ReLAI reboot

Regional scientific and technological collaboration needs a post-pandemic kickstart.

The Red Latinoamericana de Agencias de Innovación (Latin American Network of Innovation Agencies, ReLAI) is a recently created regional collaborative network that promotes innovation and entrepreneurship across the region. At present, 13 agencies across 10 countries participate in the network with the aim of strengthening scientific collaboration and advancing technological innovation between countries. The Presidency of ReLAI shifted to Argentina this year, following Colombia and Uruguay.

Argentina is relatively more advanced in this matter than other countries, but it is not expected to drive an ambitious and coordinated agenda – partly because of the pandemic but also because of a lack of consistency in Agentina’s innovation and technology policies.

The main priorities for the national innovation agencies that make up ReLAI are to enhance collaboration channels and make cooperation more efficient. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic recovery, it is hoped that these agencies will benefit from state aid and a clear agenda of common priorities would allow larger investments in specific sectors and projects.

An economist and former adviser to the Inter-American Development Bank (“IDB”) summarised, “The first steps are still being taken. In general, the region lags behind the rest of the world in terms of scientific and technological development and the pandemic has highlighted this. Despite a lack of economic and institutional support, some countries, such as Argentina, have managed to make advancements and ReLAI was formed to try and share this experience more widely.”

“The first steps are still being taken. In general, the region lags behind the rest of the world in terms of scientific and technological development and the pandemic has highlighted this.”

Economist, former IDB adviser, Argentina

A founder of Asociación de Emprendedores de Argentina (ASEA) sees many challenges ahead, “I believe that great differences exist internally and between the countries involved. The risk is that the more advanced countries will get frustrated when they realise they are giving much more than they are receiving. Another challenge will be broadening membership to include all the regional leaders, for example, Chile have not joined yet.”

Despite the challenges there are obvious areas for cooperation, notably: the energy transition, the hydrogen economy and life sciences. The ASEA founder explained, “ReLAI should define strategically what areas are to be worked on, otherwise nothing will happen. The region could increase its productivity and competitiveness by collaborating on areas such as renewable energy, hydrogen, artificial intelligence, the internet of things, nanotechnology and biotechnology. Above all else, we need to fill the research and education deficit.”

“The region could increase its productivity and competitiveness by collaborating on areas such as renewable energy, hydrogen, artificial intelligence, the internet of things, nanotechnology and biotechnology.”

Founder, Asociación de Emprendedores de Argentina

Securing the necessary funds to promote research and innovation will be vital to the success of the initiative. The economist discussed the most likely financing option, “Securing finance is essential but it is not within ReLAI’s remit. International banks are the most likely source of funds, Argentina has already launched several programmes with the IDB e.g. Fonarsec, Fontar and Foncyt. Contributions must be made by the private sector, the academic sector and the government but without the support of the development agencies it is hard to see any impact.”

 

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