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The IDB and technological innovation in Argentina

Since the middle of the past century, the IDB has been Argentina’s strategic partner in the development of science, technology and innovation with loans totaling over US$1 billion.

Argentina has a strong tradition of science and technology. Its research centers and researchers enjoy international recognition and its firms export high technology products to the world's most demanding markets. The public sector’s support for research and development has intensified in the 21st century. With the creation of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation (MINCYT), the status of science, technology, and innovation (CTI) rose to the level of state policy.

The IDB has a long history of support for CTI. Bank-financed programs have helped Argentina build the pillars of its system of innovation: scientific and technological infrastructure, capacity for scientific research and technological innovation, specialized human resources, and institutional policies and promotion.

Scientific and technological infrastructure

A particularly notable IDB-financed science and technology infrastructure work is the “GIOL” Science and Technology Complex in Buenos Aires. This center for knowledge management and production is also headquarters for MINCYT and its agencies, CONICET and the National Agency for Promoting Science and Technology.Also with IDB support, 20 new scientific centers and laboratories in different fields are under construction in a number of cities.

Among them are the Institute of Catalysis and Petrochemistry (INCAP) in Santa Fe, the Franco-Argentine International Center for Information Sciences and Systems (CIFASIS) in Rosario, and the Astrophysics Institute in La Plata.

In addition, the IDB has supported the provision of modern equipment for scientific and technological activities. Between 2006 and 2010, sophisticated equipment purchased with the help of US$33 million in Bank financing is enabling Argentine researchers to carry out their work at an international level.Scientific and technological researchA second pillar supported by IDB financing is the development of capacity to carry out basic and applied research. Between 2005 and 2010, the Science and Technology Research Fund (FONCYT), which has received IDB support since its inception in 1997, provided financing for more than 4,000 scientific and technological research projects carried out by researchers from the country’s major academic centers. Through these projects, major advances have been made in the field of biomedicine, a field in which the country has a strong tradition.

In fact, Argentina is the only country in the only region with three Nobel laureates in this field.Research supported by FONCYT also helps to address social and productive challenges, such as sustainable land use, development of new energy sources, genetic improvement of wheat and sunflowers, the development of industrial applications for nanotechnology, and the development of new vaccines for hoof and mouth disease and cancer.

Technological innovation

The promotion of technological innovation for business applications is the third pillar receiving IDB support. The Bank has played an important role in the creation and consolidation of the Argentine Technology Fund (FONTAR), which is the country’s main source of financing for innovative SMEs. Between 2006 and 2010, FONTAR funded more than 1,500 innovation projects for SMEs. According to a study by the University of Quilmes, 50-70 percent of firms receiving FONTAR support carried out innovations and improvements in products and production processes. The Bank also supports MINCYT’s new strategy for supporting sectoral funds for technological innovation. Through such funds, the ministry seeks to create solutions through research and development for critical economic issues in sectors such as agribusiness, energy, health, environment, and social development.

Another major technology initiative supported by the IDB is the development of satellites and remote sensing applications. Since 2006, the IDB has provided support to the National Commission of Space Activities for two satellites that will measure soil moisture in the Pampas. This initiative is expected to have direct impacts on agricultural productivity and improved flood management, among other results.

Human resources

The training of qualified and specialized human resources for scientific and technological research is another key IDB priority in Argentina. Between 2006 and 2010, efforts were made to encourage Argentine researchers working abroad to return home, to relocate researchers among provinces, and to provide doctoral training in priority technology fields. The results were significant: 118 researchers returned to the country, 51 relocated to different provinces, and more than 300 are carrying out studies at the doctoral level.

Institutional strengthening

The IDB has also worked with the country to strengthen institutions involved in formulating and implementing CTI policies and programs. The IDB is collaborating with MINCYT in formulating the National Plan for Science, Technology, and Innovation 2011-2014 and the creation of a new research institution for studies of innovation.