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How Costa Rica became one of the most innovative countries in Latin America (and what are some of the most surprising inventions) – Accent

BBCCosta Rica went from manufacturing microchips to exporting know-how advanced and providers.

It has slightly below five million inhabitants, however that has not prevented Costa Rica from being at the forefront of innovation in Latin America.

If they have been referred to as exporters of espresso and bananas, the “ticos” advanced in the direction of the manufacture of microchips in the 90s after which in the direction of the export of providers and superior know-how, taking benefit of the expertise of an informed and bilingual population.

However that is simply one of the many reasons which have allowed the Central American country to comply with a path very totally different from that of neighbors resembling Nicaragua, El Salvador or Honduras.

«That corporations like Microsoft, Intel, Hewlett Packard, Google, Amazon are in Costa Rica, it is because of the high instructional degree of the inhabitants, in addition to the social and political stability», tells BBC Mundo Pedro Beirute, basic manager of the Promoter of Overseas Commerce of Costa Rica (Procomer).

The Central American country has additionally been favored by its geographical location and good connectivity with the rest of the Latin American economies and the United States.

And people advantages, together with a business opening that started three many years in the past, have made it a magnet for the nice technological multinationals and the most innovative country in Latin America after Chile, based on the International Innovation Index 2019.

fsdfsGetty Pictures has turn into a magnet for multinationals like Microsoft, Intel, Hewlett Packard, Google, Amazon.

Not all the things is perfect: this speedy financial transformation has occurred in a rustic that still has 20% poverty and 12% unemployment.

And to its problems of infrastructure and paperwork, there is a galloping fiscal deficit of 6% of the Gross Domestic Product, which has put the government of Carlos Alvarado to chop public spending and gather extra taxes by way of a tax reform.

In the midst of these challenges, nevertheless, the country continues to embark on its plan to attract extra direct overseas investment, encourage the creation of new know-how corporations and export value-added merchandise.

A rocket to Mars in 39 days

One of the symbols of Costa Rican innovation is the laboratory Advert Astra Rocket that Costa Rica has the scientist Franklin Chang, one of the first Latin American astronauts who traveled to area.

Along with creating hydrogen applied sciences to scale back transport air pollution, one of Chang's flagship tasks is a revolutionary invention to take a rocket to Mars in 39 days, utilizing a plasma engine.

And in addition the Ticos are proud to have put in area the first Central American satellite tv for pc in 2018, developed by scientists of the Technological of Costa Rica.

fgdfgNASA Scientist and astronaut Franklin Chang develops a plasma engine to journey into area.

With the aim of “decarbonising” its financial system by 2050 – which includes eliminating the use of fossil fuels – the country has additionally opted for biotechnology to develop renewable power.

And its scientists are working on innovations to make the dream of turning into a “green country” a reality.

“We have the talent, we just need more companies,” says Cyndi Torres, a professor at the College of Costa Rica, dedicated to analysis on sustainable improvement.

gdfgGetty Pictures The nation leads in Latin America the innovation in emoderivados, medicines produced from human blood.

For now, Costa Rica has been the scene of a number of innovations, as the solely humanoid robot in Latin America that has clean control palms for handling duties.

And although many of the innovations are targeted on pc improvement to enhance the efficiency of corporations, the listing of innovations is long. Some of them are:

  • Remedies for most cancers of the pancreas, liver and ovary
  • Blood merchandise (medicines comprised of human blood)
  • Insect-based foods, corresponding to crackers, milkshakes and cricket bars.
  • Tooth created from cow bones and different dental biomaterials.
  • Improvement of software to improve the electrical techniques of the country or to digitally handle the info methods in hospitals.
  • Genetic enchancment of species
  • Antivenom serum to survive the snake chew
  • Digital purposes for corporations and improvement of artificial intelligence
  • Era of electricity and warmth from coffee waste

SnakeGetty Photographs Costa Rica exports an anti-venom serum to outlive the snake chew.

And though they are much less seen, Costa Rica has superior in the improvement of methods that make the processes of manufacturing of corporations more environment friendly (enterprise course of group, BPO).

A small experimental laboratory

Since the end of the 1990s, the country took decisive action to allow overseas corporations to settle in their free zones.

This is how the US Intel, the world's largest producer of microprocessors, opened a manufacturing unit that became answerable for 20% of national exports in the late 1990s, till in 2014 it closed to move it to Asia, the place the costs of manufacturing are cheaper.

Back, nevertheless, he left a analysis laboratory that employs highly skilled labor generally known as Intel's Megalab.

gsgGetty ImagesIntel closed its manufacturing unit in Costa Rica, however left a analysis and improvement laboratory.

“They took the production line, but left the added value to export knowledge,” says Beirute.

In addition to Intel, there are about 100 corporations devoted to producing merchandise derived from the so-called “life sciences”, with purposes in medical know-how, agriculture, food or the pharmaceutical business.

In truth, one of the symbols of profitable startups is Establishment Labs, the first Costa Rican firm to commerce its shares in the Nasdaq.

Its focus is the export of medical units akin to, for example, breast implants that incorporate a chip inside and are bought in about 70 countries.

And that’s precisely one of the great bets of Costa Rica: the export of medical units reminiscent of valves for the coronary heart, devices for examinations and other merchandise used in hospitals.

czxcEstablishment Labs One of its essential exports is medical know-how.

Despite current developments, the historical past of innovation began many years in the past.

“We have innovated since the army was abolished 70 years ago and those resources were invested in education,” says BBC Mundo Luis Jiménez, director of the University Agency for Entrepreneurship Administration of the College of Costa Rica.

Jimenez says that the country has one of the three largest medical gear improvement facilities in the world and highlights how the public sector, by means of universities, has led investment in technological innovation.

“Costa Rica is a small laboratory for the rest of the world,” says Jiménez.

Diversified financial system

Costa Rica has been increasing its business opening for decades (it has signed about 50 free commerce agreements), invests 8% of GDP in schooling and, since it does not spend assets in the Armed Forces, it has extra money to take a position in analysis and improvement.

Its exports characterize around 35% of GDP, a degree that leaves them in an excellent position in comparison with different developed countries.

hfghGetty ImagesThe travel business (tourism, schooling and well being) is one of the great exports of Costa Rica.

The journey business (tourism, schooling and health) occupies first place in gross sales abroad, followed by business providers and merchandise in the area of info know-how and telecommunications, based on Procomer knowledge.

And if all the merchandise of medical units are grouped, the sector as an entire exceeds the export of pineapple and electronic elements, with 28% of the complete exported from the country.

Innovation in the midst of poverty

“Innovation has given us a comparative advantage over other countries and, although we do not have a channel like Panama, we have managed to take off,” says Costa Rican journalist Esteban Mata, in dialog with BBC Mundo.

Nevertheless, he warns that poverty continues to be alarming and that there’s a setback in the economic state of affairs that may have an affect on innovative advances.

sdgsdgGetty ImagesPoverty has remained at 20% and unemployment reaches 12%.

To the partial reduce in the financing of college credit, different social problems are added like the improve of the violent deaths, a phenomenon that also performs towards the improvement of new businesses.

“It is sold to Costa Rica as a paradise, but in reality it is not,” provides Mata.

The technological giants and small businesses

Some of the giant overseas corporations have established their Latin American headquarters in Costa Rica, whereas others have delivered to the country operations in the area of ​​providers similar to customer service, accounting, finance, technological help and human assets administration.

“Many are technological multinationals that operate in free zones, have high productivity and pay their employees very well,” says BBC Mundo Galileo Solis, senior specialist in Competitiveness, Know-how and Innovation of the Inter-American Improvement Bank, IDB.

ghfghGetty Photographs The abolition of the army and an informed inhabitants are half of the innovative success.

But as if it have been a parallel actuality, 95% of corporations in Costa Rica reside in another world.

“Most are small or medium-sized local companies with low productivity,” he explains.

It is a divided nation: an innovative and thriving Costa Rica, and a quite lagging Costa Rica.

“Although their economy grows reasonably well, there is a lot of inequality and poorly paid jobs at the base of the pyramid,” Solis provides.

“It is an innovative country that has great social challenges,” he concludes.


This article was prepared for the digital version of Centroamérica Cuenta, a literary pageant that takes place in San José de Costa Rica between Might 13 and 17.

You’ll be able to verify all our protection of the pageant in this link.


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