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Andalucia tops spend on research and development

February 13, 2012 – 1:07 pm

With all the headlines about Whitney, the BAFTAS, Grammys and labour reform, you may have missed one news story this morning: the birth of the second baby who was born to save a sibling. Estrella was born on Saturday at the Virgen del Rocio hospital in Seville.

Estrella’s big brother Antonio has a rare blood condition, and stem cells from her umbilical cord might be able to cure her sibling. Estrella was conceived using assisted reproduction and genetic selection, whereby the embryos are screened to find the one which will be most compatible with the sibling.

It is a scientifically advanced process – and still in its early stages – which has only been possible in Spain since the Ley de Reproduccion Humana Asistida 2006.

The Catholic Church, needless to say, does not approve of such meddling with nature, and is dead set against this process of “bebe medicamento” – medicine baby, of whom Estrella is now the second (the first, Javier, was born in 2008 in the same hospital).

So it’s good to know that, despite the economic crisis, Andalucia (and Spain) is still at the forefront of such cutting-edge medical developments.

In fact, I was interested to read that Andalucia’s I&D (Investigacion y Desarrollo, or Research and Development) budget, far from shrinking, is actually growing. With spending in most areas being firmly reined in, it seems that the region’s 2,000-odd scientific research organisations are blooming. In the past ten years, this sector has grown by five times.

In 2009 and 2010, Andalucia’s I&D spend grew by 12.2%, while other regions’ all went down. According to the INE (Instituto Nacional de Estadistica), Andalucia spent 1,726 million euros on I&D in 2010. Part of this comes from EU funding, with 80,400 million euros being provided in the last four years for 234 European research projects. The large part of these projects are attached to universities (willing student workers), and they are thought to employ 30,000 staff. One of ten of such researchers is not Spanish.

Private sector investment in this area has increased by 23%, against public sector 3% – understandably. Andalucian companies have also upped their spending on innovation, with a growth of 64.4% in 2009-2010.

Grants have helped 951 young Andalucians in the past four years, from a fund of 80 million euros. It’s a small section of our unemployed youth, but something to be positive about, at least.

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