Latin America’s Innovation Potential Is Largely Untapped

Mexico, Chile and Costa Rica were the big winners of Latin America’s 2017 Global Innovation Index (GII). This index ranks countries based on their innovation capabilities (innovation inputs), and measurable results.

Cornell University, INSEAD, and the World Intellectual Property Organization co-authored the GII report. It was launched at the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva in June.

The central driver of economic growth and prosperity is innovation, which is widely recognized. The GII aims at providing countries with a snapshot about their innovation ecosystem. This will help them identify strengths and weaknesses.

Latin America In The Middle

Effective innovation policies can be a powerful tool to counter regional and global political and economic uncertainties. The region’s overall score increased by 2% last year, but countries within the region still need to realize their innovation potential.

Chile ranked 48th out of the 127 countries. Costa Rica ranked 53rd, Mexico 58th, and Chile was 53rd. The list of the top ten most innovative economies in the world was topped by Switzerland, Sweden and the Netherlands.

The region’s countries are not outperforming in innovation relative to the level of their development. This is evident in India and Vietnam, and the rankings of the largest countries have not improved.

The region is behind in both the inputs that facilitate innovation, including increased investment, science and tech graduates, credit markets availability, and innovation outcomes such as patent filings and scientific articles published.

And The Latin American Innovator

Chile is ranked 46th in the world for innovation. It remains the top economy in Latin America as it has been for the past four year, although it has fallen two places in the overall rankings.

Its 2017 improvements are mainly due to its technology outputs and knowledge. In particular, the number of new companies created ranks 14th in the globe with eight new company registrations for every thousand people in 2014. Chile is now in good company with places like Bulgaria (8.9 per 1000) and Iceland (9.5 per 1,000).

Chile ranks tenth worldwide in terms of foreign direct investment (FDI), net outflows. This refers to the amount of Chilean residents who invest in foreign countries. It accounted for 5% of Chile’s GDP during the period 2013-2015, which puts Chile’s FDI output higher than that of Norway and Canada.

With 88.6% of its total population in 2015, the high-income South American country also surpasses other economies like Finland and the US in terms of tertiary education enrollments. This is followed by Uruguay (ranked 38th), and Colombia (47th).

Costa Rica And Mexico Are Strong Contenders

Costa Rica is now the second most innovative country in Latin America, and 53rd globally. This is eight places less than its 2016 ranking. This small Central American country is ranked among the top three performing economies in the region for the seventh consecutive year.

Its strengths are mainly in its business sophistication and creative outputs. Costa Rica ranks first in the world for creative and cultural-services exports such as advertising, market research, and public opinion polling services. It is also fifth in the number and quality of business researchers.

Costa Rica ranks third worldwide in the exports ICT-based services, behind India, Ireland, and Israel. ICT service exports accounted for 14.6% of its total trade in 2015.

Costa Rica’s greatest weaknesses lie on the innovation inputs end. Low percentage of engineering and science graduates (91st globally) and few industrial designs from their origin (103rd).

Innovation Over The Past Latin Year

Mexico also did well in innovation over the past year, moving up three places to be the 58th most innovated economy globally.

It is rank seventh in the 62 middle-income countries for innovation quality, which includes India, Brazil, China and India. This indicator shows that Mexico is performing above average in terms of the quality of its universities and its international impact.

Mexico’s gross domestic research and development expenditures (known as GERD and BERD respectively) did not decrease during the 2008-2009 global financial crisis. They have actually increased since 2010.

GERD accounted for 0.55% GDP in 2015, which was 34% more than 2008 levels. BERD was 22% higher than the crisis-era levels in 2015.

Mexico, projected to become the 16th largest economy in the world in 2017, has shown itself to be a contributing member of global value chains. Imports such as aerospace equipment and scientific instruments accounted for 18.4% of total Mexican trade between 2015 and 2015.

Mexico’s greatest weakness is its lack of political stability and safety. This indicator ranked Mexico 104th among the 127 countries. Gender equality is another area for improvement. Only 8.2% of Mexican women employed had a degree (compared to 21.1% of French women working and 15.9% of Chilean women working).

Latin Brazil A For Effort

Brazil is a key innovation player in Latin America. It ranked 69th globally and 7th in Latin America, losing ground to countries like Uruguay and Panama. It is now at the same rank as it was in 2016, but has improve one spot relative to 2015, when it was rank 70th.

Brazil has made significant gains in research and human capital, as well as improving its education expenditures. The average score of top three Brazilian universities in the QS university ranking 2016 ranks 24th globally, higher than countries like Austria or Italy.

There were mark improvements in PISA scores between 2003-12 and the OECD Program For International Student Assessment (PISA). However, tertiary education is still a barrier to innovation. Brazil ranks 96th out of the 102 countries surveyed, with only 12% studying engineering and science.

Unleash Your Potential

The results for this year show that even though Latin American and Caribbean countries have increase their investment in R&D, innovation inputs, these inputs are not always translate into innovation outputs such as patents, scientific publications and quality certificates.

This is affecting the effectiveness of the region’s innovation system. Latin America and the Caribbean, with a combined GDP of US$5.2 Trillion and nearly 650 million inhabitants. Has the potential to be a larger source of global intellectual production as well as high-tech manufactured goods and other areas of growth.

The GII results show that countries must create enabling environments for creativity. In their own country and at the regional level.

This Is The Age Of Reusability In Space

Space is the place for big plans. Investment banks are interest in mining asteroids for rare and valuable metals. Japan is interest in building a solar power plant. Billionaire tycoons are interest in building hotels in space for space tourists. Space could see the beginning of an economic boom. None of these ideas have been implement. They are still stuck.

Space Rockets Can Be Reuse

It’s difficult to make a profit in space. It is expensive to transport stuff, which includes people, cargo, and equipment, from Earth into space. We don’t know how to recycle rockets. The launch of Sputnik 60 years ago has been the beginning of the space age. Most of the spacecraft launched to date are Expendable Launch Vehicles, which can only fly one time. They either crash back to Earth or burn up in the atmosphere after delivering their payload. Or they simply stay in orbit as space junk.

Each time a new payload is need to go into space, an ELV must be built. This can cost millions. Imagine the cost of an Uber if every driver had to purchase a new car! Reusing rockets might seem like the obvious solution. Although the idea of Reusable Launch Vehicles is not new, it has been difficult to reuse rockets in the past. NASA’s Space Shuttle program was the first serious attempt to make an RLV.

Space Shuttle fleets were design to reduce the cost of space transport by being partially reusable. The program did not reduce costs. Maintaining and operating the Space Shuttle fleet was difficult and expensive due to its complexity and high risk. It may have appeared that the argument for RLVs was over when the 30-year-old program ended in 2011.

Recycling And Recovery

However, RLV proponents were not deter. SpaceX, a start up company started by Elon Musk, the tech billionaire, announced plans to make their Falcon 9 rocket reusable a few months after its last Space Shuttle flight. SpaceX began to work on ways to reuse and recover the Falcon 9’s booster, which is the most expensive, largest part of the rocket.

The company started to try to recover boosters that had been lost by making controlled descents into oceans after their missions. This was two years later. SpaceX was able to successfully recover a booster in late 2015, after many spectacular failures.

Built up a large stockpile of secondhand rockets over the next 15-months. SpaceX has yet to reuse any of these boosters. One of the boosters that was recover from the wreckage was use to launch a communications satellite. This was not the first time that a rocket has been reuse. That honor will always go to the Space Shuttle program. The Falcon 9 was, however, cheaper than the Space Shuttle.

Recycling rockets is a good business idea for the first time in human history. The Falcon 9 was cheaper than comparable medium-sized rockets even without being reuse as shown in the chart. It will get even cheaper as more reuse flights are made.

What Is The Reaction Of Space X’s Competitors To These Developments?

United Launch Alliance (ULA), the US’s largest rocket industry company, is now publishing a plan to reuse rockets. It is a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Even after the successful SpaceX reuse flight in March 2017, Tory Bruno, CEO of ULA, remains skeptical about RLVs. Arianespace, a European rocket company, seems to ignore RLVs completely.

The Space Quest

SpaceX is not content to be ignore by the traditional players of the rocket industry. Musk is not the only billionaire who wants to own the space industry. Blue Origin, owned by Jeff Bezos (the world’s second-richest person), is a rival rocket company. The company is currently testing New Shepherd, a small suborbital launch rocket. It plans to begin sending people into in 2018.

Blue Origin is also developing New Glenn, which will be a larger reusable rocket capable of competing directly with SpaceX. Richard Branson, founder and CEO of Virgin Group, wants tourists to fly on suborbital flight. Branson founded Virgin Galactic to fly passengers on SpaceShipTwo a reusable spaceplane. Virgin Galactic flights are expect to begin in 2018, and hundreds of people have already paid deposits of US$250,000.

Other groups around the globe are also attempting to prove that the RLV game doesn’t require you to be a billionaire. Reaction Engines in the UK is creating the Skylon reusable spaceplane using its innovative SABRE hybrid engine. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is currently researching a reusable sounding rocket. The Indian Space Research Organization is also testing a Space Shuttle-like spaceplane.

The University of Queensland in Australia is currently developing SPARTAN, an RLV which uses cutting-edge scramjet engines. While it is difficult to predict which of these efforts will be successful, it is clear that momentum is building for RLVs. RLVs offer low-cost transport, which could lead to new opportunities in space. The age of reuse has arrived.

Space Agency’s Mission Aims To Uncover How Moons Of Mars Formed

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency has announced a mission to Mars two moons and to return a sample of rock to Earth. This mission aims to unravel the mysteries of the moons origins and perhaps reveal how life began in the Solar System. Names of the Solar System’s planets are derive from Roman and ancient Greek mythology. Mars is the god war and the two red planet moons are name after the deity’s twin brothers, Deimos (meaning panic), and Phobos (fear).

Deimos and Phobos are smaller than our Moon. Phobos measures 22.2 km in diameter, and Deimos is only 13km. Both moons are in a stable orbit. Deimos is slowly moving away from Mars, while Phobos will reach the Martian surface within 20 million years.

Their gravity is too weak to pull the moons into spheres due to their small sizes. Instead, the pair has the irregular, lumpy structure typical of asteroids. This raises a question: Did they form from Mars? Or are they capture asteroids?

What Is The Difference Between Impact And Capture?

It is believed that our Moon was formed from material from Mars, which collided with the Earth’s early Earth. To form our Moon, material from the collision was flung into Earth’s orbit. Similar events could have created Deimos and Phobos. During the last stages of Solar System formation, the terrestrial planets were hit with a torrent of impacts.

Mars may have been the site of one such impact. The planet’s northern terrain is on average 5.5 km lower than its southern counterpart. This or other impacts could have caused the birth of the moons

Phobos and Deimos could also be asteroids, which were push inwards by Jupiter’s gravitational influence. The planet may have taken its moons, possibly by being pull in by Mars’s gravity. This is how Neptune obtained Triton, its moon. It is believe that Triton was once a Kuiper belt object similar to Pluto. Both the #TeamImpact scenario and the #TeamCapture scenario have compelling arguments.

Moons Orbit In The Same Plane Mission

Both moons orbit in the same plane as Mars’s rotation and are circular. Although the chances of this happening during a capture event is very unlikely, observations of the moons indicate that they could have a composition similar or even identical to other asteroids.

A clear determination of the composition of the moons would be a key to distinguishing the two models. Moons should made from the same rocks as Mars if there is a collision. If the moons had been capture, however, they would have formed in another part of the Solar System with different minerals.

Here is the new mission. JAXA’s Martian Moon eXploration Mission, (MMX), is schedule to launch in September 2024. It will arrive at Mars in Aug 2025. The spacecraft will spend the next three-years exploring the moons and the surrounding environment. MMX will descend to Phobos’ surface to collect a sample for return to Earth in 2029.

It is difficult to collect samples from small rocky bodies due to their weak gravity. This is JAXA’s specialty. In 2010, samples were return by JAXA from the asteroid Itokawa. Hayabusa2, the sequel to that mission is expect to reach asteroid Ryugu in 2012.

International Mission Collaborations

International participation in MMX has been strong due to the excitement surrounding a Mars moon mission. Naoki Okumura, president of JAXA, met Jean-Yves Le Gall, his counterpart at France’s Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales. This meeting established a partnership between the two space agencies. CNES will provide a tool for MMX and combine expertise in flight dynamics to help with the Martian moon encounter.

The French instrument will include a high-resolution, infrared camera as well as a spectrometer that analyzes the composition of each pixel. This will enable the investigation of rocks from the Martian moons down to just a few tenths a meter. The spectrometer has a pixel size that is an order of magnitude smaller then similar instruments on missions like NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter or ESA’s Mars Express. This will allow MMX to select the best landing spot on Phobos and collect the sample.