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[BOGOTÁ] A survey of Colombia's manufacturing industry has revealed a bleak picture of its research, development and innovation sectors, prompting two science institutes to launch a scheme to try to reverse the situation.

Only six per cent of manufacturing companies in and around Bogotá have research and development departments, and over half do not rate innovation as important, according to the survey results released last week (13 December).

They show that though the innovation capacity in manufacturing industries in Bogotá and the surrounding district of Cundinamarca is better than ten years ago, it is still low (see 'Colombia's science progress has been slow, says study').

"The percentage of innovative industries increased from 43 per cent to 49 per cent," said the president of the Chamber of Commerce of Bogotá (CCB), María Fernanda Campo.

The survey was carried out by the CCB and the Colombian Science and Technology Observatory in 2005, and covered 96 per cent of manufacturing industries in the region, numbering almost 420.

Of the respondents, 51 per cent said they do not consider innovation a strategic approach and 31 per cent do not consider it at all, Marisela Vargas, one of the researchers helping to assess the results, told SciDev.Net.

Rafael Hurtado, the director of the Colombian Science and Technology Observatory, added that even so, the few innovations that were identified and that competed nationally and internationally had a low level of novelty.

According to Campo, the reason for this low innovation rate is that companies only respond to customers' demand, or advances done by competitors, and fail to recognise the importance of anticipating future global needs.

To change the situation, the CCB and Colciencias, the National Institute for the Development of Science and Technology, have launched a scheme to narrow the innovation gap.

This will involve channelling 1.6 billion Colombian Pesos (US$700,000) to 16 research projects in technological development and innovation that relate to five product chains.