We are going through a very positive moment in Mexico, at a macro level, what are the reasons behind this favorable wind and this prosperity?
I think that, I am going to talk about Nuevo Leon’s case that is what matters to us. I can say we are very proud to be the leading state regarding the GDP per capita, Nuevo Leon has 18,500 dollars versus the Mexican national media which is approximately 9,000 dollars. That is the reflection, if we compare that this state has 4% of the population and the region generates 8% of the country’s GDP. That means this is a very productive area, very competitive, exporting area. And there have been many reasons for this. First of all, entrepreneurship is a significant characteristic in the DNA of the culture of people from Monterrey. Second, there is team work. We are used to work together with the government, the academic sector and businessmen. That is what this society has built. Another factor to be highlighted is the privileged geographic position we have. Our proximity to the US is an advantage to export to interesting markets like the US and Canada. This has been achieved during 500 years since the city was founded. Monterrey is a synonym of Nuevo Leon because 90% of the state PIB is concentrated here and 4.5 million out of 5 million people live in Monterrey. As you know, it is a city, state, made of several cities surrounded by industrial parks. There is a big number of foreign companies established here, in Monterrey, that means we are a multicultural community. There are companies from Japan, the US, European, Italian, Swedish, Finish, etc. This is the reflection of a culture of globalization the country adopted in the 70s that lead to this 44 foreign trade agreements. But it is also a community that gives especial and strategic value to human capital. It is not by chance that 3 out of 4 state universities were created by the private sector. That is not a phenomenon you can see in other parts of the country. Most universities are public funded with state or federal government. But in this case the business community of Nuevo Leon insisted on founding higher education institutions, their own universities to prepare the human talent industrial and economic development requires. So there is great commitment to education. As a result, Nuevo Leon is known as the industrial capital of the country due to its large universities and entrepreneurial spirit. Well that entrepreneurial spirit encourages us to pursue a GDP not of 18,500 dollars per capita but of 35,000 dollars per capita, which is our goal. To reach that ambitious goal, not for next year but in the long term, our current productive sectors need to enrich the added value of products and services they produce. The second component involves creating the necessary conditions to have new business of an economy based on knowledge, and that is a powerful driving force. If we want to access these GDP per capita levels the only possible formula is this. It has been established by society, the government and the academic sector. Based on a clear research carried out ten years ago, we decided to reinforce the state’s research capacity, increase the number of scientists and technicians, of research centers, high technology business incubators, and to create the conditions and financial ecosystem to support a high added value venture. So we designed a plan. It was based on several important facts. The first one was passing a law to encourage knowledge and technology innovation. In 2009 we created the Innovation Institute of Transference and Technology, a public body responsible for science, technology and innovation programs and policies. We also established an idea that is not original as it has existed for years in Spain, to find a focus in economic areas. The idea of strategic clusters was born then and we already have in the state. Within this legal framework, the institutional has also developed a 25 year program, which is not usual in countries like Mexico with sexennial planning horizons, like government terms. Those projects require the preparation of human frameworks, institutions and that takes time. We also realized that young university students needed safe destinies. We are supporting our universities to be research and postgraduate universities producing a large number of professors and doctors in different scientific and technological disciplines. But the question is where are these boys going to work? So if we do not worry and at the same time our economic sector enriches and sophisticates its added value and we do not worry about encouraging new business based on innovation, then the only destination of our young people will be Canada, the US or Europe. We recognized that the most important strategic asset is its people, especially young prepared people. That is why we decided to develop this strategy and we came out with this idea of economy and society based on knowledge. With complete intellectual honesty we recognized that Nuevo Leon needed research centers and we facilitated the conditions to carry this out. We currently have 85 research centers in the state. There are 50 in university campus and 33 in the PIIT, which wants to become a powerful hub of knowledge, research, innovation but especially a multi-thematic space to generate new products, services, technologies and businesses with high added value. We realized that focused great part of our efforts and talent to Nuevo Leon institutions. We need to strengthen the scientific and technological infrastructure. As you have mentioned, we currently have a technological research park representing an investment of almost 400 million dollars, 100 of which come from the government and the rest from third parties. With this principle of work formula government, academy, businesses, the park is living proof that occurs in the practice. Because saying we work together is very nice but we need to prove it with facts. Well there we have the park with 33 centers, half of them are private companies, international or local, and the rest belong to public research centers or local, national or foreign universities such as the University of Texas. We also created the conditions for developing high technology incubators. We have one working for nano-materials, next year we will have a biotechnology one and we will get others for IT and renewable energy. This is a powerful infrastructure. There are 1,500 people working right now, in 2013. They are well-paid employees, professors, doctors, scientists, technologists, engineers. The project involves 50 research centers with 5,000 or 6,000 people working together, discovering the future, transforming ideas into products and new businesses and helping Nuevo Leon businessmen to incorporate to their culture this innovation as a life style, and using fiscal resources to facilitate the linkage between companies, research centers and universities.
I think that this cooperation space is an example that working as a team things can be made quickly because other parks in the world took 20, 30…I have just visited The Research Triangle Park in Carolina where Riley and Dunhan coincide. Well they began in 1950, but we did this in six years, proving things can be done when you have the vision and will. This is a key piece of the strategy. Another important thing is the training of talent. We have scholarship programs to send brilliant young people to study at the best universities in the world. We do this because we believe we should increase de number of scientists and technologists in Nuevo Leon from 2,500 to 25,000. That takes time. Students need to be sent to the best universities in the world, and we are doing that. We send 200 people every year to the best universities and to scientific and technological areas according to our interests. We have to complement this with the financing system of the venture which involves support funds for entrepreneurs. We have a 200,000 dollars support fund so that good business cases become real. And we have complemented this with the financing instruments from associations of investment angels together with venture capital funds, which are risk capital funds. We need to create this ecosystem, because ideas and knowledge per se cannot get beyond the lab if we do not add the commercial ingredient, the business and financial plan and the entrepreneurs to make those ideas realities in the market. I think the international component plays a very important role. Nowadays, international cooperation is essential, so we started attracting prestigious universities to the park. We already have the University of Texas with us, we have invitations and advanced research processes to bring other American universities. We can offer talented people, multicultural, bilingual people, an interesting domestic market and a place where doing things costs one third of what it costs in the US.
And the foreign universities with a presence in the PIIT, what are they exactly? Are they research departments?
Yes, for example, the University of Texas is part of the ICS, the institute furthering entrepreneurship and science and technological commercialization in the University of Texas, investing more 750 million dollars a year in research just in Austin. They come to give an MS in Science and Technology Commercialization. It has had 150 graduates in the last few years and that is an important catalyst. They also have postgraduate dual-courses between the University of Texas and universities and research centers here. Well, it is very hard for a community to do everything by itself. You have to go to the best places, with the best talent and take the competitive advantages around the world. We have understood that well. We are connected with Texas due to geographical circumstances, trade, etc. and it has been the main focus of attention regarding collaboration. But that does not mean we are not doing it with Europe, Canada, etc. The international component is very valuable for the strategy. Let’s summarize that. The adventure in the last seven years of economy and society of knowledge, and the strategic role played by parks, scholarships, funds to companies for innovation projects, collaboration between universities and centers and companies. I think this is symptomatic. It is in the DNA of Nuevo Leon businessmen, the strategic importance of innovation. We understand that, there are local companies that are global. There are more than twenty groups from Monterrey participating with their plants and businesses from all over the world. When you start competing with others you realize the war in the market is fought with the brain, not with resources or workforce as in the past. I think Monterrey society is excited about it and this is no longer a project of the government but of the community and that is very interesting.
A project for the community, a strategy, you are talking about 25 years, there has been a plan an there is a plan. I would like to place how science and technology contribute to the composition of industrial production. How do they participate per se?
I could mention several things. An indicator is we believe this long trip a country, region or state has to make of systematically investing in knowledge takes time. The country as a whole invests 0.4% of its GDP in this subject. It seems President Peña has encouraged us to invest, by the time his term ends, 1% of the GDP in science, technology and innovation. I estimate Nuevo Leon is around 0.6% more or less and we hope to reach EU standards in the next five years, which is 2.3% of Nuevo Leon’s GDP. Another important feature is Nuevo Leon’s higher education system. There must 150,000 people attending higher education, 15,000 MS and doctorates producing 5,000 engineers. Thanks to God everybody is finding a job. The number of patents has increased. There are 250 projects between companies and research centers and universities every year of different calibers. Investment funds of the state and federal government are allocated there, which stands for 30 million dollars next year. And we should add the private sector. It would be 70 million dollars in research and innovation projects. Talking about the development of new businesses, in the last two years, 38 out of 300 business cases were high technology projects. They are all still working. And there are incubators in the universities. What I mean is that the culture of the significance of research, innovation, postgraduate courses is already present in the lives and minds of businessmen. That is a qualitative leap. That causes an immitation effect. We were not surprised before when we saw a foreign group developing a technology research center, but we are surprised local companies are currently developing their own centers.
In terms of the policies behind this sector, could we talk about decentralization? Do states have enough power in the area or is there too much regulation?
There is more decentralization every time. The most important center of gravity still is the federal government. That is something the Treasury Tax Reform will modify because a modern tax reform should turn states into active players of tax collection and their allocation because there are still many asymmetries. From every fiscal peso Nuevo Leon generates in taxes it gets 30 cents back. We understand it is part of the fiscal pact, but not quite. Everybody should work harder, because then the most productive ones, taking the lead are punished. So you are not rewarding success. These things are structural issues. A visionary tax reform should make it more equitable for everybody. Those are the challenges to become a more solidarity-focused society with the country. Not always a captive taxpayer basis sustains everything. That is incorrect.
Monterrey, international knowledge city. That is the program encompassing the GDP project. I wanted to know, what personal satisfactions has this project given to you?
I have great fun. I do not believe in people cults or personality. Those are vanities have no value. I have had fun simply because I am an entrepreneur. And I like challenges, being involved in complex challenges. Everything complex attracts me a lot. For example, materializing an idea was a challenge for me. People say ideas are worthless, but ideas are valuable when there is motivation to make them come true. And that is hard work. But I have had great fun. But success is not acknowledged. This project is not mine. A project succeeds when what you thought is not in your mouth but in others’ mouth. That was when I said I have triumphed. Then all human beings are very possessive. True success is when other people believe in what I believe because it shows your effectiveness, a proposal of value to society. You achieve that when everybody talks about it. The PIIT is a project of the community. I personally went and acted as someone inviting you to a party, and once we were all there we had fun. I am glad that I dream about developing big ambitious projects that generate national pride, because Mexico needs that. Mexicans are always looking for icons of success. There is always a feeling of defeat. That is the syndrome of the conquered and those history stupidities. A country needs to be an icon of success. I am very glad other states are copying what we are doing here. It makes me extremely happy because it means they believe it is an idea and a good practice to follow. The stateof Yucatan is constructing a 500 hectare park, Chihuaha will build two parks, and two more are being planned in Hermosillo. I knew that was going to happen and it was out goal. That could only be successful in a place like this. We had the conditions for it, the culture, the actors, the maturity of the government and businessmen. Monterrey and Nuevo Leon have the obligation to open the gap. That is a leader’s role, to break paradigms and create new ones, and to go after new horizons, noblesse oblige. People come from all over the world and the origin always calls their attention. Look, money always appears. A good idea never lacks money, never. You have to get it, that is another story and you should work hard. You need to work, convince and captivate. Because there is a good party, there should be pretty girls and handsome men, and it is better if they are rich. Those are the ingredients for a pizza, and we have to supply them.
We know you were given this responsibility to develop this project. Tell us more about you, what was your career path to get here? Who is Dr. Jaime Parada?
I have been very lucky in my life because I always embraced this topic as a life plan. There are people jumping in their profession and I tried to be faithful to this. I have been doing this for 35 years. 35 years in the academic sector working as professor teaching in the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, working and creating research centers. I have created like 15 while working in the private sector in large groups in Monterrey like Whirlpool, Vitro, etc. and in the federal government sector as director of CONACID and in the state government. Sometimes people say well why does this man, who was at forefront of science, go to the state? And I say that after CONACID I got to where I had to get. Nowadays important things happen in communities. That is why I started this adventure. I have been very lucky because having experience in the private, academic, research, business, and state-government sectors gives you a 360° vision and makes things easier. You also create relational capital. Because who do you invite to a party? Friends go because they believe in you. Life gives you that, friendships, people you care about and then hard work. When I was at CONACID, public policies and programs do not have a face. At a national level that is very complicated. At a regional or local level, policies, programs and actions have a face. It is easy to meet businessmen and professors and build a joint dream. That process is very complicated at a federal level. Different changes were the cause. We passed the law, developed fiscal incentives, we did many devilments. These are breaking changes and you should be ready to get hurt. Academics attacked me because I used to say knowledge could not be isolated in articles without having an impact on the economy.