We are in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution, driven by leveraging new technologies to increase the efficiency of production.
However, with increased integration of digital solutions comes the daunting task of figuring out how best to develop and harness them. It requires specialisation, innovation and adaptability, with business leaders increasingly looking beyond their enterprises for answers. Instead, a space is created to build partner ecosystems, empowering companies to leverage best-in-class talent from outside their organisations and embark upon the process of co-creation.
The search for external partners is understandable. A 2020 Deloitte survey revealed that only one-fifth of canvassed executives believed their organisations were ready to succeed in the industry 4.0 environment, while just 10% said they were making progress in identifying and retaining the right talent.
According to EY’s 2020 ‘Tech Horizon: Leadership perspectives on technology and transformation’ survey, 68% of participating businesses believed ecosystems and partnerships were the best way to counter such failings. Areas of priority include big data and analytics, cloud computing, IoT, robotic process automation, x-reality and cybersecurity.
The need to forge external partnerships has only been heightened by the pandemic. For Pedro Beirute Prada, CEO of the Costa Rican Trade Promotion Office (Procomer), recent events are reordering spending priorities and bringing new technology to the top of the agenda.
“Governments, health authorities and different industries have focused their attention on the specialised technologies that can generate valuable responses to address the crisis,” he says. “Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity and cloud computing have had their relevance reaffirmed. Today, it is more strategic than ever to continue supporting and diversifying our offering of solutions related to industry 4.0.”
Costa Rica steps up
Since the arrival of Intel in the late 1990s, Costa Rica has been hard at work establishing itself as a leading international technology hub. Today, the country is home to 450 companies offering ICT products and services, a growing proportion of which specialise in industry 4.0 technologies.
Impressively, the value of Costa Rica’s ICT services exports grew during 2020, a clear sign of investment priorities during the pandemic. Procomer reports that 44% of the country’s industry 4.0 technology sales are represented by exports, with the US overwhelmingly the most popular destination.
“The variety of knowledge, specialisations in cutting-edge technologies and availability of more traditional support services, as well of the stability of the country are differentiators that channel clients towards our services platforms,” says Prada.
“Because of our current relationships with global clients, Costa Rican providers have become strategic allies and subject matter experts in the process of reconfiguring business models with the mandatory digital transformation of the pandemic. IT providers listed at Procomer didn’t report losing clients – they gained new lines of business driven by evolving client needs.”
Adolfo Cruz, CEO at San José-based specialist technology services provider Proximity, has witnessed this fast-changing landscape first-hand. “On the one hand, there was a lot of initial uncertainty with some of our clients reducing their teams with us or putting new projects on hold,” he says. “However, some clients increased their teams because their products and services exploded with the pandemic and their demand was sky high.”
Like much of the rest of the world, Costa Rica has seen a growth in demand for cloud and cybersecurity services. The Procomer CEO also points to the growing use of AI in the pharmaceutical industry’s efforts to identify new treatments during the pandemic, as well as its implementation in developing platforms for managing sudden requirements around social distancing.
“Companies needed to have solutions implemented overnight, demanding that the communication and quality of work were consistent with the IT already in place,” says Prada. “The experience and agile working methods in Costa Rica have enabled businesses to hit specific launch dates for projects and products.”
Strengthening the 4.0 talent pool
The age of digital transformation has widened the available talent pool. Costa Rica has a geographic advantage in that it shares a time zone with much of the US and Canada, making collaboration and communication straightforward.
However, it is the country’s highly skilled, bilingual workforce that helps deliver real cultural synergies. “Costa Rica, the industry, and its companies have been investing in creating new services and products, producing the best talent possible, and the infrastructure needed so our technology ecosystem can be successful,” says Cruz. “The clients we see are looking for long-term, high-value relationships rather than just to hire a project or group of engineers.”
Costa Rica has demonstrated an enduring commitment to developing talent. In June 2020, leading online education platform Coursera teamed up with Costa Rica and the International Development Bank to train 50,000 people in the technical skills required for industry 4.0, in what is hoped will be the first of many projects of its kind.
The pressure for companies to redefine and reform how they manage innovation is intensifying. Those that opt to go it alone risk being left behind, but for businesses willing to seek out partnerships and tap into wider ecosystems of talent and resources, and create partnership ecosystems of their own, it is an exciting time. Costa Rican providers across an array of disciplines have emerged as partners of choice for those embarked upon this journey.