Ricardo Guerra
Director General
Center for Applied Innovation in Competitive Technologies (CIATEC)
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View from the Top

Pushing Innovation with a Leap of Faith

Thu, 09/01/2016 - 10:59

Q: What technologies are CIATEC developing that have application in the automotive industry?

A: We provide our services to over 1,600 companies every year. Since its establishment, CIATEC has added distinct layers to its R&D operations. Automotive OEMs have well- defined processes that include the creation of designs and engineering, as well as the development of their Tier 1 suppliers. We identified an opportunity for CIATEC to further develop the local automotive supply chain at Tiers 2, 3 and 4.

To understand the types of materials required in the automotive industry, CIATEC had to develop in-depth knowledge of every component involved in vehicle production. Evaluation can give us an understanding of what is needed for companies to enhance the quality of their components. CIATEC has been testing plastics, rubbers and gaskets for over six years to ensure the safety of volatile organic compounds used in vehicles. Our metrology team evaluates all car components right down to minor aspects such as smell.

We became one of Mexico’s top research centers with the help of our airbag laboratory. Even though OEMs have internal testing labs to evaluate these types of products, CIATEC includes design testing. There is no other laboratory that comes close to this. We examine the airbag’s behavior and the way it deploys according to two critical attributes, pressure and timeliness. A successful deployment takes no more than 60 milliseconds but temperature can directly impact this. We are responsible for any variable that might affect a component’s functionality. To detect malfunctions, we perform our studies with high-speed cameras that record up to 6,000fps.

We need advanced technology as well as efficient mechanisms that enable us to obtain and archive data. Our supercomputing facility has a storage capacity of five teraflops, so information can be stored for at least 15 years. Problems may appear at any given point but with this level of information availability, OEMs can detect the exact piece that may have been affected. Given the importance of the tests we perform, it is common to have personnel from both OEMs and suppliers present when we run our evaluations. CIATEC is more than capable of tracking quality and performance. Moreover, we have the tools to develop new technology and correct a flawed component when needed.

CIATEC is the only CONACYT center with a certification program for products, processes and systems. Our center was originally created to oversee the leather and footwear industry. We had to adapt to new production needs, improving advanced manufacturing and lean processes to cater to the more intricate processes involved in the automotive and industry.

Q: What strategies does CIATEC employ to tackle human capital issues in the automotive industry?

A: Mexico has been effective in creating large volumes of engineers, including industrial, chemical and mechanical engineers but we have fallen short in channeling their expertise into the automotive industry. CIATEC was established alongside the Mexican Corporation of Material Research (COMIMSA), in Coahuila, with the help of the University of Coahuila, the University of Guanajuato, the Potosino Institute of Scientific and Technological Research (IPICYT), as well as the University of San Luis Potosi. Through these alliances we created a pathway that facilitates development processes of specialized human capital.

Mexico is one of the main generators of human talent globally, accounting for close to 100,000 engineering graduates every year. Unfortunately, many of them find themselves unemployed as the mechanisms that would support their entry into the automotive industry are lacking. Red tape involved in starting a company makes new project development difficult and innovation even less probable. Mexico has the human capital needed to become an R&D hub and the government is inclined to help its industries. The government invests close to MX$4 billion (US$266 million) every year in its industries, regardless of the size of a company. Not every government provides this kind of support.

Each state sets different industries as the foundation for their economic stability, so we must build on the skillset of Mexican professionals to match the industries with the greatest human capital requirements. Guanajuato is mostly focused on robotics and electronics and in response we are working toward meeting the state’s demands. We have been training our personnel abroad to be specialists in top level industrial specialization processes. These practices enhance the skills of our professionals and their knowledge of international norms and practices.

Q: How does CIATEC’s collaboration with the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI) help entrepreneurs looking to patent their technologies?

A: As an R&D center, CIATEC is extremely focused on patenting. The center is the Bajio region’s number one patenting instrument provider. We have 29 patent

This industry is dynamic and we are evolving every day. Safety is one of our biggest concerns and new technologies can always improve this. Embedded systems, measuring mechanisms and detection methods such as autonomous driving are examples of continuous advances that would liven up the automotive industry.

Q: To what extent does the government and CONACYT support CIATEC?

A: The federal government is the majority stakeholder in CIATEC. We receive between 60-65 percent of the center’s annual budget through the Ministry of Finance and CONACYT. The remaining 35-40 percent is acquired through projects we develop ourselves. Having a certain degree of self-sufficiency will allow us to grow out of government reliance in the long term.

Mexican business must invest in science and technology innovation. We are sure that once the stigma surrounding Mexican research is broken and investors see how capable the industry is, opportunities for Mexican design, development and new product testing could reduce costs and increase efficiency through innovation.

Q: How does the center help Tier 2 and Tier 3 suppliers develop and obtain certifications?

A: CIATEC aims to help companies understand their products as profoundly as possible. We work with the ISO 9001:2015 certification since it offers the necessary traceability for our processes. This standard has helped us understand the way businesspeople think and what they expect from us. We have been tuning into their mindset for 40 years, which has allowed us to understand their train of thought more effectively and offer them more accurate results.

solicitations in the pipeline and six more that have already been awarded. In addition, CIATEC has granted 30 industrial models and designs since its establishment. As well as patent validations, we award development recognition to companies with innovative technologies.

CIATEC likes to take leaps of faith on disruptive projects that we consider groundbreaking. 

We help up-and-coming companies to structure their ideas and develop them through our technology transfer office (OTT), which operates under CONACYT’s endorsement. The OTT performs a market study coupled with a business plan and presents it to companies, helping entrepreneurs access negotiations, investment opportunities and capital ventures. Our interest in technology adds another spectrum to the value chain, rather than a carbon copy of previous methodologies and technology.

Q: To what extent has CIATEC been involved in expanding Mexico’s R&D capabilities?

A: We seek to position our center as a technological service provider with high international standards. The automotive industry is at its peak and we need to keep up. The industry as a whole must create a national strategy that will allow everyone involved in the automotive sector to respond to this rapid growth.

CIATEC is involved in CONACYT’s initiative, the National Attention Strategy for Industrial Sectors, promoting several Mexican industries. These include the automotive, hydrocarbon, aerospace, distribution and logistics, manufacturing and IT sectors. The consortium is invested in minimizing the waste of resources by using every piece of equipment and infrastructure available. This improves efficiency and the integration of specialists, which in return improves the response time within the production sector.