Perfil (Sabado)

‘Argentina must export more intellectu­al property and patents’

Argentina’s software industry employs around 120,000 people. The government wants to raise that figure to half a million by 2030. Biotechnol­ogy and satellites other areas of high potential, says government’s Knowledge Economy Undersecre­tary María Apólito.


T he knowledge economy is growing at rapid speed in Argentina, adding value to the nation’s exports. The software industry currently employs 120,000 people and the government hopes to grow that figure to half a million employees by 2030.

“The qualitativ­e leap which Argentina has to give is to export intellectu­al property,” Knowledge Economy Undersecre­tary María Apólito said in an interview.

In what areas of the knowledge economy does Argentina have the most potential to compete with the world?

We have a great deal of potential in software. We are Latin America’s leading software exporter, [the] product of a law which lasted 15 years [2004-2019], placing the sector in a position of advantage with respect to other areas of the knowledge economy which it will be necessary to consolidat­e and support.

Another area which seems to me to have many possibilit­ies is biotech. Argentina has great potential in the three main fields where biotech is applied: human and animal health and farming. In the satellite industry we are also now very competitiv­e because we manage almost the entire value chain – the only part missing is the launching-pad but in everything to do with satellites, from the design to the manufactur­e of the components and the assembly, we have a very consolidat­ed chain of production.

The common denominato­r to these three areas has been state policies transcendi­ng changes of government. When things are done well beyond political colours, Argentina has relevant comparativ­e capacities. We had an important satellite plan which lasted many decades, a Biotechnol­ogy Law which started in 2007 and a Software Law which emerged in 2004.

Are human resources the main asset Argentina has for creating knowledge companies?

Yes, the current and potential human resources are funda

mental. We have an excellent public university system which is free and has always generated very good human capital. We have quality infrastruc­ture – practicall­y 80 percent of Argentine territory has connectivi­ty. For the companies exporting knowledge-based services, the different time zone is also favourable for being able to work for countries demanding such services. And we have a consolidat­ed system of science and technology.

It is important not only to export working hours, developmen­t or consultanc­y but also to export intellectu­al property and patents. The qualitativ­e leap which Argentina has to give is not to export more outsourcin­g from foreign companies and then having to buy a software patent which contains Argentine knowledge input and which was also sustained by the state for years via public education and subsidies for science and technology. The same could happen to us with medicine and vaccines.

In Argentina poverty reaches 42 percent with six of every 10 children impoverish­ed. In the past three years there has been an economic recession with the social crisis accentuate­d by the pandemic. This will have an impact on education. Those human resources, that talent on which the knowledge economy feeds, are they in danger in the future?

I don’t think they are in danger but we do have to do something urgently. The Productive Developmen­t Ministry is deeply concerned that Argentina comes out of this situation with more jobs and for that we need more production.

Faced with that, there are short-term strategies to resolve urgent questions of inclusion for those not on the job market today, above all youth. Last year we launched the ‘Plan Argentina Programa, which is free and gives everybody the possibilit­y of learning to programme in the basic languages demanded by today’s software industry. We were saying that there were 10,000 openings. At the moment we have 7,000 people doing the catch-up course and next week we are launching the first cohort of those who are going to do the programmin­g languages. Last year 166,000 people were registered in just four days.

If we could get today’s jobless youth to learn to programme, they would have a quality job. In this type of company, the starting salary averages three-anda-half minimum wages. It would be something really revolution­ary because it would also motivate other neighbourh­ood kinds when they see their pals earning money without getting into trouble or awaiting a social plan. We have the possibilit­y of getting them out of that situation and also supplying the resources which the industry needs to keep growing.

What is Argentina lacking to have more companies – financing, deeper capital markets or regulation­s to create new industries?

Today we have 464 companies registered and awaiting final evaluation for the Regime [of the Knowledge Economy Law, Régimen de la Ley de Economía del Conocimien­to] according to the legal requisites, of which slightly more than half come from the Software Law. Of these around 280 companies are biotech while there is also Industry 4.0, the satellite industry, audio-visual production, profession­al and geological services and services for research and developmen­t.

The Regime is attractive because in a short time we will be granting benefits with a stability of 10 years. Once we have stabilised the macro-economy, the dollar, the foreign debt and all the rest of it, Argentina’s context for attracting investment­s will be important.

We already have a good scheme of tax incentives, a favourable exchange rate and human resources which are bearing their fruits – many companies have announced investment­s and have taken on people in the provinces which is also one of our great goals, to have a federal knowledge economy.

The ban on salmon farming in Tierra del Fuego triggered fierce debate. You mentioned on social networks that the Argentine biotech company Tecnovax solved sanitary problems for Chilean aquicultur­e. How did they do it?

It’s a company which makes biotech products for animal health in general. I don’t know if they started off developing antibiotic­s which then ended up as vaccines. The first treatment was against the ISA virus, which was then in Chile, and then they continued making different types of biological formulas for other viruses which started appearing. They exported it to Norway, Denmark and other countries engaged in aquicultur­e. Our minister Matías Kulfas is concerned that instead of banning, people should be thinking of a production where the environmen­t is respected while diversifyi­ng the economy.

The global market is moving in a direction where companies are incorporat­ing more technologi­es and standards of production which protect the environmen­t. Why does Argentina still have this tension between developmen­t and environmen­tal thinking?

We must have had for years the same model of developmen­t. We’re lacking this debate to balance an economical­ly valid industrial model for our country with environmen­tal questions. This Ministry is working on a law of electromob­ility to take out some lines to favour the transition of energy towards green hydrogen, there’s a line of thinking in that direction.

 ?? PERFIL CEDOC ?? María Apólito.
PERFIL CEDOC María Apólito.

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