Building the Foundation for Wider R&D Recognition

Thu, 09/01/2016 - 11:07

The automotive sector is booming but Mexico already is adjusting its sites to focus on the next target: R&D. The country is not yet known for its research and engineering prowess but groups like the Electrochemistry Research and Technology Development Center (CIDETEQ) are working to change that.

Building a reputation as a testing and engineering provider is essential for continued development, says Gabriel Siade, Director General of CIDETEQ. The organization is implementing a global strategy in line with that goal. For thelasttwoyears,ithasorganizedaforumtohighlight its technological services. The first focused on materials for the automotive industry and the second on water treatment solutions. “We are consolidating the knowledge and expertise we have accumulated over our 25 years to figure out the best way to offer our services to more clients, especially in our water treatment division,” Siade says.

A key is convincing companies to look locally for research and testing. In the automotive segment many foreign companies will send their equipment abroad to complete quality and safety-testing processes, a resource and time- consuming undertaking.

CIDETEQ offers these services. The organization’s R&D center in Queretaro has worked with 260 companies since its inception in 1991. Of those, 100 are in the automotive sector, for which it mainly focuses on corrosion testing. Siade says that even though most companies in the industry, and also in aerospace, have preferred to send their equipment to India, China and the US, they are finding CIDETEQ’s services competitive in quality, logistics and delivery times. “Sending a component all the way to India or China usually means delaying production for close to three weeks. We can provide results in about 24 hours,” Siade says.

CIDETEQ’s facilities are equipped to carry out accelerated corrosion and weathering tests. “One of our most recent projects was the phosphating of components for a Swedish company, which had to comply with stringent specifications,” explains Arturo Corona, Director of Technology Services at the National CIDETEQ. “We supported the company for a year and a half, developing the necessary tests to prove the material’s efficiency.”

CIDETEQ has 97 certified processes covering water, food, residue, metallurgy and chemical applications. The center is also certified by the National Water Commission (CONAGUA) and the Federal Commission for the Protection Against Sanitary Risk (COFEPRIS) for water treatment processes, and by Bombardier for its aerospace activities. It also has AS 9100 and ISO 9001 certification. The organization’s operations mainly target the Bajio region, comprising Guanajuato, Queretaro and Jalisco, as well as the north in Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon, Coahuila and Sonora. The center also has a strong presence in Mexico City, the State of Mexico, Puebla and Hidalgo.

“We work closely with companies like Henkel and PPG, mostly focusing on coating solutions development,” says  Luis Godínez, Science Director of CIDETEQ. “Our coating testing involves everything from the solution formulation to the engineering of deposition systems for industrial applications, as well as their resistance to corrosive environments.”

Although most of its services are directed at Tier 1, Tier 2 and SMEs, providing routine testing and failure analyses, the organization also works directly with GM, Ford and Volkswagen and is targeting the Japanese. “We have recently acquired specific equipment to test components for Japanese corporations and we have started negotiations to collaborate with one of them,” Corona says. “Our goal is to strengthen our participation in this market segment, especially considering the development of the Japanese cluster in Guanajuato and the Bajio region.”

One of CIDETEQ’s advantages is its diverse research and technology applications. The center is working on coating developments based on nanostructured materials. “One of our latest patents was a coating with a base of silver nanoparticles that help with the decontamination of components, specifically for handrails,” Godínez says. “But these nanostructured projects are still being researched.”

While this project might be in its early stages, CIDETEQ is already applying its findings to the fuel sector with biodiesel and bio jet fuel solutions. “Our research into residue exploitation and the improvement of catalytic processes is beyond the research phase and we already have clear application goals for the medium to long term,” says Francisco Rodríguez, Head Researcher at CIDETEQ. “We are participating in the biodiesel and bio jet fuel cluster thanks to an initiative from CONACYT, alongside other companies and R&D centers, including the Applied Innovation Center in Competitive Technologies (CIATEC).”

Collaboration is essential within the CONACYT network and even though CIDETEQ does not focus on machining applications, the center collaborates with the Center for Advanced Technology (CIATEQ) in more complex projects. According to Siade, CONACYT normally forms partnerships between research centers and universities, like the Autonomous University of Queretaro, to address nationwide projects. Initially, the center’s priority was the automotive industry but it is also participating in projects for biofuels, fuel cells and 12 more research areas. “CONACYT has seven research centers and 40 smaller units throughout the country,” Siade says. “Even though these centers are divided into science, technological and social areas, this does not prevent us from working with them on different projects. Our objective is not only to strengthen our individual position but also foster a competitive environment of innovation through healthy collaboration with other institutions.” Putting words to action, CIDETEQ is forming a group of six R&D centers that will focus on technology transfer.

One aspect that needs addressing is human capital. Certified by CONACYT, CIDETEQ offers two graduate programs. The first follows the traditional Masters and PhD model in electrochemistry or environmental studies. “Both of these programs are unique in the country,” says Godínez. “We have graduated 150 students from these programs since we started offering them in 1998 and 92 percent work in the corporate sector.” The center is starting to implement its second graduate program, a Masters in innovation with a specialization in electrochemistry or environmental studies for working students. “We enroll people that want to solve specific problems in their own industry,” Godínez says. “That way, students do not have to leave their jobs and most of the work happens in the company itself. We already have five people in this first class, and we think there is excellent potential in the market for these programs.”