Discussion on Technological Innovation – “The Future of Canada-Mexico Relations: How Postsecondary-Government-Private Sector Partnerships Can Lead the Way” (Mexico)
Querétaro, Mexico, Friday, November 30, 2012
I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to be here at Tech Mont, the MIT of the South.
Thank you for welcoming me to this wonderful institution of higher learning. I am pleased to begin my visit to three Latin American countries here in Querétaro, one of the innovation hubs of Mexico.
Having spent much of my career as an administrator at the universities of Waterloo, McGill and Western in Canada and as Board Chair at Harvard, I am familiar with your reputation for excellence.
The Center for Innovation in Advanced Manufacturing and the Tecnológico de Monterrey are of course world-renowned. I had the opportunity to visit the Centre a few minutes ago. I was grateful for the demonstration which allowed me to learn more about your work and your vision for the future.
As governor general of Canada, I am also delighted to discuss the great potential for partnership between Mexico and Canada. It would be an understatement to say we have much to talk about.
Let me begin with a quote from the late, great Mexican writer and diplomat Carlos Fuentes, whose loss we mourned earlier this year. I had the pleasure of meeting him in Brazil last spring.
Of the north-south frontier that is shared by the diverse peoples of the Americas, he once said:
“This is a living frontier, which can be nourished by information, but, above all, by knowledge, by understanding, by the pursuit of enlightened self-interest on both parts.”
I should add that those words were delivered by Mr. Fuentes as part of Canada’s annual Massey Lectures series, which are broadcast and streamed around the world and represent one of our country’s great cultural institutions.
I share this as just one example of the fruitful exchange of ideas, knowledge and learning that has been taking place between Canadians and Mexicans for generations.
Of course, this university played a key role in bringing the Internet to Mexico, so each of you fully understands the transformative nature of the times in which we live.
Those of you who work and study at the Tecnológico de Monterrey and the Center for Innovation in Advanced Manufacturing also understand the power of collaboration. This university is a pioneer in fostering collaboration between academia and industry, and this centre is breaking new ground in the automotive and aerospace sectors, in particular.
I am also pleased to note that Tec de Monterrey’s Querétaro campus is working closely with Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters to promote business opportunities between Mexico and Canada. Mexico is an important market for Canadian manufacturers, and the online tools, research and relationships you are generating together will be a great asset to both of our countries.
I am inspired by your success—and clearly, I am not the only one. The strategic partnerships this school has formed with institutions from around the world—including several in Canada—speaks to your deep engagement as global citizens.
In the 21st century, a smart university or college, just like a smart individual or a smart nation, is one that learns from the past, embraces the future and looks to the world with curiosity, confidence and respect.
Let me elaborate briefly on three ways in which postsecondary institutions can help us to build smarter, more caring nations and a fairer, more just world.
Firstly, universities and colleges are knowledge hubs and talent hives. There is simply no substitute for their unique ability to create new knowledge, to prepare students for global citizenship and community leadership, and to develop new ideas and approaches to the challenges we face.
Secondly, postsecondary research drives transformative innovation, leading to the creation of new products and services and to the social innovations needed in times of change.
And thirdly, postsecondary education builds practical knowledge by connecting graduates to private sector companies—an area of particular expertise here at the Center for Innovation in Advanced Manufacturing and one that you share in common with Canada’s colleges, institutes and polytechnics.
In fact, this institution is a leading practitioner of what I often refer to as the diplomacy of knowledge, by which I mean working together across disciplines and public-, private- and non-profit sector divisions to enhance our learning and our ability to innovate.
In this sense, I believe that the universities, colleges and institutes of Mexico and Canada can act as catalysts in the success of the broader North American community that we have started to build together, but not yet finished.
As members of a learning community, each of you knows the necessary elements of successful collaboration. The formula is not all that different than is required of any partnership—including that of our North American community of nations.
Consider the words of Robert Pastor, director of the Center for North American Studies at American University, in which he outlines the basic principles for success in the trilateral relationship between Canada, Mexico and the United States.
“The essence of a North American community is that each of the three sovereign states has a stake in the success of the other, and each will pay a price if one fails. That is the first principle – interdependence – of a community. The second is reciprocity – that each nation should treat the other as it wants to be treated, and each should want to learn from the experience of the others. The third principle is a community of interests…[in which] all three governments would share responsibility for problems and contribute to solutions.”
Substitute the words “university” or “college” for “sovereign states”, “nation” or “governments”, and it is clear that the ingredients for success apply equally whether we are speaking of a learning community or a community of nations.
In this sense, postsecondary institutions such as Tecnológico de Monterrey are indeed incubators—of new technologies and nimble talent, certainly, but also of a co-operative vision that stretches across North America and beyond. As partners in this continent, we must find ways to increase our learning exchanges, to develop shared research goals and to offer greater internship opportunities throughout Mexico and Canada.
A curious feature about globalization is that it both enables and requires greater collaboration. In today’s complex, interconnected world, few problems can be solved in isolation, but many challenges can be met and opportunities realized by working together, so long as we work in the spirit of “enlightened self-interest” of which Mr. Fuentes spoke.
Canada and Mexico can be partners in the global learning society that is fast emerging. As citizens of North America, therefore, let us do so in common cause.
Mexico’s success is important to Canadians and important to the world.
Let me leave you with my favourite quote from George Bernard Shaw:
“Some people see things as they are and wonder ‘Why?’ We dream of things that ought to be and ask, ‘Why not?’”