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Mexico, Latin America’s second largest economy, has grown by 3.5% in real terms over the last four years. However, for long-term growth, productivity levels must rise and export markets be more diversified. To this end, the government’s National Development Plan 2013-18 seeks to set the building blocks for a knowledge economy.

Hot Issues

Hot Issues are major national STI policy priorities, as self-reported by countries in their responses to the OECD STIO 2014 policy questionnaire.

Improving the governance of innovation system and policy

The new government, which took office in 2012, has introduced changes in governance. In April 2013, it created the Office of Co-ordination of Science, Technology and Innovation. Located in the office of the President, its role is to improve the co-ordination of STI policies and implement the National Development Plan. In 2013, Mexico’s General Council for Scientific Research, Technological Development and Innovation recognised the Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT) as the principal body in charge of co-ordinating Mexico’s STI system.

Improving the supply of high-end HRST and researchers

Public expenditure on higher education as a share of GDP is just below the OECD median (Panel 1s). However, a number of indicators highlight the need to improve the scale and quality of the education system (Panel 1t, v, w). CONACYT has therefore made improving the quality of HRST a priority. More resources have been mobilised for government-sponsored fellowships. Recognising the importance of high-quality graduate programmes, CONACYT joined in 1991 with the Secretary of Education to create the National Programme of Quality Graduate Programmes (PNPC). The programme seeks to improve the quality of the graduate programmes offered by HEIs and PRIs through a rigorous accreditation process based on international standards. The number of doctoral programmes participating in the PNPC increased from 427 in 2011 to 527 in 2013.

Innovation to contribute to addressing social challenges (including inclusiveness)

In 2013 CONACYT launched a research grant scheme, Scientific Development Projects to Address National Problems, to deal with social challenges, such as climate change, sustainable development, health and food security. In the same year, it joined with the Ministry of Energy to create a sectoral fund, CONACYT-SENER, for sustainable energy. The fund supports STI solutions in the areas of energy efficiency, renewable energy, clean technologies and diversification of energy sources.

Industry-science linkages

Several policies to improve linkages include the Innovation Incentives Programme, which fosters science-industry linkages by offering higher co-funding participation rates for co-operative projects (see further the section on technology transfer and commercialisation).

Strengthening public R&D capacity and infrastructures

In 2013, two strategic initiatives were set up for implementation in 2014. One, Cátedras CONACYT (CONACYT Chairs), will create 574 new research positions in public universities and PRIs. The goal is to increase the share of young researchers in public research. The other is the National System of Researchers (SNI), which rewards excellence in research; it will be extended to researchers in private universities. The government also seeks to strengthen Mexico’s scientific and technological infrastructure and has significantly increased funding from USD 37.2 million (MXP 285 million) in 2011 to USD 140 million (MXP 1 097 million) in 2013 in real terms.

Country Charts

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Selected Highlights

Innovation in firms

As in other Latin American countries, Mexico’s ratio of BERD to GDP is well below the OECD median (Panel 1d). CONACYT, which manages around 40% of the public STI budget, seeks to encourage business R&D and innovation. Its Innovation Incentives Programme has proved to be effective in stimulating business innovation, particularly in SMEs. The programme’s overall budget increased from USD 223 million (MXP 1 663 million) in 2009 to an estimated USD 500 million (MXP 4 000 million) in 2014.

Technology transfers and commercialisation

CONACYT’s Innovation Incentives Programme provides financial incentives for innovation, with an emphasis on co-operation between PRIs/HEIs and industry and on technology transfer. Its INNOVAPYME fund, which supports the innovation activities of micro firms and SMEs, provides 50% of total project expenditures if the firm collaborates with an HEI or PRI but only 35% in the absence of co-operation. Expendi-tures of collaborating HEIs or PRIs are financed at 90%. Its INNOVATEC fund, which supports large firms, provides 30% of total expenditures for joint projects in collaboration with HEIs or PRIs, but only 22% without collaboration. The collaborating HEIs or PRIs are financed at 70%. PROINNOVA funds product development based on frontier scientific research for up to 70% of the expenditures of firms and 90% of those of HEIs or PRIs. In order to foster technology transfer and the commercialisation of public research, the Ministry of Economy and CONACYT have provided support for the creation and improvement of knowledge transfer offices (KTOs). Legislative changes have made it possible for PRIs to establish the conditions for using the IP generated by their employees and to appropriate the economic benefits. The government also supports KTOs as enablers of science- industry relationships through consulting services and support for technology licensing and start-ups.

Clusters and regional policies

CONACYT has two main budget lines to support regional development through innovation: the Mixed Funds (FOMIX) and the Institutional Fund for the Regional Development of Science, Technology and Innovation (FORDECYT).The former, set up by the federal government as joint CONACYT-state funds, promotes applied research at state and municipal levels. The latter was created in 2009 to complement FOMIX by supporting STI projects in universities, research centres and companies to help integrate excluded regions in the national innovation system. Estimations indicate that the two funds amounted to USD 14 million (MXP 1 150 million) in 2013, an amount that is officially projected to rise by 30% in 2014. The operation of FOMIX has changed in order to differentiate public support. Formerly, CONACYT contributed one part of the funding and the state counterpart provided an equivalent amount. Under the new scheme, the ratio is 3 to 1 in some cases (states from the lowest tier), 2 to 1 in others (middle tier) and 1 to 1 in the best-performing states.


Mexico’s international co-authorship and co-invention rates are close to OECD levels (Panel 1q, r), indicating a well-developed international network for STI collaboration, partly due to the educated Mexican diaspora. CONACYT’s international scholarships programme for graduate studies helps promote international linkages among researchers, as do efforts aimed at improving the quality of its education system.
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