Spanish Innovation Ministry’s role under threat

11th July 2008, Comments 0 comments

Spanish industry chief Miguel Sebastián refuses to hand over control of the EUR 2-billion R&D budget to the Science and Innovation Ministry.

11 July 2008

MADRID - It's been just four months since the creation of the Science and Innovation Ministry, but a row is already brewing between it and the Industry Ministry over the fate of EUR 2 billion in research and development (R&D) funds.

Industry Minister Miguel Sebastián's negative stance with regard to handing over the money could take the wind out of the sails of the newly created ministry - headed up by Cristina Garmendia - and undermine its effectiveness.

The government has not helped matters, after failing last Friday to decide on the precise role and structure of the Science and Innovation Ministry.

Garmendia - who is said to have entered government thanks to support from Sebastián, a key aide to Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero - told the Senate on 23 June that that her ministry was the best suited to manage the disputed R&D funds.

"In this manner," she said, "we will be able to ensure more effectively that scientific research is consolidated in high-value industrial projects."

In order to simplify matters, one of the supposed roles of the ministry headed by Garmendia is to consolidate R&D funds that are now managed by other government-run organizations.

If she has her way, the ministry would end up managing a hefty EUR 7-billion budget the government earmarks each year for R&D.

Lack of clear role
But this may be easier said than done, considering that different state departments have not shown great enthusiasm over relinquishing funds. The best example of this is the row between Sebastián and Garmendia.

The first government decree over the basic tasks of the ministries for this legislature, published on 14 April, states that the Education and Science Ministry is in charge of "technological development and innovation," but does not state that the Industry Ministry is qualified to handle innovation.

Yet the role of the Science and Innovation Ministry still hangs in the balance.

Some fear that if Sebastián gets his way and keeps control over the EUR 2 billion R&D funds, it would force Garmendia to suffer the same fate as Anna Birulés, a minister of science and technology under former Prime Minister José María Aznar, who effectively failed due to a lack of funds and a clearly defined role.

[El Pais / Rafael Mendez / Expatica]

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