Spain - Global health R&D

Spain GH R&D

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In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Spain has prioritized global health R&D and epidemic preparedness 

The ‘Master Plan for Spanish Cooperation for 2018 to 2021’ (Master Plan) underlines health research and development (R&D) as a key priority of its contributions to global public goods. In March 2018, the Spanish Secretary of State for Development, and the Spanish Secretary of State for Research, signed an agreement to strengthen coordination and foster joint activities on R&D and international development. Reflecting these priorities, in 2018, Spain provided US$12 million for research and development on poverty-related and neglected diseases (PRNDs), referred to as ‘global health R&D’ in this profile. This marks a sharp increase in Spain’s funding to the sector, which has otherwise been on the decline since 2014. Despite this spike, the funding level to the R&D sector in 2018 was only half of where it stood in 2009.  

The COVID-19 crisis has placed global health R&D and epidemic preparedness on top of the Spanish government’s agenda. In March 2020, in response to the COVID-19 crisis, Spain’s Prime Minister announced €30 million (US$35 million) in funds aimed at fostering R&D for new biomedical tools for diagnosing, preventing, and treating the virus. In July 2020, the Spanish government approved a new plan to foster R&D initiatives worth €1.0 billion (US$1.2 billion). This new funding line, which will be disbursed between 2020-2021, includes €216 million (US$255 million) specifically allocated to health-related R&D activities; €524 million (US$618 million) to strengthen the Spanish R&D system; and €317 million (US$374 million) to the private sector. In addition, Spain will provide up to €508 million (US$600 million) in loans for COVID-19 research.

In past years, Spain has concentrated its R&D funding on the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. In 2018, according to G-FINDER data, 94% of its financing (US$11 million) could not be allocated to a single disease, in part owing to US$4 million that was given to the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), an influential global health think tank and R&D institution. In 2017 too, Spain’s funding was similarly concentrated on ISGlobal. The ISGlobal is mainly funded by the banking foundation, ‘La Caixa’. It has a varied research agenda with a special focus on malaria, due to its institutional links with the World Health Organization’s head of the malaria program, Pedro Alonso. The next-largest areas of funding in 2018 were efforts against snakebite envenoming (3%), malaria (2%), and Kinetoplastid diseases (1%).  

The Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAEUEC) was the largest implementer of Spain’s public global health R&D (US$5 million) in 2018, followed by the Catalan Department of Health (US$4 million), the Catalan Ministry of Economy and Knowledge (US$2 million), the Catalan Government (US$500,000), and the Spanish national research council (CSIC; US$300,000). The Carlos III Health Institute, the public health research institute in Spain responsible for managing and carrying out biomedical research, played a diminished role in 2018 as compared to previous years, investing only US$86,000 in malaria research and US$36,000 in Kinetoplastid diseases related research. The institute reports to the Ministry of Science and the Ministry of Health and its key mission is to support the development of scientific knowledge. 

MAEUEC and the Ministry of Science are the main ministries responsible for global health R&D  

MAEUEC is the main ministry working on global health R&D. MAEUEC’s Health Division is responsible for global health R&D funding. Spain’s development agency, the AECID works on funding and implementation of global health R&D programs through its Directorate for Multilateral and Sectoral Cooperation. In turn, the Ministry of Science steers Spain’s national strategy on R&D, including for global health. The Ministry of Science’s Carlos III Health Institute implements health-related R&D interventions through direct investments and channels funding to national research initiatives. It also represents Spain’s position on health R&D to the European Union. Previously, the MAEUEC and the Spanish Development Promotion Fund (FONPRODE) financed product-development partnerships (PDPs), but this funding channel has been discontinued now that FONPRODE’s budget only includes loans and equities.