Interview : Enrique Cabrero Mendoza
What is being done to improve Mexico’s patent ranking and boost its position as a regional leader in international property rights?
ENRIQUE CABRERO: There are three ways to improve Mexico’s ranking, and all involve providing technical and institutional support to firms in order to drive a universal change in the business culture. From the public sector side, Conacyt, through its network of 27 research centres, is setting up several technology transfer and patent offices to provide guidance to small and medium-sized enterprises that do not have the relevant experience in the field. We have already seen positive development in states such as Querétaro, Chihuahua and Yucatán, as well as growing company engagement.
The other aspect is engagement with educational establishments. There is already a successful programme that brings together academics and researchers with companies in the manufacturing sector. Conacyt pays 50% of an employee’s salary for a year, and the company absorbs the cost the following year should they wish to continue the programme. The success rate has been high, and the initiative is growing fast. It is evident that the private sector-academic link is a fundamental relationship that boosts company engagement with patent development in Mexico.
Lastly, access to information and knowledge is key for business leaders. The state-run national repository is an open-source digital platform that provides open access to different academic, scientific and technological resources. Users can consult science magazines, theses, research protocols, patents and reports. There are 48 repositories nationwide, with over 20,000 separate resources, garnering over 726,000 visits each year.
To what extent is Mexico’s research and redevelopment (R&D) portfolio being expanded by the presence of international firms?
CABRERO: Mexico is now home to a number of key R&D centres established by international firms across a variety of sectors, which are helping to add value to companies’ products and create a multiplying effect throughout their value chains.
The most successful countries in terms of entrepreneurship, such as South Korea, look to foster innovation in networks that bring together entrepreneurs, research centres and public entities. There are a number of foreign companies based in Mexico that are currently contributing to this ecosystem. US tech company Intel has a design centre based in Guadalajara, which designs and tests its digital computer platforms. It also provides local university students with training. US aerospace and chemical firm Honeywell has two design and engineering centres in Chihuahua and Baja California that test equipment, electronics and integrated software for all of Latin America. Meanwhile, German auto parts maker Continental designs and produces products such as airbags and driver information systems. By 2023 it will train 1000 advanced technology engineers for the automotive sector. Fellow car manufacturer Audi collaborates with the Technological University of Puebla to provide specialised training, and BMW is planning to build a development centre in its new San Luis Potosí plant.
How prepared is Mexico for Industry 4.0, and what challenges does it need to address?
CABRERO: According to Deloitte’s 2016 Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index, Mexico ranked 8th out of 40 countries; however, it is clear we have a long way to go before we reach the level of our OECD counterparts, especially in terms of advanced technology. We need to harness the existing Industry 4.0 ecosystems established in cities such as Monterrey and Guadalajara, and use them as a guide to perfect the model for Mexico as a whole, paying close attention to key sectors. The biggest challenge is adapting human capital to this new landscape; we need to ensure that workforce skills complement automation and robotics.
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