system. In addition, collaboration between the university sector, BERC, CIC, and healthcare and technology sectors is increasing year upon year.

Over the last decade, the main thematic areas in which the Basque Country conducts research have been maintained; the area where most research is published is Medicine, followed by Engineering, Materials Science, Physics and Chemistry. In addition, in the last 10 years, productivity in the Social Sciences and Humanities has experienced remarkable growth.

It is also worth mentioning that around 5% of the Basque Country's scientific production is cited in patents, once sufficient time has elapsed from the generation of the new knowledge to its application.

Research community

In 2021, for the first time in its history, the Basque Country will have more than 22,000 people engaged in research work. The full-time equivalent of EDP research, there are more than 14,000 people dedicated to research, which consolidates the upward trend in the number of female and male researchers. These figures indicate that more than 2% of the working population in the Basque Country is totally or partially dedicated to research, that is, 2 people out of every 100 employees. This percentage positions the Basque Country as the leading Autonomous Community in the state.

In 2021, nearly 500 people published their doctoral theses at the three Basque universities, thus consolidating the upward trend of recent years. Gender analysis shows us that, although during the last decade the number of men and women who have been supported in their doctoral theses has been similar, with the number of new female PhDs being slightly higher than the number of new male PhDs in Basque universities in seven of the last ten academic years. However, the growth of the research population in the Basque Country has not contributed to significantly reduce the gender gap, in fact, in 2021 the percentage of women in EDP barely reached 35%.

Ikerboost, the Basque Observatory of Science and Technology

Ikerbasque's Science and Technology Observatory includes a wide range of indicators based on contrasting sources of information, at the Basque Country, national and international levels, which allows us to compare the Basque scientific community and its quantitative and qualitative research with those of other countries. “Scientists share the results of their research by publishing them in specialised journals. The Ikerbasque Observatory monitors these publications by analysing their quantity, international impact and thematic specialisation,” explained Fernando Cossío, scientific director of Ikerbasque.

About Ikerbasque

The Basque Government promoted Ikerbasque, the Basque Foundation for Science in 2007, with the primary objective of collaborating in the development of scientific research in the Basque Country, through the attraction and retention of research talent. Its basic objectives are to strengthen the Basque Science System by attracting researchers from outside the system and to promote the image of the Basque Country as a benchmark in the international research scene. 

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  • Fernando Cossío