Due to the peculiarities of the Spanish administrative and territorial model, RDAs stand as useful tools to promote the development in the different regions from a closer point of view, respecting and understanding the specialities of the regions where they work.
The Spanish administrative and territorial system is special because of the high autonomy attributed to its regions, without going so far as being a federal system. Spain has three different main levels, established by its Constitution: national (NUTS 1), regional (NUTS 2) and local (NUTS 3) level. Each one of the autonomous regions (seventeen, plus two autonomous cities) that conform it has its own government (Parliament), competences and capacities; some of them of great importance, such as healthcare or education. They are integrated by provinces.
The RDAs fulfil a relevant role as intermediaries between the regional government and the civil society since the 1980s. This relevant role that RDAs play is dependent on regional governments, since they are the ones who create and provide them with the necessary powers and competencies to carry out their functions. The autonomy the regional governments enjoy in the economic fostering makes each RDA different and unique in its structure. Nevertheless, virtually all of them have the same legal status: they are considered public entities bind by private law.
Regarding the competences the RDAs possess, it exists a wide variety among them, depending on the decisions each autonomous region disposes on the matter. However, it is possible to establish a pattern, as the goals they are given usually coincide: they are public advanced services providers, connecting offer and demand. Information, training, internationalization, innovation, technological development or financial counselling are their main tools. As to the RDAs financial aspect, the budgets varies from one to the other, but not the source of income, since they all are mainly funded by the regional government. However, this is not the only provenance of the capital they receive. All of them manage a large revenue from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) in order to promote the programmes they handle, and thus, improve them.
While there is not a public national organism to determine the rules the agencies should attach to, a relevant actor for coordination and organization is the Asociación Española de Agencias de Desarrollo Regional, also known as Foro ADR, an entity created in 2007 with the aim of connecting the existent RDAs in Spain, giving them the possibility of exchanging information and expertise in order to achieve their goals in more efficient ways; to identify problems and find solutions for them.
As to the activities they develop, there are seven main fields: technology development; internationalisation; financial instruments; investment promotions; technological infrastructures; start-ups creation; and Cohesion Funds management.
What makes the Spanish RDAs special is the interconnection between all of them. As mentioned before, they work closely in order to identify issues and transfer expertise and know-how in different situations and face the common challenges in a more efficient way. An example of this collaboration between the agencies is the “Foro ADR RIS3 Group”: created within the national organisation, it gathers several Spanish RIS3 practitioners with the aim of sharing information and expertise, and therefore, introducing the necessary changes to strengthen collaboration between the actors and identifying new areas of innovation.
Written by Alberto Soria, Project Officer at EURADA