Time for science and technology. 10 technologies to boost Spain
On 16 June 2020, the Rafael del Pino Foundation organised the Master Conference "The time for science and technology. 10 technologies to boost Spain" given by Javier García on the occasion of the presentation of the results of the work of the Chair of Science and Society of the Rafael del Pino Foundation. After the presentation, he spoke with the following members of the Chair's committee of experts: Héctor Perea, Nuria Oliver and Andrés Pedreño.
Javier García is professor of the Rafael del Pino Foundation, president-elect of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), president of the Young Academy of Spain and trustee of the Gadea Science Foundation. In the academic and research field, Javier García is Professor of Inorganic Chemistry and Director of the Molecular Nanotechnology Laboratory at the University of Alicante (UA), where he has carried out extensive teaching and research work on nanomaterials and their application in the energy sector. He is the founder of the technology-based company Rive Technology, which commercialises the technology he developed during his Fulbright postdoctoral stay at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Rive Technology has raised more than $80 million in venture capital investment and employs more than 40 people. Since 2012, the catalysts marketed by Rive Technology have been used in several refineries in the US, significantly increasing fuel production and energy efficiency in the process. In June 2019, the multinational W. R. Grace acquired Rive Technology and now markets its technology worldwide. Founder and president of Celera, a talent support programme in Spain that selects ten exceptional young people each year to give them resources, training and great opportunities. Forty young people have already benefited from this programme created by Javier with the Rafael del Pino Foundation and in which several Spanish companies and institutions collaborate. Javier is a member of the Committee of Experts of the World Economic Forum. In 2011, he was vice-chair of the Emerging Technologies Council and until 2015 a member of the Global Agenda Council of the World Economic Forum, which selected him as a Young Global Leader in 2009. Javier is a member of the Executive Committee of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry and vice-president of its inorganic chemistry division. Javier's scientific and business leadership has been recognised with some of the most important awards. In June 2014, he was awarded the King Jaime I Prize in its New Technologies category and since 2015 he is the first Spaniard to receive the Emerging Researcher Award from the American Chemical Society. In summer 2017, Javier was recognised by the American Chemical Society with the Kathryn C. Hach Award as the best US entrepreneur in the chemical sector. Javier is Founding President of the Young Academy of Spain and a member of the Global Young Academy and Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry.
Hector Perea is an industrial engineer from the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM) and the Technical University of Munich (TUM). He obtained his PhD in Engineering from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) with honours (Summa Cum Laude). He was a guest researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and received the TR35 Innovation Award from MIT in 2012. From the research work developed during his doctoral thesis in Germany and the United States, he founded the technology-based company Vascuzell with the aim of developing technological solutions to improve the biocompatibility of vascular implants. Héctor Perea is currently the Director of Strategy and Business Development at Cepsa, a position he has held since 2014. In this role, he was the driving force behind the Cepsa 2030 Strategic Plan and the sectoral report Cepsa Energy Outlook, which analyses trends in the energy sector from a global perspective. He has worked on multiple M&A transactions throughout the entire value chain of the energy sector and is one of the main drivers of shareholder relations. He is a regular speaker at international conferences and universities with a special focus on energy transition. Before joining Cepsa he worked at BASF (Singapore) and for Novumed (now Ernst&Young Life Science Consulting) in Munich (Germany) as a strategy consultant.
Nuria Oliver is Chief Data Scientist at Data-Pop Alliance and Chief Scientific Advisor for the Vodafone Institute. She holds a degree in Telecommunications Engineering from UPM and a PhD from MIT in Perceptual Intelligence. She has more than 20 years of research experience at MIT, Microsoft Research (Redmond, WA) and as the first (female) Chief Scientist at Telefónica R&D and the first Director of Data Science Research at Vodafone worldwide. Her work in computational modelling of human behaviour, human-machine interaction, mobile computing and Big Data analysis -especially for Social Good- is internationally known with more than 180 scientific publications, cited more than 16000 times and with a dozen awards and nominations for best scientific paper. She is the inventor of 41 patents. Her work has contributed to the improvement of services, the creation of new services, the definition of strategies and the creation of new companies. Nuria is a regular invited speaker at international scientific and technological conferences. For the last 11 years, Nuria has held management positions, creating and leading international research teams. In her position at Vodafone, Nuria has created and led the research of the global Big Data organisation with more than 250 data scientists in 25 countries. With her work, Nuria has significantly contributed to the creation of the global Big Data and Artificial Intelligence unit, generating business results of two billion euros in revenue, 200 million euros in efficiency improvements and an increased ROI of at least 15%. She is the only researcher in Spain recognised by the ACM as a Distinguished Scientist, Fellow and member of CHI Academy at the same time. She is also a Fellow of the IEEE and the European Association of Artificial Intelligence. She holds an Honorary Doctorate from the Miguel Hernandez University and is a full member of the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Academia Europaea. Nuria is a member of the scientific advisory board of six European universities. She also advises the Spanish Government and the European Commission on issues related to Artificial Intelligence, Mahindra Comviva and the Future Digital Society. He is a member of a Global Future Council of the World Economic Forum. She was number one in her class at the Escuela Superior de Telecomunicaciones de Madrid, and received the National Telecommunications Award (1994). She was the first Spanish woman to receive the MIT TR100 (now TR35) Young Innovator Award (2004) and the Rising Talent Award from the Women's Forum for the Economy and Society (2009). She has received the Ada Byron Award for European Digital Woman of the Year (2016), the Medal for Business and Social Merit from the Generalitat Valenciana (2017), the EVAP Diversity Award (2017), the Angela Ruiz Robles National Informatics Award (2016) and the Engineer of the Year Award (2018) among others. She has been named one of the 11 most influential people in Artificial Intelligence in the world by Pioneering Minds (2017), one of the Spanish wonderful minds in technology by the newspaper EL PAIS (2017), "an outstanding technology director" (El PAIS, 2012), one of the "100 leaders for the future" (Capital, 2009) and one of the "40 young people who will mark the next millennium" (El PAIS, 1999), among others.
Professor of Applied Economics, expert in digital economy, entrepreneur, Rector of the University of Alicante (1993-2000),
Andrés Pedreño is founder of pioneering digital projects in Spain such as the Miguel de Cervantes Virtual Library and UNIVERSIA (CEO from 2000-2004) and member of the Holding Board of Santander Universities and UNIVERSIA to date. During his time as CEO of UNIVERSIA, under the chairmanship of Emilio Botín, he established UNIVERSIA in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Portugal and taking the reference model in Spain and reaching the figure of 800 universities. More recently, it pioneered the introduction of MOOCS in Spain, through the UNIMOOC project, which today brings together a network of 340,000 entrepreneurs from more than 100 countries. He directs the Observatory for the Development of the Digital Economy in Spain (ADEI Observatory), promoted by Google, Analistas Financieros Internacionales and the Institute of International Economics, among others. He is co-founder of several successful digital companies both in Spain and internationally, leaders in Internet traffic and related to communities, observatories (fintech, Artificial Intelligence...). He is the author of more than fifty books and specialised publications in the field of economics. In digital publications he is the author of several specialised blogs where he addresses university and entrepreneurship-related topics. Eisenhower Fellow 1988, Dr. Honoris causa by the Nottingham Trend University (1997), Scientific Merit Award 2016 Generalitat Valenciana, Academy of Moral and Political Sciences, American Academy of the Spanish Language Recently, he has promoted the phenomenon of Massive Open Online Courses (mooc), through the unimooc project. This is a network of 240,000 entrepreneurs from more than 100 different countries. Andrés Pedreño directs the Observatory for the Analysis and Economic Development of the Internet (ADEI) in Spain, which is promoted by Google, Analistas Financieros Internacionales and the Institute of International Economics, among others.
On 16 June, the Rafael del Pino Foundation organised the conference "Time for science and technology. 10 proposals to boost Spain", by Javier García, Rafael del Pino professor and professor of Inorganic Chemistry and director of the Molecular Nanotechnology Laboratory at the University of Alicante, on the occasion of the presentation of the report "10 emerging technologies to boost Spain".
Javier García explained that the Rafael del Pino Chair of Science and Society was created to build a better Spain, based on knowledge. The aim of the Chair is to disseminate science, to explain how science and technology can solve some of the great problems of our time. It also aims to encourage early scientific vocation, including that of women, for which young researchers must be promoted. We cannot allow vocations in science and technology to continue to fall if we want to have a knowledge society.
The report aims to identify the technologies that have the greatest capacity to increase the competitiveness of the Spanish economy. These are technologies that we have within our reach either because we are leaders in them or because we have companies. These technologies are key to building a more diversified and complex economy.
Tourism and services, exports of automobiles and automotive components, the chemical industry and the pharmaceutical sector play a very important role in the Spanish economy. When the map of Spanish exports is analysed in more detail and represented according to the degree of complexity of the sectors, many of our key sectors have a relatively low degree of complexity. This puts us at risk vis-à-vis other countries and companies, because now others can compete. It also poses a risk to employment. Therefore, the report aims to identify technologies to increase the complexity of the key sectors of the Spanish economy.
The Davos Economic Forum publishes its competitiveness index every year. In it, our country occupies an average position, around 25-30th place. We are highly rated in infrastructures and health, but we are much worse in innovation systems, which is undoubtedly a threat. For this reason, the report starts with an analysis of the Spanish case, with those technologies that can improve the competitiveness of the economy, based on the concern of wanting to build a more knowledge-based country.
There are ten such technologies. The first is artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence is transforming everything. In 2009, most industries were incorporating artificial intelligence into product development, marketing, manufacturing. The trend has been increasing in recent years. Spain has enormous strength in this field because it has some of the best experts in the world. However, this academic potential is not translated into a number of patents and companies that are leading the capitalisation of all this knowledge. Spain has a national strategy for artificial intelligence, but countries that have their own strategy are responding more effectively. There are many institutions that are committed to artificial intelligence.
The second technology, gene editing, is perfectly imbricated in the history of Spain. The greatest discovery of this century in this field, the CRISPR technique, was made by Francisco Juan Martínez Mojica, a researcher in the Department of Physiology, Genetics and Microbiology at the University of Alicante. The technique consists of introducing a 'vector', a bacterial virus containing a specific segment of DNA. This makes it possible to modify any animal or plant, which opens up many possibilities. This market will grow at a rate of 18% per year over the next few years. The technique has aroused the interest of many start-ups that are already capitalising on this discovery. In this field, Spain stands out in terms of academic articles, but in terms of patents and new companies, the importance of our country is much lower. The challenge is to translate this academic work into companies.
Digital security is another key area. In an interconnected world dominated by the internet, it is very important to secure all transfers of highly private data. This is a well-established industry in which Spain has significant strengths. The market is expected to be worth $270 billion by 2026. Companies that are not protecting themselves run the risk of attacks, breaches, causing losses of more than 500 billion dollars. Digital security is not a luxury but a necessity to prevent security breaches. We have strong capabilities in this sector.
The Internet of Things is another key technology. We see it in some key sectors of the economy. In 2015 it represented an investment of 10 billion dollars. By 2020 it will reach 40 billion. Adoption of artificial intelligence has led to exponential growth of the internet of things in products, services and internal applications. Europe may lose its leading position to Asia in this area this year. Spain is the leader in terms of number of patents, in line with the size of our economy.
Advanced photoactive materials are a clear improvement on photovoltaic cells. The most promising developments, with very high efficiencies, and environmentally sustainable designs. This has led to a dramatic reduction in the price per kilowatt-hour over the last decade. The price has fallen by around 80%. This has been made possible by the use of advanced photoactive materials, which allow electricity to be produced at a lower cost. There is enormous hope for renewables because the price per kilowatt-hour is already fully competitive with other sources of electricity. With investment and political determination, they can form an important part of our energy mix. In this field, Europe started from a position superior to that of the United States and was only surpassed by Asia. But we could lose that leadership position to the US and China, which will achieve installed capacities far superior to those we have in Europe.
Distributed energy has to be part of our electricity system, to generate electricity much closer to final consumption, allowing demand to be reduced during sunshine hours. It also makes it possible to store the electricity generated at times of non-peak demand to flatten out supply and demand peaks. This improves energy efficiency by reducing transmission losses. The installation of distributed PV capacity is likely to continue to increase significantly.
Satellite data for decision-making is another such vital technology. The global space economy is worth more than $300 billion. It is behind television but is also emerging with new prospects in many other sectors such as earth observation or small launchers. More than 80 countries, including Spain, already have their own satellites. The space economy in Spain involved 2,500 professionals and 40 companies.
New technologies to combat ageing are another important element. As we begin to age, changes occur in the body. This technology represents an opportunity. In Spain, the number of scientific publications is increasing. It is an emerging area, and also a clinical area, where clinical trials on specific anti-ageing technologies are already taking place. We have some of the best scientists and centres. This technology is also an opportunity for high value-added health tourism.
Renewable energy depends on the ability to store the energy that is generated. We now store it by pumping water up to hydro dams and a small part by batteries and thermal systems. The main alternatives have evolved significantly, with electrochemical storage systems, especially lithium-ion batteries. New technologies based on more abundant technologies than lithium are being developed for storage.
Blockchain, or blockchain, consists of dividing information into blocks. This technology is a major reality, with the United States and China leading the way, with 50% of the global sector. In Europe, the United Kingdom leads, with half of the European sector. Cryptocurrencies are the fastest growing blockchain sector, which undoubtedly includes business opportunities.
All these technologies can be classified into three groups. The first is the digital technologies group, with artificial intelligence, digital security, the internet of things, satellite data and blockchain. The second is energy, with advanced photoactive materials, distributed energy and renewable energy. The last is biomedicine, with gene editing and new technologies to combat ageing.
Finally, there is the pandemic. Covid is not a surprise because since the 1970s we have had viruses that have shaken us with recurrent periodicity. On this occasion, both the speed of contagion and the mortality rate are quite high and have had an impact on our lives and our economy. Spain has played a leading role in research against Covid-19. Fifty-eight clinical trials are underway with more than 59,000 patients. The disease has had a very clear impact on the economy and the labour market, with a drop in Social Security registrations. It has affected the manufacturing, transport and tourism sectors and the loss will be difficult to recover. This will have an effect on the public accounts. The challenge is to maintain the money allocated to research and health. Getting out of the crisis depends a lot on how the virus will spread and how the exit will be made. Spain is more damaged by lack of technology and dependence on tourism.
The Davos Economic Forum report says that Spain's innovation performance is below that of the countries around us. We have to work hard to improve our situation. That is why we cannot now cut the funds earmarked for investment in R&D, as we did in 2009. The country will be better prepared if we return to investing in science and technology, but in an intelligent way in which public administration and private enterprise are more involved.
It is said that those who do not know their history are condemned to repeat it. Our problem as a country is not that we do not know our history, but that we have not imagined our future.
The Rafael del Pino Foundation is not responsible for the comments, opinions or statements made by the people who participate in its activities and which are expressed as a result of their inalienable right to freedom of expression and under their sole responsibility. The contents included in the summary of this conference, written for the Rafael del Pino Foundation by Professor Emilio González, are the result of the debates held at the meeting held for this purpose at the Foundation and are the responsibility of the authors.
The Rafael del Pino Foundation is not responsible for any comments, opinions or statements made by third parties. In this respect, the FRP is not obliged to monitor the views expressed by such third parties who participate in its activities and which are expressed as a result of their inalienable right to freedom of expression and under their own responsibility. The contents included in the summary of this conference, written for the Rafael del Pino Foundation by Professor Emilio J. González, are the result of the discussions that took place during the conference organised for this purpose at the Foundation and are the sole responsibility of its authors.