As US fights tech transfer, top Mexican university opens tech hub in Hangzhou
May 16, 2019
The same day US Republicans introduced a bill to Congress restricting study visas for Chinese nationals, one of Mexico’s top STEM universities, Tecnológico de Monterrey, opened a technology exchange center in Hangzhou.
The tech hub is co-funded by the university and the Hangzhou Jianggan government, and will act as a showroom and facilitator for Mexican technology and science research seeking to enter the Chinese market.
“The tech hub is the first overseas center of its kind for Mexico, and the opening is the proudest moment of my life,” Alfonso Araújo, director of the center, told TechNode. The new center in Hangzhou, which opened Thursday, will tap into the more than 100 research facilities in Mexico.
The private university was founded in 1943 and strives to become a leader in technology and innovation in Latin America by launching startup accelerators and partnering with banks and tech companies. It has since expanded into 32 campuses in 25 cities across Mexico.
The Hangzhou center’s first task is to introduce Mexican science to China and to materialize research, taking it from the lab into the market, according to the director, who has lived in China for the last 20 years. The center will open with 12 research projects, and there are around 30 more in the pipeline.
“It’s a very good moment to match their [China’s and Mexico’s] interests in technology development. Mexico has very good science development, China has a lot of resources and interest in doing so,” Araújo said.
The absence of lobbying and the government’s support for scientific research makes China a great place to develop new research. “In the USA, this happens at the level of the scientists themselves, but the government is invaded by lobbyists who tell you that climate change is not real,” the director said.
He is betting that China will continue “being reasonable in the next generation, as it has been in the past.”
The technologies the hub will take on will shape its work in the next 20 to 30 years, Araújo said. It is not geared towards new ways to manufacture something or “a new comfortable chair,” the director said. The center’s main areas are life sciences, such as medicine, environment, biotechnology, genetics, food safety, and next-generation technologies, like artificial intelligence, computer science, nanotechnology, advanced engineering. The latter are high on China’s priority list, the director said.
World-class science is bred in Mexico, but it lacks the environment which can successfully bring it into market, said Araújo. In places like Silicon Valley, next to the scientists is an entire ecosystem of financiers, lawyers, and marketing specialists, Araújo explained.
To create these conditions the university opened an office in Mexico last year which turns the research projects into business pitches, before the projects and their researchers are brought to China. First, they pick projects from around the country and then equip them with all the necessary expertise to make their research into a viable business.
The various projects are at different stages of development, and through the Hangzhou tech hub are paired with agents in China that fit their needs. The director explained that those which are almost ready for the market, or are already in the market but are still quite small, are connected to companies that can help them grow. Those which still need funding to finalize research, licensing or compliance are linked with government programs and grants.
“If China realizes how great our scientific developments are in Mexico, they will be eager to invest more, even make joint funds. This will help a lot the Mexican research environment,” the director told TechNode.
At the opening, three Mexicans research projects will sign contracts with two Chinese companies and a Chinese university. The projects include next-generation education, food safety for live fish transport, and nanotechnology-based oil which decreases at least 50% of CO2 emissions.