Portugal has more scientists than Spain but (much) less funding

Portugal has more researchers than Spain, as a percentage of the working population, but much less funding, according to Professor Frederico Carvalho, who says they are missing around two billion euros to match the neighbouring country.

We have a cheap system with scientific productivity that can surprise us,” Frederico Gama Carvalho of the Organization of Scientific Workers said today during a symposium on ‘Scientific Policies 2019’ at the Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas, of the New University of Lisbon.

Based on data provided by Eurostat for 2017, the expert pointed out that in terms of percentage of the active population, Portugal has a lot more researchers than Spain and is slightly above the EU average. Compared with Spain, “the ratio is about 50% higher,” he said.

However, investment falls far below. “The ‘per capita’ expenditure of FTE researcher (full-time equivalent) is almost three times lower than the European Union average and about 55% of the corresponding value for Spain,” he lamented.

In a “simple calculation“, the specialist concluded that taking into account the number of researchers in Portugal, spending on research and development (R & D) “should be increased by two billion euros so that the ratio equals the Spanish or about 4.6 billion to reach the average value of the European Union “.

Another of the focal points was the gradual increase in the amount invested by R & D companies and their real significance. Two of the present speakers questioned whether the work done by many large companies can be defined as research.

One can doubt the rigour with which they apply the criteria that should define a certain activity as R & D activity,” Frederico Carvalho began, classified as “a mockery” the investigation that companies say, because “nobody verifies its truth“.

Ana Delicado, from the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon, recalled that in Europe, more than 60% of investment in R & D is made by companies and in Portugal, it is around 50%.

However, the “largest R & D producers” in Portugal are financial and IT companies, such as Meo Altice, Sonae, NOS, BCP and BPI and two pharmacists, the researcher added.

R & D spending is very inflated because they count R & D as many things that are routine. Do algorithms for BCP is R & D?” He questioned, considering that this “is not an expense that draws Portugal to great technological innovations”.

One of the results of this reality could be the low patent registration, recalled Ana Delicado, stressing the high number of publications in counterpoint with “patent registration, which does not change.”

According to Ana Delicado, the explanation is simple: “As our R & D companies do not create a product, patents have remained resiliently low.”

While the EU average is more than 100 patents per million inhabitants, in Portugal the ratio is below 25.

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