Latin America is in one of its best moments to lead the global economic recovery if it maintains its current growth rate. As Rowan Gibson, Innovation Excellence Co-Founder, shows in Viva la Innovación, we are walking into a new economic area, the “Latin American decade“.
Take note that, according to INSEAD’s Global Innovation Index 2011, the Latin American countries are located in secondary positions, starting with Chile at number 38 and ending with Bolivia at number 112. And, the chart below offers a snapshot of product innovation taking place in some latin american countries (from INNOVAlatino Report 2011).
Innovation, the adoption of new products, services, business models, marketing methods and business models has risen the top of the agenda for decision makers in government and business alike. For example, the Chilean Government made a promise on these issues, “2013 will be the year of innovation”.
In this article, I highlight some major challenges that Latin America faces and direction of future innovation:
- Innovation in a Natural Resource Abundant Economy: Define how to promote innovation in the natural resource sectors that currently dominate the economy and the measures required to further develop other sectors which offer higher productivity gains.
- Human Resources, Education and the University-Business link: Develop education and supply innovators. Define policies to link universities and the business sector.
- Innovating in Companies: Train employees, take advantage of the technological infrastructure (to generate shared space for connection, conversation and collaboration in relation to innovation), reward and recognition: the top executives of the company should take responsibility for innovation (to motivate and be mentors).
- Partnering and Cluster Policies: The international cooperation among businesses is becoming more relevant. Such collaboration in Latin America can be relatively formalised (foreign direct investment, equity shares, licensing, franchising) or informal and ad hoc. The presence of a dynamic cluster increases the competitiveness of the host region or country and provides an enabling environment for innovation.
- Innovating and Green Growth: The innovation is a key factor in making green growth possible through the development and deployment of environmental technologies and can help make the shift to energies that emit less greenhouse gasses.
- Measurement: Measuring the level of innovation in an organization. It is usually measured by the number of new products, percentage of employee time spent on innovation, percentage of budget spent on truly innovative projects, number of new ideas that came in and how many of them came to be marketed, etc.
Several Latin American companies (small and big) had achieved the challenges noted above and have achieved commercial success worldwide. INNOVAlatino Report 2011, Innovation Champions on Latin America (INCAE Article), Multilatinas Article and Interview with Rowan Gibson in Argentina, highlight some examples of successful companies:
America Movil (product innovation – Mexico), Embraer (manufacturing process innovation – Brazil), Bimbo (supply chain innovation – Mexico), Havaianas (marketing innovation), Cinepolis (business model innovation – Mexico), Astrid & Gaston (innovation based on culture – Peru), Petrobras (environmental innovation – Brazil), CDI (social innovation – Brazil), Natura (business model / organizational innovation – Brazil), Los Grobo (business model innovation – Argentina), Coopedota (Costa Rica), Elemental (business model / product innovation – Chile), BAC Credomatic (Panama and Central America), Britt (marketing innovation – Costa Rica), Memory (product innovation – Uruguay), Nutresa (business model / product innovation – Colombia), Falabella (busines model – Chile), Davivienda (Colombia), Sertecpet (Ecuador), ES Salmon Leather (Chile).
In a very innovative initiative, Mario Morales is writing a book with the crowdsourcing methodology in which hundreds of authors are participating in the first book to approach the realities of innovation in Latin America. It will be published in July 2012. You can Join the project with your contributions in this book: Libro de Innovación en América Latina.
In order to meet and support the best practices for innovation and entrepreneurship in Latin America – connecting education, innovation in companies and partnering – several organizations are being formed between NGO’s, universities, firms and government. So, we invite you to Join Innovation in the “Latin American decade” in:
- Argentina: Prosper-AR / Innovar
- Bolivia: Red Boliviana Emprendedora
- Brazil: FINEP / Fundacao Brasil Criativo
- Chile: Foro Innovación / Fundación Chile / TechoLab
- Colombia: Ruta N / Connect Bogotá-Región / Colombia Aprende
- Costa Rica: Club de la Innovación / Centro de Innovación / Parque Tec
- Cuba: Red Cubana de la Ciencia
- Dominican Republic: Consejo Nacional de Competitividad
- Ecuador: First Tuesday Ecuador / Innovadores Ecuador / Academia de Emprendedores
- El Salvador: First Tuesday El Salvador / Fusades
- Guatemala: Innova Centroamérica / Ideas Nuevas
- Honduras: Innova Centroamérica
- Mexico: PDMA México / PIIT-ITESM
- Nicaragua: Conicyt / Agora Partnerships
- Panama: Senacyt
- Paraguay: Conacyt
- Peru: Concytec / RAMP Perú
- Puerto Rico: Centro de Innovación y Tecnología
- Uruguay: Uruguay Innova / LATU
- Venezuela: Emprendo Venezuela
Also, if you want discuss about innovation in Spanish? Join Excelencia en la Innovación (linkedIn subgroup of Innovation Excellence).
Latin America has benefited from a sustained economic growth in recent years, thanks to macroeconomic policies, higher prices for commodity exports and substantial income from capital. However, the long-term growth will depend in part on the ability of Latin American governments and the private sector to promote competitiveness and find new ways to develop innovation. Latin America is stronger but still faces risks.
Some of these and others topics will be discussed in the World Economic Forum on Latin America – on April 2012 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Thanks to the Innovators of Latin America that support the realization of this article.
Geovanny Romero, NPDP, is a professional with great experience in manufacturing and innovation process with a variety of companies in Latam and Europe. His main interests are focused in Productivity, New Product Development and Lean Innovation Management. You can connect with him on Twitter @geovanny_romero