[MEXICO CITY] The Mexican government has increased the funding available to firms to do research aimed at kick-starting innovation to US$230 million this year, up from last year's US$150 million.
The funding programme, which is run by the country's National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT), offers direct incentives aimed at boosting private sector research that can lead to commercial outcomes, and has been a success so far according to CONACYT.
But while representatives of both industry and academia have welcomed the extra funds, they also want the government to do more to foster innovation and improve the economy.
- Funding for private sector innovation projects has increased to US$230 million a year
- Nine-tenths of last year's projects involved academic collaboration
- Representatives of business and academia want R&D tax breaks
The programme, set up in 2009, provides money for small and medium enterprises to invest in science and technology activities, and for larger companies to spend on research aimed at making them more competitive. The government calculates that for every peso it spends through the programme, companies spend one more.
Alejandro Farías Zúñiga, assistant director of business technology at CONACYT, says the programme uses government funding to complement the investment made by firms, and aims to boost the private investment in science. "Resources coming from companies are important," he says.
The programme has also reinforced the link between the academic and private sectors, resulting in concrete outcomes for the firms, according to CONACYT.
For example, the proportion of company projects funded through the programme that involved collaboration with the academic sector rose from 69 per cent in 2009 to 91 per cent in 2012, according to Farías Zúñiga. The total number of projects supported though the programme also increased, from 503 in 2009 to 522 in 2012, he adds.
Overall, 473 out of the some 500 participating companies have worked with universities and research centres since 2009. In 2009 alone, firms applied for 180 patents and developed 28 new brands as well as a further 36 projects that they considered to be trade secrets.
Yet representatives of both the private sector and academia have urged the government to do more to boost research.
The Business Coordination Council (CCE) and the Scientific and Technological Advisory Forum (FCCyT) have called for the reintroduction of an incentive programme that ran between 2001 and 2008. This allowed firms to offset their research and development spending against taxation up to a limit of 30 per cent of their overall bill.
Both organisations also want centres for innovation, development and technology created to bring together the private sector, academics and the government.
Together, these proposals would only cost the government an extra US$10-12 million a year, the forum said in a press release last month (29 January), but they could boost private investment in innovation by between US$31–36 million a year and would make it easier for Mexico to reach its goal of investing one per cent of GDP (gross domestic product) in science.