AseBio, RAICEX, Farmaindustria and Fenin launch a study to better attract international talent

  • Over 80% of Spanish scientists abroad surveyed would like to return to Spain, but only 24% really know about the opportunities available.
  • Offering attractive career prospects and competitive financial incentives are the two biggest challenges for our country
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Madrid, España

The Spanish Bioindustry Association (AseBio), Fenin and Farmaindustria, in collaboration with the Network of Associations of Spanish Researchers and Scientists Abroad (RAICEX) and In Talent Lab, published a joint study this Wednesday working to identify policies that could help attract scientific talent to our country. María Peña, CEO of ICEX Spain Trade and Investment, where the presentation of the report took place, highlighted that “biotechnology, healthcare technology and the pharmaceutical industry are cutting-edge sectors in our economy, and key to the Spanish foreign sector. Attracting and retaining talent, both Spanish and international, is crucial, and public-private partnership is essential to achieving this.” Later, Raquel Yotti, secretary-general for Research in the Ministry of Science and Innovation, brought the event to a close: “Helping attract and draw scientific talent back to Spain is one of the Spanish government’s priorities. The draft law on Science, Technology and Innovation plans to introduce regulatory change that have great transformative potential in the middle and long term. In the short term, the Ministry of Science and Innovation will present a plan of specific actions to encourage scientists to return,” she explained at the presentation of the report.


The organisations have kicked off an initiative to discover what drives Spanish scientists and researchers working in other countries to return to Spain and the challenges they face when they do, as well as learning from companies and public bodies about the challenges they face, the measures they find most attractive and the options they could really offer right now to attract foreign talent.  

Career, salary and personal motivation

The main conclusions of the study are that over 80% of those surveyed, average age of 36, would like to return to Spain but only 24% really know about the opportunities available. Plus, the researchers’ biggest motivation for returning is a competitive salary, while the main challenge facing employers, precisely, is competing with international salaries. The report shows that only 19% of the organisations surveyed can offer competitive financial incentives, even though it is very important for them as well. “Faced with this data and the fact that researchers are not aware of the opportunities available in our companies and organisations, we believe it is essential to build spaces of mutual trust and knowledge for our international talent and our members, companies and organisations that operate globally, with science and research at the core of their business,” added AseBio CEO Ion Arocena. 

Eva Ortega-Paino, secretary general of RAICEX, explains that this study encompasses two of its goals: to assess the reasons to support our scientists abroad in terms of mobility and professional development, and to foster international relations and cooperation among researchers and public and private organisations.” But, why do scientists want to return to Spain? Personal and family motivations are the main reason researchers gave, especially the women. A promising professional project and measures to promote work-life balance and social benefits are some of the other noteworthy motivations. “We hope, in the near future, our researchers will want to return because Spain is a global benchmark in science, not only for sentimental reasons,” noted Ortega-Paino.

Measures and steps to take

“Our country has to improve its global positioning and have a global, diversified science and research system. To make this possible, we have to prioritise policies aiming to attract and retain talent. So, we have to understand where we are now and, above all, where we need to go, which is one of the main contributions of this study,” noted Fenin International Director Borja Polo, in line with the opinions expressed by RAICEX.

But what steps need to be taken to retain this talent? According to the companies and organisations, the most effective measures to attract candidates from outside Spain are, first, a promising professional project, competitive financial incentives and, nearly on the same level, the reputation and prestige of the research centre or company. The last two measures on the list are work-life balance and social benefits, plus the welcome package. Scientists also think it is important for employers to offer a promising professional project. For women, work-life balance and social benefits are also an important factor.

“Spain is a global benchmark in clinical drug trials,” explained Amelia Martín Uranga, associate director of Clinical and Translational Research at Farmaindustria, “and that gives us a huge competitive advantage for promoting basic and preclinical research and creating a health research ecosystem that attracts more investment. A country-wide strategy in this arena would allow us to reinforce our position in this area globally and offer our scientists the chance to develop their talent to its fullest in Spain,” she concluded.

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Agathe Cortes

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Who we are 

AseBio brings together more than 290 entities and represents the Spanish biotechnology sector as a whole. Its mission is to lead the transformation of the country, positioning science, innovation and especially biotechnology as an engine of economic growth and social welfare. Its members include companies, associations, foundations, universities, technology and research centres that carry out their activities directly or indirectly related to biotechnology in Spain.