Volume 44, Number 172,
January-March 2013
Higher Education and Research for
Productive International Competitiveness
Iris Guevara

These policies are reflected in the type of workers we have in our country. For example, according to the Sixth Report from the government of Vicente Fox, Mexico had 8 researchers for every 10,000 members of the workforce, while in 2002, Japan had 97, the US had 91 and Canada had 68.

Another aspect to take into account to increase competitiveness are the resources that a society allocates for research and development (R+D). Regionally, Latin America and the Caribbean (LA and C) contributed only 1.3% of investment to R+D in 2003, while North America was at 41.9%, Europe was at 28.2% and Asia was at 27.3%. The only regions below LA and C were Oceania, at 1.1% and Africa with 0.2%.

Lately, the most advanced region has been Asia. This part of the planet recognizes that innovation is essential to increase competitiveness, which is closely linked to the direct promotion of higher education and scientific and technological development.

China is the country where scientific and technological development has seen the most advances in recent years. At the end of 2006, the nation was already the second largest investor in R+D, ahead of Japan and only behind the US.

Another country that stands out for its investments in R+D is South Korea, “...a country that had total R+D investment of 0.2% of gdp when it implemented its first economic plan in 1962, and nowadays has increased this number to around 3.22% and has established the ambitious goal of reaching 5% of gdp for investments in R+D by 2012” (Madridiario, 2009).

The motor of economic growth in Japan, China and South Korea has been industrial development. Their main strategic research areas are: biotechnology, robotics, nanotechnology, communication technologies and the convergence of digital, energy, environment and defense, as well as agricultural and food technology.

India increased its competitiveness by specializing in the service sector: computer science, information technology, biotechnology and the financial realm. India’s strength is its human capital, although within the country there are many contrasts.

Some Asian countries have increased their competitiveness thanks to efforts besides those of the government; the private sector has also been an important participant. In Japan and Korea, about 75% of investment in R+D comes from the private sector.

However, the important role of government in their development plans must be emphasized. For Mexico, it will be key to break with market fundamentalism and implement a development strategy aimed at increasing productive competitiveness, where the State assumes responsibility for economic development by supporting higher education and driving science and technology, as well as linking these activities to the productive sector to create jobs.


There are many ways to measure competitiveness, but many of them consider the degree to which education and training have been developed. Education plays a fundamental role in developing and modernizing an economy and has an impact on the living conditions of many individuals.

Developing competitiveness cannot be limited to company actions. It is a complex process (systemic) that the State can improve by implementing a national development project and public policies, where education and training are central to increase competitiveness.

Public higher education and research institutions must be strengthened, as these are where the majority of research in Mexico occurs. Further, links must be created with the productive sector.

Currently, successful countries are those that invest in education, specifically in higher levels, as well as science and technology. As we mentioned, high technology industries have seen the most growth with globalization. It would be an error to continue to try to be competitive based on low salary policies.

Greater resources must be allocated for higher education, as this educational level has the highest demand, and support for it would increase the integration of our economy into the globalization process, as well as include thousands of youth that demand education.

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Published in Mexico, 2012-2018 © D.R. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).
PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 49, Number 195 October-December 2018 is a quarterly publication by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México, D.F. by Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas, Circuito Mario de la Cueva, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán,
CP 04510, México, D.F. Tel (52 55) 56 23 01 05 and (52 55) 56 24 23 39, fax (52 55) 56 23 00 97, www.probdes.iiec.unam.mx, revprode@unam.mx. Journal Editor: Moritz Cruz. Reservation of rights to exclusive use of the title: 04-2012-070613560300-203, ISSN: pending. Person responsible for the latest update of this issue: Minerva García, Circuito Maestro Mario de la Cueva s/n, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México D.F., latest update: January 9th, 2019.
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