Friday, 27 Apr 2012
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Colombia: Science and Innovation High level UK delegation - April 2012
British Embassy Bogota
Important visit by UK delegation to help deepen UK-Colombia relations on science and innovation as follow-up to President Santos's Guest of Government visit. Areas of interest identified for UK-Colombia Joint Statement on Science and Innovation along with potential collaborations to promote the effective spend of Colombia's commitment to spend £500m per annum on science and innovation. Strong interest in the Technology Strategy Board’s Catapult Centres on Future Cities and Transport. With Colombia set to triple its spend on science and innovation by 2014, important commercial opportunities identified in Medellin.
As a follow-up to President Santos’s Guest of Government visit to London, a senior UK delegation (Prof David Clary, Chief Scientific Advisor, FCO; Paul Simmonds, Director, Technopolis; Dr. Rafael Popper, Manchester Institute of Innovation Research; Dr Geoff Gregson, Deputy Director, Centre for Entrepreneurship Research, University of Edinburgh Business School; and Dr Tunde Idowu, Senior Policy Advisor, BIS, Edwin Carmona, British Council Bogota) visited Bogota, Medellin and Cali on 16-19 April to explore opportunities to deepen the bilateral relationship on science and innovation.
In Bogota, the delegation met Colciencias (equivalent to BIS/ Research Councils), the National Planning Department, Innpulsa (Colombia's recently launched flagship national innovation agency) and several universities. In the Colciencias meeting, Colciencias set out their desire to sign a Joint Statement on Science and Innovation with the UK, which would focus on sharing UK expertise on science policy-making (in particular Foresight and knowledge transfer platforms), increased research collaborations in the areas of health, nanotechnology, ICT and transport, and a UK-Colombia PhD exchange programme along the lines of the Brazil Science Without Frontiers programme. The delegation also learnt of the challenges that Colciencias faces to design effective policies that will ensure that the royalties allocated to science and innovation (£500m per annum) are spent, monitored and evaluated effectively. Colciencias also highlighted its interest in signing a MoU with Edinburgh and other UK universities, building on the letter of intent signed during the Santos visit.
The meeting with Universidad de los Andes highlighted the existing connections with UK universities (e.g. Oxford, Edinburgh, Cambridge, Imperial, Leeds, UCL) but also the need for broader collaborations with UK universities on science and innovation - in particular, engineering, biosciences, nanotechnology, transport and commercialisation of science.
As the national government starts to address the challenges of putting in place long-term policies to promote science and innovation, the delegation saw at firsthand how Medellin's private, public and academic sectors are working together to fulfil their ambition for the city to be not only Colombia’s, but also Latin America's top knowledge city. The Mayor's Office expressed their delight at the delegation visiting Medellin so soon after Jeremy Browne's visit in March. The Mayor and the Governor are working hand-in-hand to transform Medellin into a knowledge based economy. Both offices were interested in the UK’s experience of using science and innovation to promote socio-economic development in deprived regions as well as UK expertise in promoting technology transfers to support rural development in third countries.
The delegation heard how Tecnnova, Colombia's lead innovation incubator in Medellin, has been working with Colombia's top companies to identify their key R+D gaps which could be filled by UK companies. To this end, Tecnnova wishes to bring a delegation of Colombian companies to the UK Tecnnova also invited UK speakers for their annual high-level summit in September. RUTA N, a public-private organisation designed to implement Medellin's science and innovation policies, explained their plans to create a 35 hectare science and innovation park in Medellin. Hewlett Packard and Kimberley Clarke have just opened large research centres in Medellin. There was strong interest in attracting UK research companies.
In Cali, the delegation met the Mayor's team who expressed interest in learning more about UK expertise on urban planning and design of transportation systems. Whilst in Cali, the delegation was particularly impressed by a relatively new private university, ICESI, which offers state of the art facilities in biological research and entrepreneurship.
The UK visitors were clearly impressed by what they saw. We need to maintain the momentum. Follow-up will be key. This is all the more important as the Colombians are being courted by potential partners. Investing in the relationship now could lead to substantive commercial deals for UK PLC.
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