Automotive clusters, Industry 4.0 and Mexican High-Tech SMEs

Type de publication:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Paris (2018)



To evaluate some effects of industrial clustering and knowledge spillovers from MNC over regions and industries in Mexico, particularly focusing on High-Tech Mexican SMEs and their insertion in GVC


In Mexico, the automotive industry is comprised of 23 automakers (OEMs) with industrial complexes in 14 states, which produce 50 models. In 2016, this industry contributed with 3.3 % of the national GDP, 19.6 % of the manufacturing GDP, generated more than 52,000 million dollars and 900,000 direct jobs (SE, 2017). Currently, Mexico is positioned as the seventh producer and the fourth exporter worldwide of lightweight vehicles (PROMEXICO, 2017).


Recently, in regions with a strong productive tradition in the automotive industry, such as Chihuahua, Sonora, Puebla, Guanajuato, Nuevo Leon, Aguascalientes, among others, several organizations have been created to support technological and entrepreneurial capacities. Some of these organizations, often formally named clusters, are coordinated by small and medium-sized Mexican entrepreneurs; they offer engineering services and technology products ranging from tooling, molds, dies, fixtures to special projects in automation, internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI), mainly for Multinationals Corporations (MNC) located in Tier 1 and Tier 2 of the automotive value chain (SE, 2017, PROMÉXICO, 2017; Contreras and García, 2017). In addition, the renegotiation of NAFTA has generated incentives for a greater number of Mexican High-Tech SMEs to integrate in advanced manufacturing clusters and to get into global value chains, which may increase the regional value content.


In this research we evaluate some effects of industrial clustering and knowledge spillovers from MNC over regions and industries in Mexico, particularly focusing on High-Tech Mexican SMEs and their insertion in GVC. We combine two conceptual perspectives: Global Value Chains (Gereffi, Humphrey and Sturgeon, 2005) and Regional Innovation Systems (Cooke, Uranga and Etxebarria, 1997, Cooke, 2001), under the assumption that for High-Tech firms both MNCs and RIS contribute to reduce structural lacks and promote technology transfer (Blomströn, Globerman and Kokko, 1999).



Based on the Mexico´s Economic Census, we created a directory of Mexican high-tech SMEs based on the following criteria: firms belonging to the 45 industrial classes of NAICS (6-digit code) considered as knowledge-intensive; pertaining to manufacturing and services sectors; from 1 to 250 employees, and located in the 60 Metropolitan Areas, which account for 57% of the population and 61% of firms in Mexico (INEGI, 2017).


We identified 2,058 High-Tech Mexican SMEs, representing 0.05 % of the SMEs in Mexico. A questionnaire was applied from October 2017 to February 2018 to a representative sample of technological SMEs owners, focusing on the trajectory of the owner and the firm, the evolution of technological and innovative capabilities, and particularly in their links with MNC, Universities, Research Centers and Industrial Clusters.



Preliminary results show that 63.4% are knowledge-intensive service firms and 36.6% technology-based manufacturing firms, the creation and upgrading of manufacturing firms are mostly influenced by MNCs spillovers, whereas in service firms are more influenced by RIS-related resources. Computer Systems Design and Related Services, Engineering Services and Testing Laboratories (541510/541330/541380) accounts for 39.6% and Machine Shops (332710) 20.9%. In addition, depending on the region, approximately 35% of Mexican High-Tech SMEs are affiliated to an automotive cluster or an advanced manufacturing cluster. This is relevant because some clusters, in coordination with the government and some universities, have promoted the creation of centers for research, innovation and design oriented to the automotive/auto-parts industries (molds, fixtures, dies, IoT and AI). Another finding is that 48% of the surveyed SMEs maintain links with universities and research centers; and 90% of the SMEs have been or are suppliers of MNC in the automotive, electronic, medical devices and aerospace industries. Finally, it was found that those local firms have been created through Spin-off (55%) and Start-up (45%) processes; the first related to MNC spillovers effects and the latter related to linkages within the RIS.


Keywords: Automotive cluster, manufacturing 4.0, Mexican High-Tech SMEs.


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