Latin American countries are making progress in learning how to design and implement innovation policies. One of their main challenges is to strengthen capacities so that the policies work. Experience shows that not only is good policy design necessary, but it is also necessary to invest in building the capacity to manage and implement programmes at all levels of government, especially when introducing new public policy measures. 

The challenges faced by Latin American countries include: correcting failures in co-ordination, reducing overlap in policies, strengthening consistency over time and developing a sound decision-making structure for productive development and innovation policies, and strengthening the management and evaluation capabilities of policies. All of this requires highly skilled and experienced policy makers. In this respect, there are three areas in which the countries of the region have made progress. 

  • First of all, the region is investing in new and better management capacities for programme implementation and management of policy instruments. Building and strengthening institutions and the domestic capabilities needed to design, implement and evaluate policies for productive development and innovation is a process of trial and error, requiring time, resources and a long-term perspective. In particular, the success or failure of policies and instruments implemented to achieve a more productive and innovative system is strongly conditioned by the abilities of those responsible for the design and management of the policies themselves.
    Efforts have been made in the region to promote the training and specialisation of technical specialists experienced in developing and implementing science, technology and innovation who can design new instruments and to design new instruments and monitor the implementation of existing ones. One interesting capacity-building experience at the sub-national level is RENAPI (National Network for Industrial Policy Agents), which promotes training in regional industrial policy in Brazil. RENAPI is an initiative of the Brazilian Agency for Industrial Development (ABDI) and consists of a network of experts and officials in charge of industrial policy. Its aim is to promote the regionalisation of productive development policy. The network helps create a common language among participants by supporting the training of officials from around the country who are responsible for industrial policy and R&D.
    Another example is the School for Policy Makers in Science, Technology and Innovation inaugurated in 2008 by ECLAC, with support from the German Co-operation Agency and various ministries and agencies responsible for science, technology and innovation in the region. Its main objective is the training of professionals involved in the development, monitoring, evaluation and implementation of science, technology and innovation policies. In this way it will contribute to strengthening the capacities of countries in the region in this field, the transfer of knowledge and experiences and the strengthening of their relations, as well as the identification of joint activities.15
  • Countries in the region are advancing in the creation of a regional space for policy discussion to address common challenges and advance in policy learning. The consolidation of a regional mechanism for policy dialogue responds to the need to advance policy learning and to improve the position of the region in the global economy. It is also a response to the increasing pressure on policy makers to demonstrate the validity and effectiveness of policy measures proposed in a context of major budget constraints and greater transparency in public decision-making. In fact, the exchange and regular evaluation of practices and incentives among peers favours greater accountability in policy-making.
    In Latin America there are several experiences in regional scientific collaboration. However, it is necessary to create permanent institutional mechanisms that support co-operation on policy and dialogue and make it viable. The diversity and complementarity among the capabilities and characteristics of the countries in the region represent an advantage for the creation of joint research and training programmes. In addition, the desire to create effective mechanisms for scientific collaboration results from the desire to increase synergies and overcome national boundaries, given the limits of human and financial resources available for scientific research.
    A large number of collaborative initiatives and policy dialogues on innovation have taken place in the region, but they lack co-ordination and would benefit synergies were created among them. The panorama of collaborative activities on science, technology and innovation in Latin America is varied. We can identify at least three complementary levels for policy dialogue:
    — The ministerial level (or the highest authorities), which defines strategic lines for international collaboration;
    — The technical advisory level, which involves meetings with senior advisers of the highest authorities and generally focuses on dialogues related to policy “tactics”, such as the design of mechanisms and incentives for science, technology and innovation.
    — The policy implementation level, which refers to the dialogue among managers of programmes and policy instruments, aimed at exchanging practices and experiences in the policy implementation phase.
  • Thirdly, the region has advanced in measuring innovation and on strengthening strategic intelligence capacities for policy analysis and monitoring. There are three major areas in which the countries of the region are advancing and modernising their institutions for decision-making in innovation policy:
    — The generation of systems of indicators for decision-making: several countries have invested in establishing units engaged in the collection and dissemination of innovation indicators within national ministries or national secretaries for innovation. This advance is also supported by a vast modernisation of the information systems of ministries and higher bodies in science and technology, which has increased transparency and accessibility to data. This development has taken place in large countries like Argentina and Brazil, as well as in smaller countries such as Costa Rica and Panama.
    — Innovation surveys: Latin America is consolidating its experience in the development of innovation surveys.16 Like in OECD economies, innovation surveys are useful tools to deepen the understanding of innovative behaviour in firms, to assess obstacles to investment in innovation, and to determine the impact of public policies. However, unlike in OECD economies, the comparability of innovation surveys in the region must be improved. This process requires time and investment in institution building and dialogue among policy makers, experts and statistics institutes. Comparability between surveys is not simple and requires serious efforts at harmonisation.17 In Latin America, this is even more complex because the surveys follow different models (in Brazil, Chile and Mexico they are based on the Oslo Manual, while in Argentina, Colombia and Uruguay they follow the Bogota Manual). Being a recent phenomenon in the region, only a few countries regularly conduct these surveys and use them for feedback on policies.18 Comparability between them is still low. Specifically, only Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay carry out surveys regularly, while Mexico does so sporadically, and Costa Rica, Panama, Peru and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela are just joining the effort.
    - Creating and/or strengthening institutions for data analysis and decisionmaking: Investing in building data analysis capabilities to aid decisionmaking is important. It is also necessary to create incentives for the use of data analysis in evaluating and redesigning public policy. Unlike in OECD economies, Latin American countries are still at an early stage in the creation of institutions for policy analysis. The country that has made the most progress in this area is Brazil, where the Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA), affiliated to the Strategic Affairs Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic, and the Centre for Management and Strategic Studies (CGEE), affiliated to the Ministry of Science and Technology, provide analysis and feedback on the implementation and impact of public policy.