Francisco Anton Gabelich

Creating an Applied Research Culture in Mexico

Tue, 01/22/2013 - 16:48

“Ciateq has been working for Pemex for over 15 years in maintenance, technical evaluation of technologies, certification, engineering, and training projects,” says Francisco Gabelich, Director of Ciateq. He explains that these projects have contributed to making Pemex a more competitive and valuable company, since the results of the projects have led to better training of Pemex personnel, more reliable operation of Pemex’s infrastructure, and fulfillment of international standards and regulations. However, besides working in the past on various downstream and midstream projects with Pemex Refining and Pemex Gas and Basic Petrochemicals, Ciateq is currently engaged in a strategic evolution, focusing on upstream projects with Pemex Exploration and Production.

Mexico’s 27 research institutes, spread throughout the country and operating under the National Council for Science and Technology (Conacyt), are divided into three large branches: Social Sciences, Basic Research, and Technology. Even though Ciateq is capable of tackling projects independently, Gabelich explains that the research institute also works with other basic research and technology institutions. “We work with other organizations because, sometimes, finding the best solution for our customers requires a combination of Ciateq’s strengths and the capabilities of other centers that belong to the Conacyt system.”

Currently, Ciateq is involved in multiple projects with Pemex E&P, focusing mainly on increasing oil production at mature fields. “We are working in an alliance with a Mexican company to manufacture oil production equipment in Mexico with the help of a Canadian technology company,” Gabelich details. Furthermore, Ciateq is also working on the remanufacturing of machine tools, a turbo machinery overhaul project, the evaluation and redesign of measurement systems, training for certification of welders for Pemex Refining, and various other engineering projects for Pemex E&P.

Gabelich recognizes that one of the handicaps that Mexican companies, including Pemex, is their dependence on external parties to improve their processes. “If companies cannot adequately define all their technology needs, even though they have a lot of experience in day-to-day operations, they become one hundred percent dependent on suppliers. Ciateq’s strategy is to o†er a master’s degree, using Conacyt financing for scholarships, for employees,” he emphasizes. “The key issue is that the master’s degree final project must be related to the company they work for, to bring benefits back. Through this strategy, Ciateq strives to create a winwin situation for all parties involved: the company will gain advantage from the project and employees will be better trained. Moreover, for Ciateq each scholarship represents a potential new client,” says Gabelich.

Gabelich points out that countries with highly trained workers invest at least 1% of GDP in research and development and therefore in local talent. “In Mexico, we do not have the type of companies that incubate engineering or equipment manufacturing; we incubate commercial systems and spend a lot of money on basic scientific research, even though we do have public research centers devoted to this,” he says.

Ciateq has aligned its processes with Pemex’s Strategic Technology Plan, which identifies and prioritized the technology needs of the Mexican oil and gas industry. The execution of this strategic plan is supported by the Conacyt-Sener-Hydrocarbons fund, which allows organizations such as Ciateq to advance the technological capabilities of Pemex and the Mexican oil and gas industry.

Gabelich believes that compared to more developed economies, Mexico is still in the early stages of becoming a technology and innovation hub. “There are many capable companies in the country, but the most developed countries mainly see Mexico as a country specialized in light manufacturing. However, the federal government is increasingly encouraging Mexican companies to invest in innovation and technology development, which is why funds such as this one are quite important. The country’s attitude towards technology development and innovation is changing, and surely the best years for researchers and institutions are ahead of us as an applied research culture is gradually implemented by Pemex and private companies,” emphasizes Gabelich.