Join Innovation in the “Latin American Decade”

by Geovanny Romero

We are living in a time when good ideas are coming from emerging countries, and Latin America is one of three regions where multinationals companies are expected to grow further this year 2012.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Human Resources, Education and the University-Business link: Develop education and  supply innovators. Define policies to link universities and the business sector.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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:

  1. Argentina: Prosper-AR / Innovar
  2. Bolivia: Red Boliviana Emprendedora
  3. Brazil: FINEP / Fundacao Brasil Criativo
  4. Chile: Foro Innovación / Fundación Chile / TechoLab
  5. Colombia: Ruta N / Connect Bogotá-Región / Colombia Aprende
  6. Costa Rica: Club de la Innovación / Centro de InnovaciónParque Tec
  7. Cuba: Red Cubana de la Ciencia
  8. Dominican Republic: Consejo Nacional de Competitividad
  9. Ecuador: First Tuesday Ecuador / Innovadores Ecuador / Academia de Emprendedores
  10. El Salvador: First Tuesday El Salvador / Fusades
  11. Guatemala: Innova Centroamérica / Ideas Nuevas
  12. Honduras: Innova Centroamérica
  13. Mexico: PDMA México / PIIT-ITESM
  14. Nicaragua: Conicyt / Agora Partnerships
  15. Panama: Senacyt
  16. Paraguay: Conacyt
  17. Peru: Concytec / RAMP Perú
  18. Puerto Rico: Centro de Innovación y Tecnología
  19. Uruguay: Uruguay Innova / LATU
  20. Venezuela: Emprendo Venezuela

Also, if you want discuss about innovation in Spanish? Join Excelencia en la Innovación (linkedIn subgroup of Innovation Excellence).

If you are looking to compete with a innovative product/service/business model or an innovation project Join: Innovadores de América Prize / Premios Iberoamericanos / Premios AVONNI.

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.

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How to Measure New Product Productivity in Your IndustryGeovanny 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

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  1. Thank you Geovanny for this great overview! Your post works as a compact working tool to have fresh informations about what’s going on in Latin America. The six key points are a great start for a milestones-based strategic brainstorming for every innovator. So … I’m entushiast of this post. That’s all! Saludos!

  2. Innovation in Latin America is a signal of increasing opportunities for international investors and entrepreneurs in the region. From Chile to Brazil to Mexico, investing in Latin America has become a strategic priority for many global players as they seek new and exciting markets. This is particularly true for Chinese companies looking to secure cheap commodities in the region. However, making a success of it depends on a variety of factors that come into play, from trust to communication issues to legal compliance. There is substantial risk involved in doing business in Latin America and it has to be managed carefully to ensure success.

  3. Wow, thank you for the great mention of two companies I co-founded &

    It’s great to see how hard work and insanely long hours of dedication eventually pay off and become recognized along side some of Latam’s leading innovation initiatives.

    Muchos saludos!

  4. Dear Geovanny,
    Thank you for your post, it will help us to understand the opportunities that exist in Latin America; however lack in Peru FINCyT ( INNOVATE PERU (, that are currently funding R&D&I. It would be interesting to include it.

    Best regards
    Yahir Delzo

  5. Fabrizio, David thanks for your comments. Latin America is stronger but still faces risks!
    Striven congratulation for your great companies ES Salmon Leather and Un Techo para Chile (TechoLab). To continue working!
    Yahir I will include to FINCyT and InnóvatePerú in the future articles. Great activities in these Peruvian organizations!

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