Opening Session at COMS2008

Kristin: The first session introduced delegates to Puerto Vallarta in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. Jalisco is known as Mexico’s Silicon Valley or the high tech capital. It has the largest budget for science, technology and innovation (and is also responsible for tequila and mariachi bands!). Microtechnology and MEMS are examples of expert areas for the research centres, universities and the local and international companies here. Other areas include IT, microelectronics, photonics, sensors and diagnostics.

This session also include three technical presentations:

  1. Economic environment for the development of high tech in Mexico – Pedro Adalberto Gonzalez Hernandez
  2. Micro & Nano technologies for food – Franz Kampers
  3. The wonderful world of MEMS & Nanotechnology – Steve Walsh for Marlene Bourne

Economic environment for the development of high tech in Mexico – Pedro Adalberto Gonzalez Hernandez

For me, it seemed that the programs in Mexico have some clear parallels to the issues we’ve been discussing for South Australia and Australia. It was interesting to note that programs in Mexico are dedicated mostly to SMEs and that there is not really an overall vision for this sector that takes into account the difference among market sectors. Pedro also made the comment that ‘Program-centred research, development & innovation often meet the ‘valley of death’ and need support to cross this obstacle and deliver productive and successful commercial applications.

A case study on the Mexican automotive industry showed 8 times as many 2nd and 3rd tier suppliers than the final assemblers. Are there other global opportunities for these firms? Can these firms develop further capabilities in manufacturing design and development? To do so, they require support for human resources & training, design, networking, marketing and business opportunities.

Micro & nano technologies for food – Franz Kampers

Franz framed his presentation with a disclaimer: if people eat the right diet they do not need nanotechnology. But he added that most people do not eat the recommend 2 fruit and 5 veges which leads to the question – could we add functionality to a processed Western diet to address some of these issues?

He showed an example of how microtechnology could be used to reduce the fat content of mayonnaise – membrane emulsion can add small droplets of oil in controlled process to deliver controlled droplet sizes. this would be more stable and contain less fat than a traditional mayonnaise. Another example is creating particles with a nanostructured shell that could release vitamins and minerals in a specific part of the gastrointestinal tract.

Franz also spoke about food quality and stressed that nanotechnologists need to show that risks for nano in food are different from nanoparticulate risks. Communicating these benefits is very difficult – media are generally more interested in the risks and companies are reluctant to use their products as examples.

The wonderful world of MEMS & Nanotechnology – Steve Walsh for Marlene Bourne

Again, the disruptive nature of micro and nano technologies (MNT) was stressed in relation to traditional technologies such as semiconductors. For MNT, the technology roadmap is complex – there are lots of different technological substitutes and no one platform or technology to address a problem.

The idea the MNT might be a fifth wave of development (after Schumpeter) was raised as a way to help educate people about the possible economic impacts on wealth and job creation. Roadmaps are being developed through MANCEF for global opportunities and challenges in biotechnology, workforce development, energy, water and health.

And Steve stressed the need to still educate – and the importance of understanding issues and risks for good governance.

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