Launch of SOMMa focuses on safeguarding the competitiveness of science in Spain

SOMMa, the alliance of Spain’s 25 Severo Ochoa centres – including IBEC – and 16 María de Maeztu units that aims to raise the national and international profile of science in the country, held a press launch on Monday at the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness in Madrid.

At the event, the representatives of SOMMa, together with the Secretary of State for R&D&I Carmen Vela, presented the new alliance. “Joining this alliance allows us to join forces, increase our impact and encourage collaboration and networking,” said Teresa García-Milà, vice-president of SOMMa and director of the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics (BGSE). “In short, we are enriching the R&D system of this country in the long term.”

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“The Severo Ochoa program has boosted the impact, international scientific leadership and competitiveness of these centers and units,” said Carmen Vela. “This alliance will be very positive because it will allow the best centers to work together, coordinated, which will help to increase its impact.”

At the event, SOMMa presented the document ‘Informe SOMMa: Acciones necesarias para salvaguardar la competitividad de la ciencia (SOMMa Report: Actions Necessary to Safeguard the Competitiveness of Science)’ that seeks to attract the attention of politicians to address some of the administrative problems currently hampering research in the country.

In particular, the group agrees to emphasize the need for specific and appropriate regulations within the framework of European regulations that safeguard the competitiveness of the sector, as happens in other countries. In addition to requesting a firm commitment to financing levels, the SOMMa report also highlighted the existence of certain administrative peculiarities that compromise the R&D system and that require political will to solve them. These correspond to VAT deduction, public contracting, and the hiring of personnel.

The solutions proposed are that research be considered as an economic activity of general interest, whose subsidies should not be charged VAT; not holding the centres to currently required levels of public procurement required of other public sector organisations, which does not take into account the particularities of science; and extending temporary contracts beyond three years, so that the centers don’t lose important scientific developments that are transferred away.

“We celebrate the efforts of the Secretary of State for R&D&I to create and maintain the Severo Ochoa and MdM programmes despite the economic crisis and the adjustments in public budgets,” said Luis Serrano, president of SOMMa and director of the Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG). “Even so, we must insist on the importance of investment in science that requires a long-term national commitment.”

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