TBY talks to Jorge Cossío Acedo, President of DuPont Mexico, on the company’s history in Mexico and the future of scientific and technological development.
TBY DuPont has been operating in Mexico for 86 years, and has achieved a strong reputation in this market. What has made DuPont so successful locally?
JORGE COSSÍO ACEDO Our core values enable us to manage the business and focus on the right things. You don’t exist in a country for 86 years—and globally for 209 years—without strong values to guide you. We always make sure to stay true to our four core values: safety, respect for the environment, respect for people, and ethical business operations. We are also defined by our strong tradition of science-based innovation. Our company has very strong scientific capabilities that enable us to innovate as the market changes so that we can identify and respond to our customers’ needs. That emphasis on innovation has manifested itself in the strong growth we’ve experienced in Mexico over the last 86 years.
What is the strategic importance of Mexico for DuPont?
Mexico was DuPont’s first international operation outside the US and Canada. Our total value as part of DuPont in terms of sales is about $1.7 billion annually out of $5 billion worth of sales in Latin America. That includes exports as well. We’re growing at a rate of over 30% in 2011 in comparison to 2010, when we reached historical high levels in sales and earnings. We have a diversified business in Mexico, with all of our 13 strategic business units (SBUs) represented in the country, including seeds (corn and sorghum), food ingredients, coatings, polymers, and imaging and electronics, among others. We have a strong manufacturing base in Mexico, with seven operations in total. We also have seven R&D and application centers in the country, with 3,000 employees. We consider ourselves a high-tech producer, since we’re heavily automated in our facilities. DuPont continues to invest in Mexico. Our geographic location here is perfect for North-South and East-West transactions, nestled between the biggest economy in the world, the US, and Latin America to the south.
In your opinion, what is the most innovative product DuPont has developed, and what made that possible?
We’ve produced many innovative products throughout our history, from the protective layers on astronauts’ uniforms, to materials used in the Mars landing module. We’ve developed technologies to improve everyday life and comfort, such as the discovery of innovative fabrics, as well as for their use in industrial applications, to modern breakthroughs in the synthetic production of Omega-3 using sugar cane as basic feed material, or latest generation crop protection products and biofuel technology, to name a few. We’ve had Nobel laureates working for our company. DuPont has contributed a great deal to food production and food safety technologies. We’ve also been a significant contributor to advancing the energy and transportation industries, and have significant innovation research in the field of alternative energy.
What other investment plans do you have on the horizon?
DuPont will invest around $300 million-$350 million per year over the next three years, including the Altamira expansion. One recent investment involved the acquisition in June 2010 of the Danish food ingredients and enzymes company Danisco, which has a global reach and 400 employees in Mexico. Its sales in Mexico are close to $100 million.
What role do you envision for DuPont in the housing sector after the completion of the sustainable housing project with your partner, Industrias Repshel?
Housing is one of those sectors where we seek partnerships with companies that engage in that sector as their core business. When we become active in a segment, we first identify unmet needs in that particular market, and then work collaboratively with some partners—like Repshel in this case—to develop a solution. Besides being a good business opportunity, I think this fills an important social need in terms of providing affordable, clean housing. It’s the right thing to do, because there is a global housing deficit.
DuPont has partnered with Repshel to provide the science and technology to create a complete polymer-cement encapsulated solution that is self-constructed by the family, can be built in five to seven days, includes running water and electricity, and is by the far the most affordable option on the market. Repshel is in the business of extrusion, which can be used to build not only houses, but schoolrooms, small rural clinics, and so on. Our contribution is titanium dioxide technology as well as other polymer technology and additives, which gives the material resistance, durability, and the necessary refraction required during summer. Besides being a reality in Mexico, the project has already been exported to Argentina and Chile, and is perfect for areas afflicted by natural disasters where you need durable affordable housing for the victims of floods, earthquakes, mudslides, and other natural disasters. They are very solid, and can even resist hurricanes. We also offer coatings for the housing industry.
How would you rate Mexico in terms of technological and scientific development?
I believe Mexico has the potential to grow in that area. We’re still far from fully realizing that potential. When you look at the number of patents in Mexico as a percentage of overall patents globally and in Latin America, it is very low. We have some good initiatives coming through, and government efforts too, but we need a good, long-term collaboration between government, the private sector, and academia if Mexico is to advance in terms of technological and scientific development. We have the right demographics and quality educational institutions. We graduate a high number of engineers from multiple disciplines every year, and have a very skilled workforce. Mexico’s potential is being acknowledged if you consider the number of multinational companies investing in the country. DuPont is developing an innovation center in Mexico to connect with all its main global R&D centers as well as to coordinate with its seven R&D and application centers around Mexico and leverage DuPont technology for the benefit of its customers in the region.
What role do you envision for the future of DuPont in the Mexican market and Latin America?
Latin America has great potential. DuPont’s sales in Latin America in 2002 were $1.2 billion; in 2011 they are expected to reach $5 billion, and by 2019 about $10 billion. Our average rate of growth over the next few years will be two to three times higher than GDP in the region. We expect to double our sales over the next five years, and we’ve tripled our sales over the last seven or eight years. DuPont’s role in Mexico’s development will grow in the areas of the three identified megatrends I mentioned: food production, alternative energy sources, and the protection of people and the
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