Since the first industrial revolution, waves of technological improvement have changed the boundary of production and redefined the role of the state. The information and communication technology revolution has not only increased productivity, but has also reinterpreted the function of time and distance—billions of activities are now linked with “one-click,” and new transactions become possible with “just-in-time” delivery. If the technological revolution has made participation in Global Value Chains (GVCs) somewhat inevitable, it has also accentuated both the risks and opportunities associated with this involvement. On the one hand, participation in GVCs creates new opportunities for profits and expands the market horizon; but on the other hand, it exposes the enterprise sector to risks previously shielded by market boundaries and geographic distances, while increasing the scale of information asymmetry.
The rewards of innovation for developing nations do not require much convincing. Poverty alleviation, faster economic growth, greater job creation, and higher worker remuneration are just some of the potential benefits. The idea of innovation as a key driver of development can be traced back to the seminal works of economists such as Joseph Schumpeter. Thus, it is no surprise that on July 30 and 31, 2013 a group of innovation leaders from 18 countries gathered in Santiago, Chile for the first pan Latin American Innovation Summit. The event was kicked off by Sebastian Piñera, then President of Chile, who had announced a national innovation budget of $1 billion. What about the private sector? An important driver of innovation is Research and Development (R & D) spending by businesses. Evidence shows that firms that invest in R&D and other innovation-related activities have higher productivity and are more capable of making technological advances than firms that do not. So, where do Latin American firms stand on R & D investment?