The Alliance of the Severo Ochoa Centres and the María de Maeztu Units (SOMMa is the Spanish acronym) of which the IAC is a member, presents its proposals for promoting Spanish “science of excellence” and safeguarding its competitivity

Secretaria de Estado de Investigación, Desarrollo e Innovación, Carmen Vela, acompañada por directores y representantes de los centros Severo Ochoa y unidades María de Maeztu durante el acto de presentación de la alianza, celebrado ayer en Madrid. Crédito
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The Severo Ochoa Centres and Maria de Maeztu Units Alliance (SOMMa) brings together centres and units of research which have won respectively the Spanish Severo Ochoa and  María de Maeztu awards of excellence. Thanks to the support of the Secretariat of State for Research, Development, and Innovation, these centres and units have joined forces to promote, reinforce, and maximize, at national and international level, the value of sicence and the excellence produced by these centres and units, as well as their social and economic impact.

In a ceremony yesterday in Madrid the representatives of the SÖMMa, together with the Secretary of State for R+D+I, Carmen Vela, presented the new SOMMa Alliance. “Spanish Science has centres and units of excellence which compete successfully at international level. Uniting in this Alliance will let us unite our efforts, increase our impact, and promote collaboration and networking. It will certainly enrich the system aof R+D in this country in the long term”, said Teresa García-Milà, Vicepresident of SOMMa and director of the Barcelona Graduate Scjhool of Economics (BGSE) during the presentation.

The Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) is fully aligned with the objectives of the alliance, which is aimed at increasing the national and international visibility of research in Spain, promote the interchange of scientific knowledge and good practice, and speak for science polify in Spain and in Europe. “The major scientific and technological challenges facing the IAC in the coming years” explains Anselmo Sosa, the IAC’s representative in SOMMa who participated in the meeting,” need firm support from the main participants in the R+D system in Spain, which will certainly enhance our future scientific, economic,and social impact”.

The association of SOMMa centres and units employs over 7,000 people dedicated to research, trains over 500 new PhD’s every year, and the funding for their European projects amounts to some 530 million euros over a period of 5 years. In 2016 alonge the research in the SOMMa centres and units gave rise to over 5,800 articles in the best scientific journals, and have produced 8 new spin-off companies, over 100 registered patents filed, and some 350 collaborations and contracts with companies.”These figures show that the Severo Ochoa programme has driven the impact, the scientific leadership and the competitivity of these centres and units. This alliance will be very postive because it will allow the best centres to work together in a coordinated way, which will help to amplify their impact” stated the Secretary of State for R+D+I, Carmen Vela.

Likewise, with the support of other organizations of the science and innovation sectors, SOMMa representatives stated their concern regarding the decrease of the R+D public funding, as well as the administrative issues constraining Spanish science. In particular, these organizations concur in highlighting the necessity to have specific, adequate regulations within the framework of European legislation safeguarding the competitiveness of the sector, as it happens in other countries.

“We are very happy with the effort made by the Secretariat of State for R+D+I in creating and maintaining the Severo Ochoa and the María de Maeztu programmes in spite of the economic crisis and the reduction in public spending. Even so we need to insisto n the importance of investing in science which needs a long term State agreement,” said Luis Serrano, the President of SOMMa and director of the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG).

As well as requesting firm support for funding levels SOMMa has also drawn attention to the existence of specific administrative points which seriously damage the R+D system and which need political will to resolve. During the ceremony the “SOMMa report on actions needed to safeguard competitivity in science” was presented, whose aim is to attract the attention of the politicians to tackle these problems urgently and permanently.

To summarize, the three administrative aspects brought out in the report are the criteria for the deduction of VAT, the way personnel are hired, and public hiring by research centres and units. These three aspects are currently causing serious problems to a number of research centres, and could potentially affect all research centres in the Spanish R+D system.

The report proposes an agreement which has the support of all the parliamentary groups and suggests, as possible solutions:

  • Consideration of research, and in particular of basic research as an economic activity, as well as being in the general interest, therefore not subject to VAT.
  • Adapting the regime of public hiring in research centres and universities to meet their specific needs, within the European hiring framework.
  • To make more flexible the rate of replacement, in particular for people in key posts, as well as the incorporation of indefinite, but not permanent contracts, with severance pay of only 20 days, set up and financed by competitive funding form the National Plan, which do not affect replacement rates.

In general the present situation is the result of considering research centres and universities as equivalents of any public administration, without taking into account the particularities and specific needs of scientific activity. “ We need Science to be part of the political agenda, and hope to be able to work in this direction from within SOMMa, together with the Secretariat of State for R+D+I benfitting not only the centres and units which are members of this alliance, but the whole system of R+D in Spain” concluded Serrano and García-Milà.

For more information about SOMMa, visit

Contact information:

SOMMa: Laia Cendrós, press officer, Centre for Genomic Regulation (laia.cendros [at] (laia[dot]cendros[at]crg[dot]eu), +34 93 3160237)

IAC: Anselmo Sosa, IAC representative in SOMMa and Manager of the Institutional Projects and Transfer of Research Results Office at the IAC (asosa [at] (asosa[at]iac[dot]es))