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Building a City of Knowledge

 

The Mexican state of Nuevo Leon is undergoing a key transition, from being just an industrial state to becoming a high-tech state, to accelerate the local and national economy. During the past three years, Monterrey, the capital of Nuevo Leon, has fostered growth through a knowledge-based economy by launching the Monterrey International City of Knowledge (MICK) Program.  This program seeks to create a better future for Nuevo Leon, a future in which economic growth is the result of innovation, supported by an alliance among local residents, businesses, academic institutions and the government.

The program—created by a local initiative in March 2004 to increase technological innovation—has established a critical mass of infrastructure and organizational arrangements to increase productivity. The Institute of Innovation and Technology Transfer has been created to organize the program; regional knowledge clusters have been promoted in various specialty areas; and funds have been raised to build the Research and Innovation Technology Park (PIIT, after its Spanish acronym), whose purpose is to integrate research and innovation development by linking universities, businesses, and research and development centers. The program has also used state finances to facilitate a greater allocation of matching grants from the National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT) and fiscal incentives to members installed in the PIIT or working under the program umbrella.

The state’s three most important universities—Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon (UANL), the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (ITESM), and Universidad de Monterrey (UDEM)—play a key role in the program. Their mission has been changing from exclusively education to include research and technology services. As a result 13 new research centers have been proposed.

But despite these high-quality business and educational institutions, the system for innovation in Nuevo Leon must be strengthened, says IDB project team leader Pedro Saenz.  “There have been considerable and sustained efforts by enterprises, universities and governments to put in place policies to promote a systematic integration of research activities into regional development strategies and plans, but most stakeholders still find them insufficient.”

Now, to consolidate the MICK Program’s efforts over the past three years, in what could be referred to as Phase I, the IDB’s Korean Technology Fund will allocate a US$272,400 grant with other local counterpart financing to develop a comprehensive master plan for the next steps in the MICK Program’s development (Phase II). 

According to Saenz, Phase II will also conduct a planning exercise to define the potential social contributions MICK can make. The results of this exercise will include the identification of priority investments to help prepare citizens in Nuevo Leon to prosper from the digital-global age, in light of the recent unexpected increase in demand for technological services and industrial parks.

As in the beginning of the program, the long-term goal remains to accelerate Nuevo Leon’s GDP growth by bolstering a knowledge-based economy. But the  purpose of Phase II is to prepare and secure consensus for the MICK Program’s continuity, as well as to suggest pertinent international experiences and good practices in the field. A master plan will serve as a roadmap for  the next eight years, from 2008 to 2015. It will be detailed enough to identify, sequence and pace key activities to achieve the project’s vision, according to Saenz.

In Phase II of the program, the IDB has engaged to help stakeholders and beneficiaries in planning a strategy and consensus to create a regional innovation system. By planning ahead, they will be able to count on the appropriate resources (financing and human capital) when needed, Saenz adds. “We are seeking a sustainable innovation system to be compatible with the whole country’s economic dynamic,” he concludes.

IDB Korean Technology Fund’s Director, Hyunghwan Joo, says that “this project has great potential to replicate in other interested regions of Mexico and other Latin American and Caribbean countries that are interested in building a regional and/or national  innovation system.  The Korean Technology Fund will continue to support for this type of project in the future."