Erique Cabrero
Director General
CONACYT
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View from the Top

The Creation of an R&D Powerhouse

Wed, 09/05/2018 - 11:48

Q: Last year, you mentioned the creation of a consortium of translational medicine. What are its main objectives?

A: The goal of the consortium is to bring together many different projects to promote the advance of translational medicine. Through the consortium, institutions that perform high-quality research or engage in technological development can work together with companies. Our partners are UNAM, its research centers and the National Institutes of Health. The latter have the highest research productivity in terms of papers published in the best scientific journals in the world.

Q: How can CONACYT attract more research projects and companies to Mexico?

A: Our tax incentives program attracts private investment in R&D. Through this program, companies present a project that is evaluated by experts from SHCP and CONACYT. If approved, the company is granted a 30 percent tax credit to be used within the next 10 years. This project is gaining strength among large and medium-sized companies, which are already generating their own R&D infrastructure in Mexico.

We notice how foreign companies are increasingly interested in working with us. These companies often consult CONACYT about places where they can establish their business and how to acquire talent.

Q: What are the main challenges to turn Mexico into a knowledge-based economy?

A: Mexico is trying to become a knowledge-based economy, but we have discovered that the window of opportunity to do so is small. Mexico must choose the six or eight sectors in which it will invest to make its mark on the world and both biotechnology and biomedical sciences should be priorities.

Q: The US is Mexico’s largest scientific partner. How would a souring relationship between both countries impact Mexican R&D?

A: The week after the last US presidential elections took place, I received numerous calls from university presidents stating that no political changes would affect their relationship with us. In fact, they want to intensify student exchanges and other collaborative projects. We are also seeing an increasing number of countries willing to perform R&D in Mexico as they see great potential for clinical trials in the country’s public healthcare institutions, such as IMSS or ISSSTE. For instance, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have shown great interest in increasing collaboration with IMSS as the latter has strengthened its research capabilities. The large population of patients in these institutions provides great opportunities for clinical trials.

Q: How is CONACYT extending its collaborative links to other areas in the world?

A: At the beginning of Peña Nieto’s administration, CONACYT lacked the resources to implement an active strategy for international cooperation. For that reason, we focused our strategy in 16 countries: the US, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, the UK, France, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, Japan, China, South Korea, India and Australia. These efforts led to an increase in scientific cooperation between Mexico and many countries, including Germany, with whom many bilateral exchanges have happened in the last years. We also developed binational laboratories with France, the US and other countries that involve funding and researchers from these countries.

Q: What are the main challenges the healthcare system will face in the coming years? How can CONACYT support the sector?

A: During the 1970s, Mexico was praised by the international community for its excellent results in birth control. However, the effectiveness of this policy now shows its negative side, since the age of the population will change in a very short period of time. This will require a complete change of Mexico’s healthcare system as it will have to focus on the elderly.