The Railway Innovation Hub: a new Open Innovation initiative with no precedents!

An interesting new global initiative has emerged to promote innovation and entrepreneurship across the railway sector and industries alike worldwide, with its neural operation center based in the Andalucía Technology Park (Malaga, Spain). The newborn “Railway Innovation Hub”, is the result of jointed efforts across some of the key leading corporations in Spain representing the whole value chain of the railway industry, and aims to promote collaborative R&D, technology transfer and acceleration, as well as becoming an contact point for industry solutions.

This initiative dates back to 2017. Following several years of recurring collaboration on R&D projects among key players in the railway and construction sector, a group of 10 visionary companies decided to design a joint initiative to empower the sector, and founded The Railway Innovation Hub. The founding members, namely Ferrovial, Abengoa, MRI, Telice, Siemens, Vias, Deimos, Comsa, Thales and Azvi, have built a collaborative framework capable of trespassing individual interest for the achievement of a better joint goal, which may be writing a new chapter in the Spanish innovation logbook.

The Hub has now over 50 members, and is building key institutional relationships to promote public-private collaboration, having recently signed agreements with both the Spanish and Andalusian governments, to enable the definition of specific technological and scientific challenges, so that member companies can build innovative solutions to improve Spanish railway technology. The governance model has been designed to enable a democratic but efficient decision-making process, which will be a challenge in such large partnership structure.

I am truly happy to see this kind of initiatives emerging in Spain. Let´s observe over the evolution of this new venture!


See related news (in Spanish):

What is the actual return on R&D investment?

It is often common to look at the expenditure on R&D to compare how different countries are doing in terms of innovation. But, what about the outputs from this activity? Which countries are more efficient in terms of R&D investment? Which countries have better return of investment (ROI) in R&D?

To provide a comparative overview on the ROI, specific data on 3 key R&D outcomes has been gathered for the top-10 most innovative economies according to the Global Innovation Index or GII (Cornell University, INSEAD, & WIPO, 2017), and compared to Spain. In particular, the following outputs has been selected:

  • Number of scientific and technical journal articles published (NSF, 2013).
  • Number of patents measured as PCT applications filled by country of origin, considering de sum of resident and nonresident applications (WIPO, 2016).
  • Income received from use of intellectual property (IP), a new indicator which provides insights on the balance of payments according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF, 2015)

The data above has been related to the gross domestic expenditure in R&D for each country, which was reviewed on my previous post Research expenditure by top innovators. As a result (see the figure below), specific ROI measures have been calculated as: number of scientific and journal publications per 1000 USD invested, number of patent applications per 1000 USD invested, and income generated from IP exploitation per 1000 USD in invested.

Return on R&D investment in 2017 for the most innovative economies in the world in comparison to Spain. Prepared by Francisco Velasco ( Source: Selected data from NSF (2013), WIPO (2015) and IFM (2015).

Besides any arguable lack of scientific groundings from this approach (as it relates indicators that are not directly correlated and uses data from different sources and years), the model provides a very useful comparative overview across countries ina visual and intuitive manner. As per the figure above, the return of R&D investment in terms of scientific production places USA (265 articles per $1000 invested) as the most efficient country, followed by UK (139 articles per $1000 invested) and Spain (125,6 articles per $1000 invested). However, the ROI in terms of patent production placed also USA in the first position (378,6 patents per $1000 invested), followed by Ireland (49,5 patents per $1000 invested) and UK (32,6 patents per $1000 invested). Finally, the outputs in terms of direct income from IP exploitation, which is a very interesting indicator being recently collected, highlighted again USA as the country with greatest ROI ($78,5 per $1000 invested), followed by UK ($23,3 per $1000 invested) and Netherlands ($41,2 per $1000 invested).



Cornell University, INSEAD, & WIPO. (2017). The Global Innovation Index 2017. (S. Dutta, B. Lanvin, & S. Wunsch-Vincent, Eds.) (10th ed.). Retrieved from

IMF. (2015). International Monetary Fund. Retrieved from

NSF. (2013). National Science Foundation. Retrieved from

WIPO. (2016). World Intellectual Property Organization.


Research expenditure by top innovators, compared to Spain

This post reviews the R&D investment among the top-10 most innovative economies in the world according the Global Innovation Index or GII (Cornell University, INSEAD, & WIPO, 2017), in comparison to Spain. For the purpose of visualising the innovation index for each country, the GII ranking has been included alongside each country´s name in all the figures.

First, a review on the gross domestic expenditure in R&D (GERD) based on the most recent data available (UNESCO, 2015) has been prepared in the Figure below.

Gross Domestic Expenditure in R&D for the most innovative economies in the world in comparison to Spain. Prepared by Francisco Velasco ( Source: UNESCO (2015).

It is observed a group of greater investors in R&D, formed by Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Germany and USA (2.8 – 3.3% GDP expenditure in R&D last year), followed by a second group formed by Singapore (2,2% GDP) and Netherlands (2-2.2% GDP) and a third group of average expenditure ranking 1.22%-1,7% GDP formed by UK, Ireland and Spain. There is no linear correlation between the ranking in the GII and the spending in R&D, which is a predictable output considering that GII is built from a compendium of indicators including GERD.

Second, an analysis on the expenditure by top-global corporations for the same sample of countries has been made by looking at the  on the average R&D expenditure by the top-3 global companies in each country, using data from the Joint Research Council (JRC, 2016), and is shown in the Figure below.

Average Expenditure in R&D by the top 3-global companies in the most innovative countries in the world in comparison to Spain. Prepared by Francisco Velasco ( Source: JRC (2015).

It can be observed a considerable difference in comparison to the gross domestic data earlier. USA is the listed country with greatest average expenditure in R&D by their 3-top global companies (totalling $11,775 million), followed by Germany ($8,987 million) and Switzerland (totalling $6,880 million). Spain ranked relatively high in terms of average expenditure by its top-3 global companies, with a total of $1,118 million and higher than Singapore, Denmark or Finland.

The data reviewed shows interesting insights about the role that top global corporations may have in the national R&D investment landscape in many countries. Spain, while ranking the 22nd position in terms of global innovation and having a relatively low gross domestic expenditure in R&D (1,22% GDP), shows a comparatively high average investment by global companies ($1,118 million), being the 13th greatest investor in the world in terms of average R&D investment among its top-3 global corporations. This is due to the high intensity of R&D activity by companies such as Santander Bank, Telefonica and Amadeus, and highlights a clear gap in comparison to the country´s R&D intensity.



Cornell University, INSEAD, & WIPO. (2017). The Global Innovation Index 2017. (S. Dutta, B. Lanvin, & S. Wunsch-Vincent, Eds.) (10th ed.). Retrieved from

JRC. (2016). EU JRC Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard 2016.

UNESCO. (2015). United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Retrieved from