Marine Biotechnology in Spain

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UPDATED August 2016

Strategy: Spanish Strategy for Science and Technology and Innovation[1]

Leading Authority: Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (MINECO)[2]

Implementing body: Secretariat of state for research, development and innovation (SEIDI)[3]

Time frame: 2013-2020

The Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (MINECO), through the Secretariat of State for Research, Development and Innovation, is the department of the General State Administration responsible for elaborating and implementing government policies on scientific research, technological development and innovation in all sectors, as well as for coordinating state-owned research institutions. In particular, MINECO is responsible for the proposal, management, monitoring and evaluation of the State programmes and strategic actions of the State Plan for Scientific and Technical Research and for Innovation 2013-2016, in line with the Spanish Strategy of Science, Technology and Innovation 2013-2020. The strategy is under the leading authority of Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (MINECO) through the Secretariat of state for research, development and innovation. The main objectives of the Spanish Strategy for Science and Technology and Innovation are:

  1. The Recognition and promotion of talent in RDI and its employability. This is aimed at increasing the training capacities in RDI of the System, encouraging job placement and the employability of trained resources, both in the public and business sectors, and facilitating their temporary mobility among the public institutions and between these and the private sector for the implementation of RDI activities.
  2. The Promotion of scientific and technical research of excellence. This aims to promote the generation of knowledge, increase the scientific leadership of the country and its institutions and to encourage the generation of new opportunities which may trigger the future development of highly competitive technological and business capacities.
  3. The Promotion of business leadership in RDI. The objective is to increase the competitiveness of the production network by increasing RDI activities in all areas and, particularly, in those sectors which are strategic for growth and the creation of jobs in the Spanish economy and the Autonomous Regions.
  4. The Promotion of RDI activities aimed at addressing global societal challenges and in particular at those affecting the Spanish society. This objective addresses the need to encourage the scientific and innovative potential of the country towards areas which respond to the numerous problems faced by our society and which require major effort as regards RDI. These challenges, given their nature and complexity, require that the generation of new knowledge be combined with its application to technologies, products and services that may in the future contribute to the scientific, technological and business leadership of the country. The strategy is implemented through the Spanish National Plan for Scientific and Technical Research and Innovation.

National Plan for Scientific and Technical Research and Innovation

Programme: National Plan of Scientific and Technological Research and Innovation 2013-2016

Leading authority and implementing agency/organization: Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (MINECO)[4][5]

Time frame: 2013- 2016

The NATIONAL PLAN is a document designed to develop and fund Central Government actions in the area of RDI to enable achievement of the objectives and priorities of the SPANISH STRATEGY ON SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION. In addition, the document has been drafted as a funding instrument of the Spanish Science, Technology and Innovation System into account by designing actions and funding mechanisms that will increase the scientific and technological leadership of its stakeholders, both public and private; drive the abilities of our productive community through the country’s RDI; foster talent in RDI by defining mechanisms to facilitate successful insertion in the job market; and guide RDI activities towards the challenges facing society. Thus, the actions of Central Government contained in the NATIONAL PLAN are set out in four NATIONAL PROGRAMMES which correspond to the STRATEGY objectives. These PROGRAMMES enable the development of specific objectives linked to implementation and development of the PLAN itself, which are linked, in turn, to the corresponding indicators of the impact of the results.

The specific objectives of the NATIONAL PLAN are:

  1. Strengthen training and employment of human resources in RDI activities in both the public and private sectors.
  2. Improve the quality of scientific and technical research to achieve the highest level of excellence and impact, contributing international scientific and technological leadership of all the stakeholders from the Spanish Science, Technology and Innovation System.
  3. Strengthen the capacities and international leadership of institutions, centres and scientific and technical research performers.
  4. Facilitate access to scientific and technological infrastructures and to scientific equipment, with special reference to large national and international scientific and technical facilities.
  5. Drive entrepreneurial leadership in RDI by strengthening the RDI capacities of companies and incorporating SMEs in the innovation process.
  6. Encourage the creation and growth of technology based companies and the promotion of efficient networks of investors that give access to new methods of funding RDI activities.
  7. Increase collaboration in RDI between the public sector and the business sector.
  8. Stimulate RDI oriented to respond to societal challenges.
  9. Drive internationalisation of RDI activities of stakeholders in the Spanish Science, Technology and Innovation System and its active participation in the European Research Area.
  10. Foster a scientific, technological and innovative culture in Spanish society and dissemination of the results of scientific-technical research and innovation financed with public funds.
  11. Explore RDI policies based on demand

The Spanish National Plan is focussed on research and innovation and it has been developed to implement the National Strategy. The PLAN sets out the scientific-technical societal and economic priorities established by National Government to encourage RDI which are equally subject to strict principles of competition and evaluation in accordance with internationally established criteria. The priorities of the NATIONAL PLAN are: (a) the generation of knowledge, in any field of research, which contributes to encouraging excellence and international leadership of the Spanish System of Science, Technology and Innovation, and (b) the scientific and social priorities integrated in the NATIONAL RDI PROGRAMME AIMED AT THE CHALLENGES OF SOCIETY guiding scientific and technical research and business development in RDI to the major challenges faced by Spanish society. RDI AIMED AT THE CHALLENGES OF SOCIETY include: (1) Health, demographic change and well-being, (2) Food safety and quality, productive and sustainable farming, natural resources, marine and maritime research, (3) Safe, efficient and clean energy, (4) Smart, sustainable and integrated transport (5) Action on climate change and efficient use of resources and raw materials, (6) Changes and social innovations, (7) Digital society and economy (8) Safety, protection and defense. Grants under the NATIONAL PLAN are awarded by means of competitive procedures, as foreseen in the General Law 38/2003, of 17 November 2003, on Grants, open procedures, and are only in exceptional cases awarded under other direct mechanisms in accordance with article 22.2 of the aforementioned Law. In addition, grants may be a combination of funds from different sources 15 including funds from the European Union, other governments, public-private co-financing and any others. The following are considered stakeholders suitable for participation in the actions financed under the NATIONAL PLAN:

  • Individuals.
  • Public research agencies according to the characteristics outlined in article 47 of Law 14/2011 of 1 June, on Science, Technology and Innovation.
  • Universities. Public universities, their university departments and institutes, and private universities with an ability and proven activity in R&D, as provided for in Organic Law 6/2001 on Universities, modified by Organic Law 4/2007, of 12 April.
  • Other public R&D centres. Public bodies and centres with their own legal personality, dependent on or linked to the State Administration, and those dependent on or linked to the territorial public administrations and their agencies, regardless of the legal nature, whose purpose and business purpose comprises the direct execution of scientific and technical research activities, or others of a complementary nature which are necessary if society is to make the appropriate scientific and technological progress. Included in this concept are the consortia created by cooperation agreements between the State and the Autonomous Regions.
  • Public and private health organisations and institutions linked to or associated with the National Health System, which carry out research activity.
  • Health Research Institutes accredited as set out in Royal Decree 339/2004, of 27 February, and additional regulations.
  • Public and private non profit-making organisations which carry out and/or manage R&D activities, generate scientific or technological knowledge, facilitate their application and transfer or provide services to support innovation for business entities.
  • Companies, whatever their legal form, which perform an economic activity and which are validly incorporated at the time the request for help is presented. Included under this heading are public trading companies, public business organisations and individual entrepreneurs. Within the companies heading, small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) are considered differently.
  • State technology centres. Non profit-making organisations, legally incorporated and resident in Spain, which have their own legal personality and were created with the aim of contributing to the general benefit of society and to improving the competitiveness of companies by generating technological knowledge, carrying out RRDI activities and developing the application thereof.
  • State-wide centres to support technological innovation. Non profit-making organisations, legally incorporated and resident in Spain, which have their own legal personality and were created with the aim of making it easier to apply the knowledge generated in universities and research bodies, including technology centres, by acting as intermediary between the latter and the companies, providing services to support innovation.
  • Business groupings or associations which include: joint ventures (JV); economic interest groupings, formed by companies or companies with other entities (EIG); Non profit-making sectoral business associations whose activities include projects and R&D actions for their sector.
  • Innovative business groupings and technological platforms. Groups constituted by independent organisations — companies, small, medium-sized and large research bodies — which are active in sectors and specific regions, whose objective is to contribute effectively to technology transfer, the creation of networks and the divulgation of information between the companies forming the grouping.
  • Organisations supporting technology transfer, technology and scientific dissemination and dissemination and which include science and technology parks, technology transfer offices, offices transferring results of research, CEIs and innovation and technology centres.

National Programmes

These actions are set out in four National Programmes. The National Programme for RDI oriented to the Societal Challenges fosters the participation of Spanish research groups in international cooperative projects, through the International Joint Programming Actions. Although there is not a specific programme on “Marine Biotechnology”, the marine and maritime RTD and innovation activities are included in the societal challenges “Food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine and maritime and inland water research, and the Bioeconomy” and “Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials”.

Main Marine Research-Performing Institutions/Universities in Spain

The list of research institutions/universities within Spain provided below has been collected from the inputs provided through the survey conducted by CSA Oceans in 2013 through the national research funding agencies and ministries.

National public research institutions

  • Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO) (Instituto Español de Oceanografía)[6]
  • Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas)[7]
  • State Ports (PUERTOS) (Puertos del Estado)[8]
  • Centre for Studies and Experimentation of Public Works (Centro de Estudios y Experimentación de Obras Públicas )CEDEX[9]
  • Geological and Mining Institute (Instituto Geológico yMinero) (IGME)[10]


  • University of Cádiz (UCA)[11]
  • University of Vigo (UVigo)[12]
  • University of La Laguna (ULL)[13]
  • University of Las Palmas (ULGC)[14]
  • University of Balearic Islands (UIB)[15]
  • University of Alicante (UA)[16]
  • University of Barcelona (UB)[17]
  • University of Oviedo (UNIOVI)[18]
  • University of Cantabria (UNICAN)[19]
  • University of Malaga (UMA)[20]
  • University of Santiago de Compostela (USC)[21]
  • Unviersity of Coruña (UDC)[22]
  • University of the Basque Country (EHU)[23]
  • Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya (UPC)[24]
  • University of Valencia (UV)[25]

Other research centres

  • Technological Centre of the Sea (Centro Tecnológico del Mar) (CETMAR)[27]

Research centres attached to marine research infrastructures (ICTS)

  • Balearic Island Coastal Observing System (Sistema de Observación Costero de les Illes Balears) (SOCIB)[28]
  • Oceanic Platform of the Canary Islands (Plataforma Oceánica de Canarias) (PLOCAN)[29]

R&D&I Work Programme

The R&D&i Work Programme is drawn up on an annual basis and, once approved, it functions as a tool for programming short-term science and technology policies, for coordinating the actions of the General State Administration and as a platform for presenting the integrated activities of the General State Administration and the Autonomous Community Administrations for Science, Technology and Innovation.

The Work Programme mainly includes information on the planned calendar of public announcements, stating the terms for presenting and ruling on the different procedures, distributing the annual budget by priority area and programme, assigning the managing bodies for each of the activities and the types of beneficiaries and sectors eligible for grant aid.

Infrastructures and coordination and support capacities / initiatives

Spain has a National Programme for Science and Technology Infrastructures to implement priorities of its National R&D&I Plan.[30] The Programme for Science and Technology Infrastructures which aim is to improve the existing RTD infrastructures, their maintenance and optimize their use. The Programme also foresees the design, building, maintenance, operation and upgrade of ICTS (Unique Scientific and Technological Infrastructures) and GIC (Large Scientific Infrastructures) with a national and EU dimension. Contribute to the development of the Regions to promote the territorial cohesion.[31]

  • In 2012, Spain operates 9 local/coastal vessels from 12m to 30,46 m; 6 regional vessels from 36,5m to 53m; and 4 global vessels from 66,7m to 82,5m registered at the European Research Vessels Infobase.[32]
  • In 2012, Spain maintains about 7 large marine research equipments registered in the European large Exchangeable instruments database.[32]
  • Marine research activities are also supported by the Secretary of State for Research through two Research Performing Organisations, Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and Spanish Oceanographic Institute (IEO), that generate more than 50% of the scientific output in the marine sciences in the country.[33][34]
  • The ICTS (Unique Scientific and Technical Infrastructures) Spanish Roadmap was firstly approved in 2007, to develop 24 new large scientific infrastructures which would join the 30 already in operation. The Council of Scientific, Technological and Innovation Policy (CPCTI) approved the update of the ICTS map in October 2014, taking into account the scientific evaluation of the Advisory Committee for Unique Infrastructures (CAIS). The ICTS map in force is currently composed of 29 ICTS (set up by 59 infrastructures of which, 56 are operative and 3 are under construction). Among them there are some included in the “Life, Sea and Earth Science Area”; The Marine Infrastructures Network (RIM), the Spanish Oceanographic Fleet and the Spanish Antartic Stations are included.
  • RIM is composed by SOCIB (operative) and PLOCAN (in construction) infrastructures.
  • The Spanish Oceanographic Fleet (operative) is a distributed ICTS that includes the Hespérides Oceanographic Research Vessel, as well as the FLOTPOL Oceanographic Research Vessels (Sarmiento de Gamboa, Ramón Margalef, Angeles Alvariño, García del Cid, Mytilus, Lura, Francisco de Paula Navarro, Jose Mª Navaz y SOCIB).
  • The Spanish Antartic Stations is a distributed ICTS that comprises the Juan Carlos I Antarctic Station and the Gabriel de Castilla Antarctic Station.
  • Key aquaculture experimental and research facilities in Spain include
  • 2 Experimental Research Facilities (IFAPA)
  • Aquaculture Pilot Plant (Centro tecnologico Gallego de Acuicultura CETGA)
  • 5 Experimental Research Facilities and Specialised Laboratories (Instituto Español de Oceanografía IEO)
  • An inland infrastructure for bluefin tuna aquaculture research is being built by IEO. It consists of 4 large capacity inland tanks (7000 m3) for experimental research on bluefin tuna. The project started at the end of 2011 and it is under development.
  • Experimental Research Facilities and Specialised Laboratories (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas CSIC)
  • Experimental Research Facilities (Instituto Canario de Ciencias Marinas ICCM)
  • Experimental Sea based facility (Instituto Gallego de Formación en Acuicultura. Xunta de Galicia IGFA)
  • Experimental Facilities (Instituto Murciano de Investigación y Desarrollo Agrario y Alimentario IMIDA)
  • Experimental Research Facilities (Instituto de Investigación y Tecnología Agraria-IRTA)
  • Experimental Research Facilities (Centro de Investigaciones Marinas-CIMA)

Major initiatives

  • The Marine Biotechnology Centre of the ULPGC (CBM) is a research centreof the ULPGC and comprises the Applied Algology (GAA) and the Biological Oceanography (GOB) research groups, which work closely with researchers in other groups in Spain and abroad. This cooperation between the two research groups is currently focused on developing new lines of work that apply the knowledge and techniques developed in eco-physiological and biotechnical studies to marine producers and vegetation.
  • The Spanish Bank of Algae (BEA-Banco Español de Algas) is a service of the Marine Biotechnology Center (CBM-Centro de Biotecnología Marina) of the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC), which objectives are the isolation, identification, characterization, conservation and provisioning of microalgae and cyanobacteria.
  • Spanish Biomass Technology Platform[35] One of the priorities of the Strategic Plan of this platform is the production of biofuel from microalgae.
  • PTEPA[36] is the Spanish Platform for Fisheries and Aquaculture Research. This platform has developed a SRA.
  • Genoma Spain[37] is a government-supported public foundation devoted to promoting technology development, knowledge transfer and innovative practices, chiefly in the biotechnology sector.


  • Spain is host to Pharmamar[38], one of the most successful companies dedicated specifically to marine biotechnology in the world. Pharmamar is specialised in development of antitumor drugs of marine origin.
  • AlgaEnergy[39] is a technology-based company specialising in the field of microalgae biotechnology which, with substantial R&D programmes costing millions of Euros (both public and in-house funding), is managed by a team of entrepreneurs and scientists with solid financial backing and extensive experience within this field.
  • CEAMSA[40], manufactures and supplies a comprehensive range of high quality carrageenan and pectin products to the global food industry.
  • BioFuel Systems.[41] A company specialized in the production of biofuel from marine microalgae.
  • ANFACO-CECOPESCA[42] it is a large company that conducts research in a number of fields related with marine biotechnologies and their use in aquaculture and seafood processing.
  • Seaweed Canarias[43] creates and provides integral sustainable high technology solutions through the industrial use of active principles present in algae. Seaweed Canarias has its own patents and develop highly innovative uses in fields as diverse as agriculture, cosmetics and human and animal nutrition.
  • AQUASOLUTIONS BIOTECH[44] it is a technology company based that offers a wide range of services in RTD to the aquaculture sector, they conduct RTD on genetics, molecular biology, microbilogy, physionlogy, nutrition and zootechnology.


  32. 32.0 32.1


This country profile is based on available online information sources and contributions from various country experts and stakeholders. It does not claim to be complete or final, but should be considered as a dynamic and living information resource that will be elaborated, updated and improved as more information becomes available, including further inputs from experts and stakeholders. The information on this page is based on information initially compiled by the CSA MarineBiotech Project (2011-2013) and updated by the Marine Biotechnology ERA-NET (2013-2017).