Luis Aguirre-Torres

Opening the Door to Mexican Innovation

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 12:14

Mexico registered only 284 international patents in 2014, according to data from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and ranked 75th of 130 countries evaluated in WIPO’s Global Innovation Index in 2015. Locally, the number of patents registered with the Mexican Institute of Intellectual Property (IMPI) reached a record 18,071 in 2015 but only 7.5 percent were filed by Mexican citizens.

GreenMomentum, a private company focused on clean technology (cleantech), entered the Mexican market in 2009 looking to transform the local entrepreneurship mindset. The company reached its first milestone in 2010 by launching Cleantech Challenge Mexico, a recognized annual business plan competition for cleantech entrepreneurs that has delivered remarkable results. Now, GreenMomentum is taking its mission further by inaugurating Cleantech Lab in Azcapotzalco, one of Mexico City’s districts.

“We define Cleantech Labs as a productive innovation center focused on energy and water technologies. Our lab, designed according to the needs of Mexican entrepreneurs, aims to provide the resources and tools needed to prototype and test technological ideas,” says Luis Aguirre-Torres, CEO of GreenMomentum.

“Most clean energy startups focus on the installation of PV solar panels or the commercialization of foreign technologies. We want to shift the spotlight to hard technology development, for instance, producing a 100 percent Mexican inverter. In this way, we are not only promoting innovation but also job creation and a strong local supply chain,” he adds.

Its seven-year experience organizing Cleantech Challenge Mexico has given GreenMomentum a broad perspective to distinguish promising ideas from a pool of proposals. Several enterprises have made their market entry through Cleantech Challenge Mexico, including Inventive Power, a Jaliscobased company producing Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) equipment for commercial and industrial applications. 

“We have accepted 340 projects this year from a pool of 1,380 applications. We expect less than 50 to result in final products. The proposal’s innovation level is one of the decisive factors to decide whether an idea is accepted or not at Cleantech Labs. We want to support ideas that solve current problems using local products,” says Aguirre-Torres.

GreenMomentum has also identified a barrier for innovative startups in Mexico in the lack of financing options for early stage technologies. The company wants to change the local investment environment not only by enabling contact between entrepreneurs and investors but by investing themselves. “GM Capital is a high-risk investment fund aimed at early stage clean technologies. We know it is not easy to invest early in promising technologies but we want to demonstrate it is worth it.”

Aguirre-Torres also sees an area of opportunity in the approach taken by the Mexican government to support clean technologies in Mexico. “Strategic allocation of resources and lack of financing is the main challenge that needs to be addressed to promote clean technologies,” he says. “Mexico is one of the countries investing the most in clean energy but just a small share is destined for innovation.”

GreenMomentum is trying to leave its mark through its consulting work with the Ministry of Energy and CONACYT. The company is supporting both entities on the administration of the Energy Sustainability Fund, a sectorial fund created to promote the development of clean energy solutions, worth around MX$2 billion.