Posted: July 31, 2007

Nanotechnology in Mexico: A path with no plan

(Nanowerk News) Edgar Zayago Lau and Guillermo Foladori summarize for Nanowerk their recent article "Tracking Nanotechnology in Mexico" in the current issue of Nanotechnology Law & Business.
By various accounts nanotechnology is portrayed as the new industrial revolution. Developing countries see this technology as an important tool to become more competitive to conquer international markets and as a consequence improve their economic performance.
Within Latin America, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico emerge as the leading countries in the nanotechnology field. However, in none of these countries is the impact of the use of nanotechnology subjected to serious study. Brazil and Argentina have coordinated efforts to regulate the development of nanotechnology with the creation of national initiatives, yet again with little consideration of the social implications. In this regard, the Mexican case stands out due to the absence of a National Plan or Initiative for the promotion or direction of research related to the development of this technology.
As a result of the absence of a Mexican National Initiative in the field of nanotechnology research, the United States influence in the area has grown significantly. This influence is shaped according to mainly scientific-academic interests and associations that represent political-business interests.
The central agency in charge of representing the U.S. interest in these kinds of associations is the United States-Mexico Foundation for Science (FUMEC). FUMEC has been active on promoting partnerships between Mexican and US-based nanotechnology research institutes. It has also been an important agent in the creation of high-tech parks where nanocomponents play a mayor role in the productive process.
Mexico is using nanotechnology as a tool to encourage competitiveness. However, without a National Plan on Nanotechnology Research, the growing U.S. influence might not correspond with Mexican national interests. In addition, there is the risk that in the search for competitiveness the social, economic and legal impacts of nanotechnology could be completely disregarded or overlooked. In addition, the lack of planning can cause the overlapping of efforts which later could be the origin of economic and environmental tragedies; particularly, if research centers and high-tech parks are competing against one another rather than moving together toward a common goal.
As Mexico follows an unmarked path regarding nanotechnology development, the risk of being led astray is significant.
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