More than 90 representatives of the U.S. and Mexican governments, the private sector and the higher education community met Monday and Tuesday at the University of Arizona to discuss joint research and innovation opportunities.
The event was the sixth working meeting held as part of the U.S.-Mexico Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation and Research (Foro Bilateral sobre Educación Superior, Innovación e Investigación, or FOBESII for short). U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto established FOBESII in May 2013 as a way to expand opportunities for educational exchanges, scientific research partnerships and cross-border innovation for both countries.
During the meeting, which was hosted by the UA Office of Global Initiatives, participants developed ideas will be used to develop FOBESII standards and initiatives for achieving its goals of increasing academic mobility, strengthening language acquisition, promoting greater workforce development, and expanding joint research and innovation.
"It was truly an honor to be selected as the site for the sixth meeting of this important bilateral forum," said UA President Ann Weaver Hart. "We know that having strong partnerships with Mexico – through trade, student exchange and collaborative knowledge creation – is critical to the health and prosperity of economies on both sides of the border. Being a part of this conversation helps us identify how the UA can contribute to efforts like this."
The working group identified key issues that face both countries, such as food, water, energy and manufacturing. Participants also identified collaborations that will make the U.S. and Mexico, and North America as a whole, more globally competitive.
"What we have before us is really a once-in-a-generation opportunity to craft a binational collaboration strategy between the United States and Mexico," said Mike Proctor, vice president for global initiatives at the UA. "If you look at the border states in particular, the connections, the family, the industry, education back and forth across the border is something to be admired and leveraged as we grow this relationship."
FOBESII complements Obama's "100,000 Strong in the Americas" initiative, which aims to increase student mobility between the U.S. and other countries in the Western hemisphere, as well as Mexico's "Proyecta 100,000," which seeks to send 100,000 Mexican students to the U.S. and bring 50,000 U.S. students to study in Mexico by 2018.
"FOBESII is an entity that tries to focus us all on the possibilities of binational collaborations in various ways, getting us all to see what we're doing and meet and understand what's going on," said Joaquin Ruiz, executive dean of the UA Colleges of Letters, Arts and Science, dean of the UA College of Science, and vice president of innovation and strategy at the UA. "If you look at it that way, it's been a great success. We've seen today a bunch of programs that have started or are actually cranking away."
At the conclusion of the meeting, participants emphasized the importance of keeping the conversation going beyond the six working group meetings. They plan to meet again next year to track ongoing progress.
"The idea that is we set up a meeting on a yearly basis," said Sergio M. Alcocer, undersecretary for North America for the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs.
"However, there is work that we need to do ... that has to be done right away," he said. "Each one of you should continue in the dialogue that was initiated here."
Nathaniel Schaefle, lead innovation adviser in the Department of State's Office of the Science and Technology Adviser, emphasized the necessity of fostering collaboration between U.S. and Mexican governments, higher education institutions, private businesses and communities in order to achieve FOBESII's goals.
"Fundamentally, innovation comes from people," Schaefle said. "It's not defined by a border. It's not defined as an education. It's defined by people who think creatively."
For more information about the UA Office of Global Initiatives, visit global.arizona.edu.