National Laboratories: а Strategy for Scientific and Technological Development Geared to Innovation
Escalante Juan C.
Molina Brenda H.
The concept of governmental financing of science and technology was born in the Western World as early as the 17th Century. Both Great Britain and France became aware of the need to protect and enhance the scientific achievements of their scientists, mainly for reasons of international prestige. The USA witnessed a spectacular growth of its scientific facilities in the 20th Century. The number of National Laboratories expanded out of the massive scientific effort developed during WWII that pro- duced innovative technologies such as the radar, the computer, the proximity fuse and, unfortunately, the atomic bomb. The scale and impact of the mobilization of science for military purposes during WW II was extraordinary and unprecedented. The concept of National Laboratory gradually extended in the USA to include research institutions dedicated to areas of national interest like atmosphere, soil, oceans and health of the population. Although not necessarily identified as National Laborato- ries, they conserved the characteristic of being financed by the national government. Countries in the process of development have put a lot of interest in the creation and support of National Laboratories, or equivalents, as a strategy to enhance productivity and reduce the gap between developed and devel- oping countries. The chain science─technology─innovation─applications is to be encouraged for both international prestige and increase in revenues at national and international levels. The federal agency that is in charge of planning and implementing Mexican science, technology and innovation policy is the National Council for Science and Technology (Conacyt, in Spanish). In 2006, the institution launched a National Laboratories program through a call for national laboratory candidates that is still in effect today. The applicants submit a project to Conacyt, and commit to the joint development of projects with one or more similar Mexican research institutions. Those who are approved are sup- ported with funds to acquire necessary equipment. Conacyt’s ultimate aim is for the laboratories to become self-sufficient with the provision of services, as well as national and international referents in their field of knowledge. A preliminary presentation of a successful Mexican National Laboratory, the National Center of Imaging Studies and Medical Instrumentation (CI3M), is presented as a paradig- matic example of the track laboratories in the program should follow, aimed at accomplishing satis- factorily the objectives of human resource development, production of innovative technology, and provision of services. CI3M not only has fulfilled such areas but has become self-sufficient through the provision of services and the creation of their own enterprises.