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[MEXICO CITY] Importing technology instead of producing it costs Mexico up to five per cent of its gross domestic product, according to a senior government official.

Cesar Cordova, chair of the Chamber of Deputies's science committee, said that Mexico's lack of technological independence cost US$36 billion in 2003, the last year for which data are available.

The statements were made at a regional meeting on science and technology held last month (23 August) in the central state of San Luis.

Cordova told SciDev.Net that instead of being constrained by the policies of each successive president, Mexico needed a national strategy for science and technology for the period 2006 to 2030.

His parliamentary committee hopes to get all candidates for next July's presidential election to sign an agreement to push for this.

Cordova added that the committee — together with Mexican scientists and entrepreneurs — has put together a range of "very concrete proposals" for investment in fields in which they feel can jumpstart development and narrow the technological gap.

These include biotechnology, renewable energy, genomic medicine, nanotechnology and water.

Octavio Paredes, president of the Mexican Academy of Sciences, told SciDev.Net that a major increase in funding is needed to restore Mexico's ability to carry out innovative research.

"The 'green revolution' was born in this country and we could reactivate the field relatively quickly," Paredes said, referring to research that began in Mexico in the 1940s and led to new varieties of high-yielding, pest-resistant wheat.

Cordova says some steps are being taken in the right direction. This year, the Mexican Congress has offered financial incentives of up to three billion pesos (US$277 million) for private companies to invest in scientific research and technological development.