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The Chilean government is investing a record US$100 million in innovative projects this year.

The figure is up from the US$73 million invested in 2007 thanks to an increase in a mining tax, which is expected to yield US$150 million in 2008. All tax proceeds will go into the two-year-old Fund for Innovation for Competitiveness, run by InnovaChile, the innovation department of the Ministry of the Economy.

The government forecasts that total 2008 investment in research and development (R&D) will hit the US$200 million mark if private sector contributions are added. A new tax incentive for private companies to invest in R&D (see Chile law will enable private sector to invest in R&D) may result in more private money going into innovation.

Most of the resources will go to programmes to improve technology and manufacturing processes in five priority sectors: aquaculture, software development for international markets, tourism (improving special interest tourism, such as eco-tourism), mining, and fresh fruits and processed foods.

These were chosen following a study by a US consulting group commissioned by the Chilean government, which compared promising productive sectors worldwide to those where Chile has competitive advantages.

"The thrust of the government's innovation strategy is to foster cooperation among companies in R&D of products and processes, in management and marketing in each of the chosen sectors," says Inti Nuñez, head of the Innovation Division of the Ministry of the Economy.

InnovaChile will promote networks for individuals or groups willing to finance original ideas and the creation of companies to develop them. It will also assist start-up companies to develop projects with an international dimension.

The government is again placing emphasis on small and medium-sized enterprises. Five new support centres — to help enterprises acquire, adopt and adapt useful technologies — will be set up with support from the World Bank. Particular emphasis will be placed on the introduction of new information technologies and improving the efficiency of those already in use.

As in 2007, 25 per cent of the R&D budget will go towards innovative projects submitted by individual states, particularly those that have a good export potential in areas such as mining, salmon fishing and timber products.