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Steady hand

No one disputes that research and development (R&D) plays a crucial role in the economic and social development of the Nation. According to UNESCO (2021), South Korea allocated 4,81% of its GDP to R&D, Japan invested 3,26%, Germany 3,09% and China 2,40%, which is reflected in the amount of registered patents, scientific publications and the presence of technological companies with global impact. 

In contrast, Latin America presents a different panorama. According to the Ibero-American and Inter-American Network of Science and Technology Indicators (Ricyt), only Brazil and Argentina approached the threshold of 1% of GDP, with 1,16% and 0,53% respectively; while studies suggest that infrastructure is limited and, in many cases, support policies “do not balance the loads.” The deficit is reflected in the low number of patents and scientific publications compared to the regions lídereg.

Although low investment in R&D is an important factor in this imbalance, the overall atmosphere in the field also faces a significant brain drain, where brilliant talents emigrate to countries with better research ecosystems.

Another limitation cited is the focus on education and training in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (abbreviated STEM). According to the World Bank, Latin American countries face significant challenges in the quality of education in STEM areas, which reduces the availability of trained professionals to carry out R&D activities; To which is added that the business environment is not oriented towards local innovation, where (unfortunately) they do not see R&D as a strategic investment. 

One of the best recommendations, progressive, high impact and relatively low investment, consists of stimulating communication and collaboration between universities, research centers, industries, companies, popular power and governments (state and municipal) to catalyze innovation through of the creation of clusters and collaboration networks for the exchange of knowledge and resources, which create attractive conditions to retain and attract talent, improving ecosystem conditions, offering incentives and development opportunities. 

In the recently relaunched Great Mission of Science, Technology and Innovation Dr. Humberto Fernández-Morán, five important changes of direction have been made public that point in this direction and seek to change ourselves, in the National System of Science, Technology and Innovation, to transform circumstances into the purest proactive response that as scientists we are able to give. Steady hand on the helm.

*The author is President of the National Observatory of Science, Technology and Innovation (Oncti)

@betancourt_phd

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