The Never-Ending Journey of Raising Awareness to Take ActionBy Fernando Becerril | Thu, 02/24/2022 - 11:00
A few days ago, while going through the mass of information I receive by email, I came across an item that caught my attention. This email referred to a contest for young innovators in Africa who were to be recognized for developing emerging innovations throughout the African region. Interesting strategy. These young innovators submitted projects that did not necessarily represent great high-tech innovations but were focused on solving everyday health problems in the African region. The award is given to promising young African entrepreneurs as a way of investing in the human capital of the region, supporting these enthusiastic and visionary young people on the long road from innovators to leaders, entrepreneurs and overall change-makers.
Reading this led me to investigate how the innovation system is working in our region. Naturally, it also led me to wonder what we are doing in our country in this regard. The question of how we are facing, as a society, the challenge of promoting technological development and supporting young entrepreneurs who have decided to bet on innovation is difficult to answer because there are not enough elements to reach a definitive conclusion; however, from the data available on the network, it can be concluded that while it is true that there is an enthusiastic, entrepreneurial and dynamic innovation community, it is also true that, except for some honorable and exceptional cases, little attention is given to these young entrepreneurs and much less the required support to bring these kind of innovations and/or technological developments to a point where they can turn their efforts into intellectual capital.
Our country has made considerable efforts to offer a robust legal system that guarantees all the actors involved in the innovation system a safe ecosystem for the correct appropriation and defense of intellectual property rights through different legal tools, such as patents, industrial secrets, trademarks, and other intellectual property rights that are comparable to other standards in the world. In recent years, several related laws have been modified and, as a result of the renegotiation of the former NAFTA that gave rise to the current USMCA, we can assure that the legal intellectual property infrastructure that Mexico has today is sufficiently robust and that it is at the level of the regulations that exist in other countries considered as a reference in the field and whose related legislations are considered state-of-the-art.
The updating of our legislation and our active participation in one of the most ambitious trade agreements on the planet have ratified our country's position in the international economic environment. We cannot fail to mention that Mexico is a country with a clear commercial vocation, which is demonstrated in the large number of free trade agreements signed with different countries and regions of the world, as well as in the large number of international treaties and agreements to which Mexico has adhered. This commercial vocation of our country, as well as its effort to modernize its legislation, has allowed our country to become, despite the current economic and socio-political conditions, an interesting market for large capital and investors across the world, who have shown interest not only in the import and export of goods and products, but also in exploring the convenience of investing in their production and manufacturing in our country. Currently, the legal framework offers great opportunities to build intellectual property assets at a very affordable cost.
What is worrying is that this vision is not fully shared by our co-nationals. Confidence in investing in R&D and the security of an adequate legal system should be incorporated in the national business ecosystem and, even better, in the innovation system which, composed of a great variety of actors from different conditions, undoubtedly has a vocation to invest, develop, protect, and do business in our country.
According to the report of the National Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT), during the period 2010-2019, funding for research and development spending was reduced in real terms by 14.26 percent and 60.69 percent by the government and business sectors, respectively. This decrease in real funding led to a decrease in GDP participation in the same period from 0.49 percent to 0.29 percent. When comparing the situation of our country with some other economies in the region, the ratio of research and development expenditure to GDP in Mexico, which is 0.29 percent, is well below the average for Latin America and the Caribbean, which is 0.62 percent. Countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Chile have a higher R&D expenditure to GDP ratio than Mexico.
This reality clearly indicates that there is a decrease in the contribution of both the public and private sectors in spending for research and experimental development and with it, a clear impact on the real capacity of innovators in our country to carry out R&D work that can be capitalized in intangible assets, developing portfolios that allow us to compete in other economies not only with products but also with competitive technologies.
To decisively address the above, at least from the public sector, CONACYT has created a Special Program for Science, Technology and Innovation 2021-2024 with six priority objectives: strengthening science and technology communities; achieving greater scientific and technological independence; articulating related sectors to solve the country's priority problems with a multidisciplinary vision; articulating science, technology and innovation capabilities, ensuring that scientific knowledge translates into sustainable solutions through technological development; guaranteeing mechanisms for universal access to scientific and technological knowledge; and finally, articulate collaboration between the different levels of government, higher education institutions and research centers to enhance the use and re-use of data and substantive information and guarantee the implementation of science-based public policies. These six established objectives are intended to promote the innovation ecosystem, developing a better environment for innovators and, of course, generating a benefit in our society that today, given the economic, political, social and public health circumstances, demands fast, effective and low-cost solutions.
The legal tools already exist. The human capital is eager to develop, create and innovate. What is most needed is to find the empathy of the public and private sectors, to support innovators, young and not so young, with schemes that allow them not only to create and develop new technologies but also to build a better condition and quality of life for them, for their families and, in general, for the population that today demands it.