The open innovation bet of Argentina's Córdoba province

Bnamericas Published: Thursday, July 14, 2022
The open innovation bet of Argentina's Córdoba province

Argentina’s Córdoba province is a technology and software pioneer and was the first to adhere to the national knowledge economy law.

Following the open innovation model, Córdoba promotes the use of new technologies in industries, investing heavily via promotion agency Innovar y Emprender.

On the sidelines of the innovation forum organized by the American chamber of commerce (Amcham), Córdoba’s science and technology secretary Pablo De Chiara told BNamericas that for every peso the State invests, the private sector contributes 2.50 pesos – if the conditions are right.

In this interview, De Chiara also tells BNamericas about programs to deal with the shortage of professionals, tax incentives, and more.

BNamericas: What results has the national knowledge economy law yielded so far?

De Chiara: Córdoba has been promoting science and technology for over 20 years. It was the first province to declare software production an industrial activity. Córdoba has a very special characteristic, which is that we have broad representation of productive systems. We are producers of food, cars and services. We have a very diverse matrix.

For more than 20 years, the State has been working hard with the private sector and universities to create an ecosystem that allows development. This has also allowed a lot of foreign direct investment in the province.

In software, we have some 600 companies and more than 16,000 jobs.

We adhere to the national knowledge economy law and add the benefit of fiscal stability, which is highly valued by companies.

We believe in creating the necessary conditions for a stable business climate and for the province to be predictable. This is something highly valued because it means the rules of the game do not change while the promotion law remains in force.

The law also has tax benefits of 100% on gross income, real estate tax, among others. We also created mechanisms to achieve greater flexibility in legal instruments and created an advisory council to see how the law is performing and what changes need to be made.

BNamericas: How is Córdoba dealing with the shortage of technology talent?

De Chiara: We do not escape a global reality. This is not a problem only for Argentina or Córdoba. On the US West Coast, 1mn professionals are lacking and recently I was in Basque country and they have a deficit of 200,000 people.

The only way to face this crisis is to create more talent. And creating talent takes time. We must work with all the socializing agents and we need to include a gender perspective. At software companies, 24% of workers are women, but when we go to the managerial layers, the figure is 7%.

In Córdoba, we have been working with universities. We also have an initiative of experimental schools with two branches: programming and biotechnology, which are taught from the first year of high school.

But all this takes time. Meanwhile, we have to resolve the situation with job placement programs, diploma courses and ad-hoc training programs.

What we are looking for is building [this scenario] with the private sector, which ultimately creates the jobs.

BNamericas: What is the ministry’s role in the open innovation project?

De Chiara: We see innovation as a process, a mission to complete. As I said, Córdoba has a very diverse matrix and we need innovation to penetrate all sectors.

Innovation ends up being the result of having science, technology, creativity; having capacities that allow creating new products.

So creating an environment of innovation, what we call an atmosphere of innovation, [is needed]. We have to create conditions for those things to happen.

Córdoba has many SMEs, family businesses. So how do we get innovation there? With an agile work methodology, we begin to see how we structure the demand of the productive sector so that it can be resolved by the knowledge sector.

The laboratories we have developed allow student teachers and researchers to know how demand arises and, on the other hand, help entrepreneurs to connect with the knowledge system.

The idea in our laboratories is not that big projects arise, but that they relate, get to know each other and begin to understand what joint work is all about.

Results have been extraordinary. We need to have a much stronger link between the scientific-technological system and the productive system.

BNamericas: Does the entire production matrix or some specific sectors participate with these innovation laboratories?

De Chiara: We have a focus on some verticals, such as biotechnology. We believe there is an enormous opportunity to grow in biotechnology. This open innovation process spawned the need to make a cluster that involves the private, academic, scientific and public sectors.

Other verticals we see are industry 4.0 and design to add value.

We also have open innovation programs for [local] government and municipalities.

BNamericas: And the results?

De Chiara: First, it is the linking exercise, starting to find interlocutors. The State has to help make this happen, but afterwards it has to be something dynamic. So we try to consolidate these processes and become part of the business agenda because our idea is that these things happen independently.

We work hard on this with the productive cabinet. We are very focused on Córdoba being competitive and our companies being competitive. We believe that innovation is a driver for that.

We have created spaces. The governor will announce one more technological-scientific pole, and we have 40 industrial parks.

BNamericas: How many science centers do you have?

De Chiara: We are finishing the scientific pole in San Francisco, the one in Río Cuarto is under construction and soon we will be announcing one more.

BNamericas: How will the fiber optics network affect science and technology?

De Chiara: It is a fundamental fact. The State assumes a role and seems important and strategic to us because it will not only allow fiber optics to be brought to many places that are not commercially viable right now, but it will also allow the improvement of the entire infrastructure.

The more possibilities we have to contact the world, the more possibilities we have for local and regional development. This will allow people who want to develop technology to do so from anywhere in the province and not have to go to big cities.

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