For article in Spanish, click here.
1. Why has 2013 been declared “The Year of Innovation”?
It’s a strategic initiative from the Chilean government, aimed at raising public awareness for the importance of innovation in developing countries. This year, 2012, was declared “The Year of Entrepreneurship”, which was reflected in a series of government initiatives to support entrepreneurs, such as “Startup Chile”, changes in various laws, the provision of funds for entrepreneurs, and so on. Building on that, we are organizing a series of activities related to innovation in 2013, hence the term “Year of Innovation”. The whole country is invited to join this initiative, from companies to universities, students and entrepreneurs, in order to generate a greater innovation culture.
2. What message will the “Year of Innovation” send to Latin America and to the world?
One of the messages we want to convey is that Latin America is capable of great innovation. In this sense, Chile is positioning itself as a regional innovation cluster. Santiago was voted one of the 20 best cities worldwide for developing digital entrepreneurship. Also, we just instituted the new R & D law, which supports companies in their research and development efforts in Chile and abroad, and we can see that many of them are already taking advantage of this. These are all steps that aim to generate a greater innovation culture, which of course takes many years to build. In a country where innovation and entrepreneurship become the norm, people’s ability to create value through creativity and technology becomes significantly increased. Chile wants to be a country of entrepreneurs and innovators, and for that you need the continuous effort of the whole society.
3. What has been the biggest change in the companies that are embracing innovation compared with the previous decade?
Up until the last decade, companies were used to providing basically the same old products and services to their customers, and trying to compete with each other by lowering their production costs. So as a result, company A was just like company B and company C, and because there was no disruptive competitor around to threaten the status quo in the industry, these companies simply remained comfortable with what they were doing. There was no real incentive to offer or propose anything new.
But today the scenario is different. A company can be a leader in its field for decades, even globally, but if it doesn’t ensure that it is constantly innovating it can be completely overthrown by a competitor in a very short space of time. Just ask Blockbuster what happened when it didn’t adapt to new technologies, as competitors like Netflix or Hulu did. This phenomenon is permeating every industry. There is no “bullet-proof” business today. Any company that decides not to generate innovation systematically is destined to fall behind and be overcome in its value proposition. Therefore, companies are now much more aware that innovation is critical.
4. How is the government supporting innovation by helping companies to execute new ideas?
The government is supporting innovation in different ways. Overall, the newly amended law on R & D allows any Chilean company to deduct taxes from its investment in R & D. We also have an institution called CORFO that offers more direct financial support, such as public subsidies to support business innovation in its various stages. So the entrepreneurial community has several seed capital funds designed for them, such as CORFO, Startup Chile, and Chile Pro funds. Other institutions involved in innovation, like INAPI (National Institute of Intellectual Property), are also being upgraded to offer the necessary level of support.
5. Considering the world situation and its effects on the economy of some countries, do you believe that the world is ready for the year of innovation in 2013?
I think the world’s economic situation responds to extremely complex factors, like international and regional economic policies, geopolitical conflicts, complex social processes, and so on. In that sense, a society with a strong culture of innovation is much more protected from economic downturns, because the world is completely globalized and today it doesn’t matter if an innovation comes from Silicon Valley or the Mapocho Valley.*
*Mapocho Valley is a general entrepreneurship community based in Santiago Chile. For more info.
Javier Salcedo is the General Manager of the Innovation Club in Chile. He has served in this position for nine years working with more than 50 associates, including Entel, Lan, BBVA, ENAP, 3M. Previously, Javier was Director of Innovation for Digital Country, where he designed and implemented projects to support entrepreneurship with the institution Corfo. He also co-founded and served as COO of Splitcast Technology. He is Architect and has his Masters in Urban Planning from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.
image credit: Club de Innovación
Zulma Acevedo G. is the Latin America Editor, and provides Program Development and Innovation Consulting Services, for Innovation Excellence. Formerly with GBM Corporation and IBM de Colombia, she specializes in CRM, data analysis, competitive strategies & pricing, marketing and business partners management.