Innovative Companies and Policies for Innovation on the U.S.-Mexico Border
The primary purpose of this work is to describe innovative enterprises and industries in the northern border region of Mexico and to analyze federal and state government efforts to increase their competitiveness. The importance of this analysis lies in the possibility of creating a virtuous circle around which innovation by the productive sector (which seems tied to higher value-added activities, high-quality work, and higher tax payments) intersects with the government and education sectors—which, in turn, participate in the development of local innovation systems. The document is divided into four sections: 1)Main concerns: An analysis of Mexico’s loss of competitiveness and changes in the international and national context in which maquiladoras operate. 2) Policies to promote innovation and competitiveness: Presentation of federal policy changes that impact local support for innovation efforts, and of multiple federal programs and their implementation in the northern border states. 3) Maquiladora industry: Presentation of several years of research on innovation and industrial upgrading of products, processes, and functions, as well as examples of innovative sectors, firms, and programs. 4) Promising initiatives: Presentation of successful examples of public-private partnerships at the federal and local level. The conclusions are that there is a clear process of innovation in the maquiladora industry, but it is limited and heterogeneous; while there is some institutional upgrading at the regional level, it is mainly accomplished at the federal level; and the northern border region is better positioned for innovation compared with the interior areas of the county. Despite considerable efforts by different levels of government and the private sector, there is a clear loss of competitiveness in Mexico. The path to a substantial increase in innovation and competitiveness seems long and winding.