News Article

Mexico is Ready for More R&D

By Alejandro Enríquez | Thu, 09/23/2021 - 18:31

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Mexico is home to 14 light vehicle OEMs, 10 heavy vehicle OEMs and hundreds of Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers. While it is a promising land for manufacturing operations, companies are now recognizing its potential for R&D and engineering operations, and investing accordingly.

"In the early 2000s Faurecia’s three facilities in Puebla were fully focused in manufacturing. But, the company was aware of where the industry was going so it started to invest in engineering operations. In 2007, we launched our first R&D center in Santa Fe,” says Karla Góngora, R&D Director México of Faurecia. Years later, the company realized it was ready for new R&D centers and launched one for seating and interiors.

Other companies have also seen Mexico’s potential for engineering and research. Bosch inaugurated and R&D center in Guadalajara, also known as “Latin America’s Silicon Valle” for its technology parks and companies, in 2014. Bosch now has about 450 employees in that center but aims to double its capacity within the next five years, said Eduardo Watty, Mobility Director Mexico at Bosch. The company also has an engineering center in San Luis Potosi that focuses on powertrain solutions and electrification. “Mexico is becoming a country not only for manufacturing operations but also for product and software development. Mexico is having a more prominent role by capitalizing on its competitive advantages to accelerate its role in the automotive sector,” said Watty.

The country is shifting from maquila production–manufacturing low-technology parts at a smaller cost–to “mindfacturing,” a play on the words “mind” and “manufacturing” meant to reflect the education, knowledge and technical capabilities of the local labor force. Now, the priority is for universities and training centers to provide the talent the sector needs. “We need to generate that knowledge. It is necessary that new students and graduates have a mindset for innovation," says Alejandro Rojo, Director of Automotive Center for Advanced Mobility at Tecnológico de Monterrey, one of Mexico’s leading private universities.

Mexico’s mindfacturing trend is only a reflection of the country’s “natural evolution,” said René Montaño, Director of CIDETEQ, a chemical research center in Queretaro. “There has been an evolution from manufacturing to design and engineering. It is an opportunity to innovate and acquire experience. It is also a natural evolution as Mexico improves its capabilities to train human resources.”

The accelerate rate at which the automotive sector demands product innovation is driving both companies and research centers to innovate. “It is all about where are we going and what we are expecting from mobility in the future,” said Watty. There are four major mobility trends, he adds. The first is personalized mobility, which implies the incorporation of new services and solutions that allow for digital interaction. Second is autonomous mobility, which requires different architectures for AI applications that foster its advancement. At Bosch autonomous mobility “is part of our vision to have zero accidents. We are incorporating sensors and lidars to ensure a safer environment.” The third is connected mobility, which Watty forecasts will gain more importance in the coming years as vehicles use a wider variety of services. Fourth is electrified mobility. “We need new powertrains and standards that reduce our carbon footprint. At Bosch we remain active in powertrain electrification and we continue improving our ICE engines in our R&D center in San Luis Potosi. In Guadalajara, we have our software development center. We are pushing forward that mobility is fun, wonderful and financially efficient,” said Watty.

Research centers and universities are supporting companies achieve their autonomous and electromobility goals. “We have focused in the development of electric and autonomous vehicles as they are our two strategic pillars for 2030. For over 15 years we have supported companies design electric power trains and we have created a solid national network that supports different companies in different regions. We are now assessing autonomous and electric vehicle capabilities,” said Rojo. CIDETEQ is also supporting electrification projects. “CIDETEQ is an electrochemistry center in which we study electro deposits and how chemistry produces electricity. We develop batteries, fuel cells and other elements,” says Montaño.

Mexico has the resources, potential, infrastructure and people become an R&D destination. It only needs support and collaboration among all players in the country. “We have a clear vision of all that Mexico can achieve and we are committed to provide all the tools it needs to do so,” says Gógnora.

Alejandro Enríquez Alejandro Enríquez Journalist and Industry Analyst