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Cablegate: Argentina's Science and Technology Minister Wants

VZCZCXYZ0956
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #0273/01 0641012
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 041012Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0382
INFO RUCNMER/MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEANAT/NASA WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 000273

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

FOR WHA/BSC
OES/SAT FOR FERNANDO ECHAVARRIA
OES/SCT FOR TAMARA SCOTT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: TSPL TSPA SCUL PREL AR
SUBJECT: ARGENTINA'S SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY MINISTER WANTS
TO INCREASE COOPERATION WITH THE U.S.


1. (U) This telegram is sensitive but unclassified, and not
for Internet distribution.

-------
Summary
-------

2. (SBU) Argentine Minister of Science and Technology Lino
Baranao told Ambassador Wayne February 29 that he would like
to develop new bilateral initiatives. Baranao hopes to work
with U.S. scientific entities, both public and private, to
fund joint projects in the pursuit of common goals. He has
begun talks with several U.S. universities to that end. One
of Baranao's most ambitious priorities is to change
Argentina's basic scientific culture. He hopes to move from
a culture extolling pure research to one that is more
practical and entrepreneur-oriented. Baranao spent over
three years in the U.S., and appears well-disposed toward us.
End Summary.

--------------------------------------------- -----
Moving Forward with the Bilateral S&T Relationship
--------------------------------------------- -----

3. (U) Ambassador Wayne met February 29 with Lino Baranao,
Argentina's first Minister of Science, Technology, and
Productive Innovation. Baranao began the meeting by
explaining that he hopes to use his new ministry -- which
came into existence December 10, 2007, upon Baranao's
swearing in -- to move the bilateral science and technology
(S&T) relationship beyond traditional instruments such as
research exchanges. Instead, he is hoping to establish
"common projects, funded by both sides, but with a single
goal." To that end, Baranao said that his ministry has begun
talks with the Universities of Maryland, Illinois, Arizona,
and Miami with the goal of conducting joint research and
developing student exchange programs.

4. (U) As an example of what he wishes to achieve, Baranao
mentioned an agreement he had signed in November 2007 with
the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science, a
German non-profit research organization, to establish a Max
Planck institute in Argentina. Citing an Inter-American
Development Bank (IDB) study showing that students with
international experience perform better, Baranao noted the
benefits to both sides of increasing student exchanges. The
ambassador agreed, and told Baranao that the Embassy would
support that effort.

------------------
Changing a Culture
------------------

5. (SBU) Baranao expressed admiration for the ability of U.S.
scientists and research institutions to capitalize on their
ideas. He noted that his ministry is partnering with the
World Bank in a three-pronged approach to promote innovation
in Argentina. The idea is to establish a pool of seed
capital for startup high-tech companies; create physical
space for such companies within relevant public institutions;
and train a cadre of "technology managers," or individuals
who understand both science and money, and are therefore
well-placed to turn ideas into businesses. The goal, Baranao
continued, is to change a national scientific culture that
still finds something discreditable about turning research
into profit. Instead, Baranao said, he is trying to
inculcate the feeling that "publicly-funded researchers have
a moral obligation to make money" to generate jobs and repay
the taxpayer.


6. (SBU) Baranao did not say whether any monies had yet been
committed to the startup capital fund, but the GOA is clearly
taking steps to improve Argentina's scientific physical
plant. President Fernandez de Kirchner, flanked by Baranao,
made a televised appearance February 28 to announce a new
Science and Technology Infrastructure Plan. That plan
mandates spending USD 150 million over the next four years on
construction and improvement of the Argentine scientific
establishment's offices and laboratories throughout the
country. (Comment: That money will go a long way toward
making Argentina's long-neglected scientific infrastructure
more hospitable. End Comment.)

7. (SBU) The ambassador mentioned a roundtable discussion
with Minister of Planning De Vido in May 2007, to which the
ambassador invited a number of U.S.-based high-tech
companies. The rationale of that event was to allow those
companies to pass to De Vido their ideas about how they could
best effect research partnerships with Argentines. The
ambassador suggested that a similar meeting, possibly
involving both Baranao and Economy Minister Martin Lousteau,
could be useful. Baranao appeared enthusiastic about the
idea.

--------------------------------------------- -----
Intellectual Property Protection: On the Same Page
--------------------------------------------- -----

8. (SBU) Baranao observed that some multinational
research-based pharmaceutical companies are beginning to fund
research and development activity in Argentina. Ambassador
Wayne acknowledged the phenomenon, but pointed out that the
approximately USD 50 million that U.S. research-based
pharmaceutical companies are spending each year in Argentina
goes primarily toward funding clinical trials, and not toward
research and development, due to inadequacies in Argentina's
intellectual property protection regime.

9. (SBU) Baranao agreed, saying Argentina "has some problems"
with IPR protections. He described a case in which an
Argentine biotech firm applied contemporaneously for patents
in the U.S. and Argentina. The U.S. patent was granted two
years later, and was eventually sold for a significant sum.
Even after that sale, the Argentine patent was still pending.
Such a system, Baranao continued, clearly needs some work.
Baranao referred to another IDB study that he said analyzed
scientific papers authored by researchers from developing
nations. Of the two hundred-plus patents derived from those
papers, none went to the papers' authors or countries.
Without a better utilization of IPR protections, Baranao
continued, Argentina will continue to export both the
knowledge of its scientists and any potential monetary gains
from that knowledge. When the ambassador explained that some
U.S. universities have their own patent bureaucracies,
Baranao commented that he would like to begin something
similar at Argentine universities.

-------------------
Argentine Successes
-------------------

10. (U) The ambassador praised the GOA's INNOVAR program, an
online, paperless innovation competition. Baranao agreed
that the idea of the competition is good, but admitted that
it had been difficult thus far to turn some of the most
promising ideas into functioning companies. The ambassador
mentioned a visit to Argentine high-tech service provider
Globant, which has managed to secure around USD 500 million
in venture capital from U.S. sources, to illustrate that
Argentines can make the leap. Baranao named Core Security
Technologies, a company begun by young Argentine computer
programmers that now employs around two hundred people in the
U.S. and Argentina, as another example of the entrepreneurial
spirit he is trying to encourage.

------------------------------------
Our Bilateral S&T Agenda: Next Steps
------------------------------------

11. (SBU) Baranao responded positively to a suggestion that
his ministry work together with the Embassy on an exchange
program on tertiary education for S&T. Specifically, the USG
would host a multidisciplinary group of curriculum
decision-makers from Argentina's top universities and
institutes, who ould travel to the U.S. to learn how
selected U.S. universities are arranging their S&T curricula.
The ambassador also suggested cooperating to expand the use
of the Fulbright program to increase the number of Argentine
S&T doctoral students in the U.S. We will also work to
arrange a roundtable with U.S. high-tech firms and Minister
Baranao.

-------
Comment
-------

12. (SBU) Baranao, who has a PhD in Chemical Sciences, has
spent over three years in the U.S. (at the National
Institutes of Health and at Penn State's M.S. Hershey Medical
Centre). The experience appears to have left him
well-disposed toward the United States. Indeed, his
principal objective models change in the culture of
Argentina's scientific establishment on that of our own
country. Our S&T cooperation has been a consistent positive
in a sometimes tumultuous bilateral relationship, and we look
forward to working closely with Baranao to strengthen that
cooperation.
WAYNE

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