Resource-based industries – Innovation in Resource-Based Technology Clusters:From coffee production to machines for optical selection in Costa Rica

by GIULIANI, E., 2006
Research Report, Employment Growth & Development Initiative, Human Sciences Research Council

Guiliani reviews a case of lateral migration of technology from resource industries in Costa Rica. Xeltron, a domestic firm, is a producer of machines for optical selection, which was started up in the 1970’s as a knowledge intensive input supplier of coffee producers. Triggered by domestic demand, the company developed optical selectors for coffee beans, an innovation that allowed the increase of efficiency in the labour intensive phase of beans selection. After more than thirty years of expansion in the market of optical selectors for coffee beans, the firm is now launching new machines for the selection of plastics and emerald products. These new machines are based on the same underlying principles of those applied for the selection of grains but are directed to different, more knowledge intensive, clients. This is therefore considered to be a case of lateral migration. Lateral migration was facilitated by the firm founders’ entrepreneurship and their technical background, and by the investment in the strengthening of the firm internal technological capabilities. The formation of knowledge linkages with foreign actors has also been an important source of knowledge and technologies. In contrast, the linkages formed at the domestic level with the National System of Innovation seem not to have had a relevant impact on the firm process of lateral migration. Costa Rican industrial policies have also been marginally important in this respect.