INNOVATION CAPACITY

Mexico 2017 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Enrique Cabrero Mendoza, Director General of National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT), on investing more in science, technology, and innovation and positioning Mexico as a knowledge economy.

Dr. Enrique Cabrero Mendoza
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Enrique Cabrero Mendoza received his PhD in management sciences at HEC in France. He studied a program of pedagogical improvement at the French Centre d’Enseignement Supérieur des Affaires (CESA) and a doctoral program in management focused on politics and state-owned companies. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from the Center for Economic Research and Teaching and a bachelor of arts in administration from the Autonomous University of San Luis Potosi. He has been a visiting professor in several academic institutions such as L’École Normale Supérieure and HEC in France, the University of Birmingham, and the Autonomous University of Barcelona, among others.

What advancements have you seen in CONACYT's Program for Science, Technology and Innovation (PECITI) for 2014-2018 in Mexico?

The advancements have been considerable. PECITI has five important directions; the first is investing more in science, technology, and innovation. In the last four years, the federal government has increased resources by 40%, which currently represents above 0.5% of GDP. It is the largest investment in history by the federal government in science, technology, and innovation. Nevertheless, we still need more investment from the private sector, which has grown less steadily. Because of that, we have reinforced the Program of Stimuli to Innovation. Companies present technology and innovation projectsand once they are evaluated, we finance them along with the companies. In 2016, we invested MXN4.122 billion, in addition to the MXN4.165 billion in private investment.

What is your opinion of the Mexican human capital in research and development?

Mexico has taken advantage of the available opportunities to become a high-quality manufacturing country. However, this competitive advantage has an end date because the cost of labor will increase as the country develops and the quality of life improves. We have worked hard to create capabilities for research and scientific and technological development that are more attractive than just the cost of labor. For example, Mexico has great potential for development in the aerospace sector. Once foreign companies come to our country and see our work, research, and development capabilities, they will install here, as has happened in Baja California, Querétaro, Sonora, Chihuahua, and Nuevo León. In a similar fashion, Audi, CONACYT, and the government of Puebla created a leading training and technological development center in Audi's Puebla plant. We would like to replicate this within the automotive sector in order to generate specialization capabilities. Mexico is transitioning from being an automotive assembler to a generator of knowledge and innovation in the sector. The country is also well positioned in biotechnology, especially in the subsectors of pharmaceutics and agri-foods. We promote innovation in the southern states as well. The interest in these regions is to generate knowledge chains for the production of the agri-food industry.

What role does CONACYT play in training and developing the skills of human capital for SMEs?

Mexico is not yet creating the most advanced technologies; however, we are generating an intermediate innovation capability for supply chains in the automotive and aerospace sectors. This is where Mexican companies are able to integrate into more sophisticated value chains. We are capable of forming highly skilled engineers for these industries by linking with companies and developing research consortia that work closely with them. We are developing the electronic part of the automotive sector in Aguascalientes, the tooling and molding for this industry in San Luis Potosí, the safety and lighting systems in Guanajuato, and a cluster for plastic production in Tlaxcala.

What are your goals until the end of this administration in 2018?

The most important achievement of CONACYT in the coming years will be applying science, technology, and innovation for economic development, competitiveness, and social welfare. In the last few years, the industry, civil society, and academic institutions have realized this value. If we want to position ourselves in the knowledge economy, we have to accelerate investments and linkage strategies, and not only be a country that receives manufacturing and assembling investments. We must have the capacity to be creative and innovative, and strengthen strategic value chains. Mexico is a relatively stable country, although there is a certain variation between administrations in terms of policy orientation. President Peña Nieto has directed us to give continuity to our programs for 20 years and more. We are visualizing this through a reform of CONACYT that will give us greater autonomy and continuity in budget planning. Our purpose is to make CONACYT an institution that is not influenced by political changes and preferences and that is able to continue with its programs and long-term strategies.