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Graham hopes to tap into boosted funding in Mexico

By: Stephen Downer

March 19, 2013

MEXICO CITY — The Mexican government has increased the funding available for scientific and industrial research and development projects in Mexico this year by 18 percent, to the equivalent of $5.67 billion, and Graham Packaging Co., of York, Pa., is among those companies hoping to cash in.

"We got 3.85 million pesos ($309,000) from the fund last year," Ranganath Shastri, who is in charge of research and development at subsidiary Graham Packaging Mexico, told Plastics News, adding that the company has applied for funding for two further projects in 2013.

According to a government news release, the total funding available from Mexico's National Science and Technology Council (Conacyt, or Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología) this year is $5.67 billion.

Graham Packaging, which supplies plastic containers for hot-fill juice, juice drinks, sports drinks and drinkable yogurts, among others, has six production plants in Mexico, five in Brazil and one each in Venezuela and Argentina.

But, said Shastri, the company did no research anywhere in Latin America previously, a situation he's been employed to help change. "We were depending on support from the United States and obviously there was a language barrier and time delays were a problem," he pointed out.

Reynolds Group Holdings Limited completed its acquisition of Graham Packaging in September, 2011, and Shastri said: "The new management has identified Mexico as a growth region and our vice president Martin Cueva has been charged with leading this effort from [the company's offices] in Tlalnepantla" (a municipality on the northern edge of Mexico City).

He said Cueva believes Graham Packaging Mexico "should take the lead and help support our plants [with R&D], while taking the opportunity to leverage the funding available from the Mexican government."

The so-called innovation stimulus funding program (Programa de Estímulos a la Innovación) is available for three different types of company. The first, known as Innovapyme, is for technological innovation by micro-, small- and medium-sized companies. The second, Innovatec, is for technological innovation by large companies and the third, Proinnova, is for innovative projects presented by a network of companies.

"This program started in 2009 to promote progress and productivity and allow Mexico to compete in the global market," said Shastri. "Only companies are allowed to submit proposals."