Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Developoment (OECD) countries that lead in innovation are easy to spot - you look for the ones that have the most scientists in the private sector. 

Countries like the United States, Korea and Japan are responsible for the bulk of the world's technology design and they have over 75% of researchers employed in the private sector. 

In other OECD countries, the numbers are much lower - scientists are instead government employees and the need for innovation is last. This worries Spain, where research and innovation lags. In OECD countries overall, only 45.4% of scientists work in the private sector, the rest are being funded by taxes rather than corporate profits. In Spain, it is half that.

Why is that bad? If corporations aren't spending money on science, it's because they don't believe they have the personnel to do it, or the government is going to finance it for them. Innovation and breakthroughs lag when science is a job works project rather than a march into the future. In those situations, esearchers spend their time writing grants and networking rather than doing science. Oddly, a number of American academics would like to emulate Spain.

In innovative countries, the business sector is the main source of R&D funding, with an investment that accounts for about 75%. Spain is concerned because in 2009 only 43.4% of Spain's R&D spending was financed by the private sector. In a technology century, countries will be buyers or sellers and Spain would like to be a seller.

Spain produces Ph.D.s at levels comparable to similar countries in its situation but few work in the private sector. That's bad for everyone, they believe. Credit: uc3m

The paper was presented as part of the Conference of Social Councils. A round table discussion about the study was held, bringing together experts such as Joaquín Moya-Angeler, president of the Conference of Social Councils; Daniel Peña, Chancellor of the UC3M; Cristina Garmendia, the new president of Cotec and ex-minister of Science and Technology; and José Insenser, Technology and Innovation manager at Airbus Defence and Space.

After analyzing the situation of researchers in Spain, it is deduced that the unemployment rate for Ph.D.s in Spain is less than 15%, according to the 2013 EPA report, compared to the national average of around 26%. However, for Cristina Garmendia, it is necessary to make progress "on the cooperation of systems, open innovation, initiative within the companies themselves and recognizing the importance of people, who are more important than organizations, so that effort on R&D ends up increasing competitiveness."

Likewise, Daniel Peña, Chancellor of the UC3M, asserts that it is necessary to advance along the lines proposed by Garmendia to be able to generate trust in companies. He added that "the biggest problem with the Spanish university system is that there is no relation between results and funding."

The social and government councils of Spanish universities are aware that it is necessary to secure more investment from the private sector to grow in research. This is why they are proposing a series of changes in their doctoral programs. They propose incorporating the private sector in the guidance, organization and planning of their doctoral studies, and strengthening cooperation between public and private institutions in the design of doctoral studies.

Along these lines, Joaquín Moya-Angeler highlights that it is necessary to adapt and bring the doctorate closer to the business world. Countries like the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark are good examples to follow in this aspect, as they have made similar structural changes in their doctoral systems, achieving greater involvement from the private sector with regard to R&D as a result.