José Mª Zabala Martínez (Oteiza, 1947) is a chemical engineer with a PhD in Applied Natural Sciences from the University of Louvain (1976). In 1986, he founded Zabala Innovation, and since then, his focus has been on Europe, participating in the European Commission’s first Framework Programme. With more than 35 years of experience, his company, Zabala Innovation, has established itself as a benchmark in innovation management, achieving a return in European funding for its clients that has exceeded 700 million euros in the H2020 Framework Programme.
Zabala Martínez was a pioneer in European programmes when Spain joined the Common Market (1986). Between 1986-1988, the European Commission had already established its Directorates-General (DGs) and it decided to create one specifically dedicated to SMEs, initially as an “SME Task Force;” however, it quickly acquired the status of “Directorate General for SMEs.”
In 1988, Zabala was awarded his first European contract within the SME Task Force to carry out a study on policies to improve innovation in European SMEs, and as a result, he was chosen to participate in the SPRINT programme dedicated to international technology transfer, which was born out of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for R&D&I and the First Community Framework Programme.
Zabala has also acquired experience as an external evaluator of European proposals for the Commission, which is something rare back in those early years.
He has carried out and participated in different studies for regional, national and European institutions and administrations, such as the following:
- Review of the Spanish Science and Technology and Innovation Strategy EECTI 2013-2020, commissioned by the European Commission.
- Participation in the Peer Review (independent international audit on Spanish science and R&D&I), organised by the Secretary of State for R&D and the European Commission with international experts (2014).
- Development of regional innovation strategies and RIS3 (Research and Innovation Smart Specialisation Strategy – Estrategia de Especialización Inteligente en Investigación e Innovación) for different regions (Navarra, Valencia, Cantabria, La Rioja, Extremadura…).
- Development of various regional Technology Plans. It is worth highlighting the design of the first three Technological Plans of Navarra, drawn up with the broad participation of agents, mainly companies, from the innovation ecosystem in Navarra, placing Navarra in the position of national leader with an R&D/GDP investment of 2.13% in 2009.
Zabala has been invited to different forums of interest and has given lectures in knowledge centres; among them, we highlight some of the following:
- Conference of Rectors of Spanish Universities and the CYD Foundation, in the Financial City of Banco Santander, as part of the summer courses of the Complutense University (2014).
- UIMP Business and Public Sector Meetings, Directorate General of Industry, SMEs, Trade and Crafts (Government of Aragon) and University.
- National Autonomous University of Mexico UNAM (2013)
- Collaborations with the Fundación Empresa-Universidad de Navarra and Fundación Universidad-Sociedad de la Universidad Pública de Navarra.
He has written and published several articles, to name a few:
- Dinero europeo para I+D y emprendedores
- Una ley de innovación e innovadora
- Desgravación por cesión de resultados intangibles
- El desafío de la innovación abierta
Since 2014, he is a member of the CEOE’s R&D&I Commission, responsible for maintaining a dialogue with the Administration and with different organisations and entities related to R&D&I activities and policies at a national level.
In Navarra, he is a member of the CEN Advisory Council, a consultative body made up of highly qualified professionals with recognised business careers, strategic visions and experience in management and organisation. Its main function is to collaborate, share information and provide advice from “different perspectives, professions and realities” to study the needs of companies in Navarre, establishthe most appropriate measures to alleviate the current situation and better position the community for the future.
He has received the following awards:
- “Francisco de Javier 2019” Award. Government of Navarre (Madrid, 2020)
- “Donostia WeekInn” Honorary Award. San Sebastian City Council and Fomento de San Sebastian (Donostia, 2018).
- “Entrepreneurial Spirit” Award. Official Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and Luxembourg (Brussels, 2016).
- “Entrepreneur of the Year 2015″ Award. Business Confederation of Navarre – CEN and Business in Navarre (Pamplona, 2016).
- “Innovation” Award. Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Navarre (Pamplona, 2006).
- “ASTER Award for Professional Trajectory”. ESIC (Pamplona, 2003)