Mexican University Innovation Leads to International Partnerships
By Juan Terrazas
When people hear “manufacturing in Mexico” many immediately and unfortunately think cheap labor. But in Baja California, manufacturing sectors can boast of qualified labor, which has evolved significantly in the past decade. Going from the early 1900s where industry in the area consisted of recreation and commerce, to the 1930s where the region experienced industrialization attempts before moving to the then traditional maquiladora or factories in the 1960s, and then to Asian consumer electronics in the 1990s. But since the 2010s, labor has advanced in sector specialization and tech automation in Cali-Baja, a binational megaregion – which combines Southern California and Baja California.
In the midst of the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and President Trump’s recent tariff proposals, a university in Mexico, CETYS, is working on continued collaboration with manufacturing industries and building global relationships from both an education and an industrial perspective.
Throughout its history, and more so under the leadership of its president Dr. Fernando Leon-Garcia, CETYS University, one of Mexico’s premiere higher education institutions specializing in innovation and entrepreneurship, has collaborated with manufacturing companies and academic institutions around the world.
Earlier this year, in fact the same day President Trump addressed the country with his State of the Union and spoke about keeping manufacturing jobs in the United States, CETYS inaugurated the Center for Innovation and Design (CEID), where graduate students, local and international faculty, as well as companies, are working together to develop prototypes, patents, process design and research studies, fostering innovation. This incubator will work to solve real problems while developing new initiatives.
CETYS, using its alliances within Mexico and the United States, created CEID as a place for development and experimentation of new products in various sectors, including consumer electronics, aerospace, automotive, medical device manufacturing and renewable energy. Companies such as Gulfstream, a manufacturer of private jets, and Skyworks, of semiconductors, have already developed partnerships with CETYS and CEID.
Companies and their engineers are working together with CETYS faculty and students on projects in an experimental stage, without putting intellectual property at risk, while facing and solving real Manufacturing 4.0 problems.
With eight labs that can host up to 10 innovation and design projects simultaneously – including the Applied Research lab which is modeled like an industrial shop floor – CEID is on its way to becoming an international innovation hub while providing its students with real life experiences which will further prepare them for successful careers.
Other labs in CEID include: Advanced Manufacturing (software tools, 3D scanners and rapid prototyping ); Robotics and Automation (for industrial processes, with up to three robotic arms); Sustainability and Renewable Energies (for modelling and designing energy storage and distribution systems); Production Systems (for design, modelling and optimization of industrial production systems); loT & Radio Frequency (for developing industrial and commercial IoT solutions); and Animation and Digital Graphic Design (2D and 3D animation for commercial and entertainment purposes such as video game design).
CEID will develop projects with corporations such as Honeywell, Gulfstream and United Technologies, among others, as well as strengthen CETYS’ already-existing collaboration initiatives with leading academic institutions including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide Campus, among others.
Today, global collaboration is imperative, and governments, corporations, and even academic institutions are all building professional bridges to scale to the future. CETYS has partnerships with many universities around the world, including significant engineering partnerships with University of California San Diego and St. Cloud University, which have resulted in innovative programs.
Because of its proximity to American cities like San Diego, students from CETYS University have a unique advantage. Currently, 10% of CETYS’ undergraduate students are from Southern California. Programs such as the Double Degree with City University of Seattle or Global Programs taught completely in English, further expose students to this intercultural perspective.
Preparing for Tomorrow
Studies say many jobs that exist today won’t be around by the year 2050. And there’s no telling which careers will endure. That’s another reason why we encourage our students to experiment in the new CEID labs and create new products alongside international manufacturing companies; to educate highly-skilled, well-rounded professionals.
For example, CETYS students are currently developing a prototype of an autonomous vehicle with renewable technologies. The self-driving car in its first phase would be used only on campus and then later for industrial application. The objective is to implement projects and initiatives that aim to promote science and engineering, but to also develop and promote Mexican-led technology.
Advancements in the Megaregion
Richard Florida from the Harvard Business Review explained it well in 2008 when he said, “When managers locate a plant or innovation center or target a new market, which country they choose will matter less than which megaregion.”
Today, more than 400,000 people in the Baja California megaregion work in manufacturing, and in 2016, 55,000 new jobs were created. These can be indications of a promising future for Baja California as CETYS works to provide a skilled and innovative future workforce in sectors such as aerospace, semiconductors, electronics, metal-mechanics and medical device manufacturing.
Opportunities in the region also continue to evolve in the Integration of Regional Supply Chains, Engineering & Design, Business Process, Commercialization, Creative Industries, CleanTech, BlueTech (Maritime) and Unmanned Systems.
CETYS’ geographical location with three campuses in Baja California is unique. With a population of just over 3 million, the Cali-Baja region has a growing tech ecosystem with strong assets for cross border cooperation in the areas of education, research, development and manufacturing. Moreover, CETYS is strengthening the region and driving innovation in manufacturing through technology while continuing to create global partnerships in the United States and abroad.