March 30, 2017

Reflecting on the obstacles to innovation in Latin America, Chile and, in particular, in the Maule Region, as well as reviewing the factors that help to drive such an effort, were the subjects addressed during the two-day international workshop called "How to Accelerate Innovation in Natural Resources", organized by the Cieplan-UTALCA Program.
 The activity, which brought together researchers from Chile, Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela, along with representatives form international agencies, such as CAF and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), began on Wednesday 29 with a meeting held on the premises of the Latin American Department of Social Sciences of Chile (FLACSO), in Santiago.
The event was led by Pablo Piñera, Executive Director of the Latin American Studies Corporation (CIEPLAN); Juan Carlos Elorza, Director of Financial and Productive Development of CAF; José Miguel Benavente, Chief of the IDB-Washington’s Competitiveness and Innovation Division; Cristian Gonzalez, Corfo’s Deputy Director of Studies; Manuel Agosin, Dean of the Department of Economics and Business, Universiti of Chile; and Osvaldo Urzúa, BHP-Billiton’s Manager of Relations with the Government, among others.
Our Corporation was represented by Utalca’s Pro-Rector Pablo Villalobos, and by the director of the Business Management Program at the Santiago Campus, Patricio Sánchez, who were accompanied by students form the Department of Economics and Business form the Santiago campus.
The next day the session continued with two new meetings held in the Maule Region. The first one was held at the Casino Hotel with business leaders from the region, while the second one was an academic event, open to the community, which took place on the Talca Campus.
About the conference, the president of our Corporation, Alvaro Rojas, emphasized that its goal was to generate a discussion on key issues for development, as innovation.
 "We must develop a culture of innovation that requires a lot of cooperation and partnerships between the public sector and the institutions responsible for promoting innovation, in this case the University of Talca," he said.
 He added that the country needs to diversify its production, as well as improve its quality and sustainability.
”The work with Cieplan helps to establish that connection between research, public policy, the main instruments of development and the private sector," he said. At the same time, he emphasized that the Maule Region is among the most neglected ones and "that is why the responsibility of both businesses and us is enormous."
 In Tune
For his part, the president of CIEPLAN, Alejandro Foxley, who moderated the final panel in Santiago and took part in the inauguration in Talca, stressed the high harmony achieved with our University to help unleash the creative process that the country needs. He said that we must stop thinking that the innovative things come from above, in a vertical and centralist system.
 "To get out of slow growth, distrust crisis, the relatively pessimistic vision of decision-makers, especially at the political level - we have to take the issue to where it needs to be, in the hands of people who dare, which go beyond the limits of the specific task that someone gave them and dare to think in imaginative, new ideas, to work together and to generate reciprocal trusts", he emphasized.
 "The issue is not who has the best ideas, but those who have the ability to work as a team to implement these ideas to solve problems creatively," he observed, along with underlining the urgency for the country to raise awareness on the subject.
Foxley highlighted as an example the work the technological centers of the UTALCA are doing, connected with the productive sector, and advocated for these experiences to be replicated beyond the Maule Region.  
 "This University has a great influence drive, if it projects itself not only as a regional university, but as a national university in terms of the ability to influence the agenda at the national level, to put on the table the issues that are not there," he said, at the same time as stating that our Corporation is a university of excellence.
For its part, the director of CAF’s Productive and Financial Development, Juan Carlos Elorza, appreciated that the Cieplan-UTALCA Program underlined this area.
"Until recently, it was an underestimated, very little considered topic, limited only to high-tech companies, but from previous studies that we have done at Cieplan and in conjunction with the University of Talca, we have seen how, in the natural resource industries, major advances in terms of innovation have been developed in Latin America, and we want to promote this to be transferred to public policies, too," he said.
He added that in this task, the role assumed by our corporation is of great importance. "For us, as in Europe, the United States and other regions, it is critical that the Academia is incorporated much more closely to this phenomenon, given that they are the critical space of knowledge so that this becomes the real capital of the productive growth of the companies," he said.
"Innovation in developed countries accounts for more than 80 per cent of the increases in productivity. For us to massify these issues in Latin America would mean reaching that longed for, dreamed about and very desirable sustainable growth", he explained.
For his part, the president of the National Council of Innovation for Development, Gonzalo Rivas, argued that because of the abundance of natural resources that both Chile and Latin America have, to go deeper in innovation is a fundamental necessity.
"We are a country very intensive in natural resources and they can be a basis for the development of innovations, but that depends on circumstances of how do the connectors develop that allow the union of the knowledge that is generated in the world of research and the Academia with the needs of business. This link is not obvious, it is not that universities have to run to the companies and to adapt to what they want, nor that the companies have full knowledge of what universities do, then the generation of these connectors is one of the teachings that these events leave, which is very crucial," he noted.
In that context, he stressed that the work done by the technology centers of the UTALCA “have a close link with the companies in its environment, therefore, there is a very rich experience there that can be exploited," he said.
The road followed by innovative people from the Maule Region was discussed in two panels carried out at the Casino Hotel in Talca, the first of which, moderated by José Díaz, Dean of the Department of Agricultural Sciences, addressed winemaking innovations.
 The speaker were Ricardo Rivadeneira, General Manager of Vina Maquis winery; Clemente Errazuriz and Thomas Koehn, from Cosechas Mecanizadas; José Miguel Benavente, Head of the Competitiveness and Innovation Division of the IDB, and Yerko Moreno, Director of the Technological Center for the Vine and Wine of the UTALCA, who described the close links established by the unit with the entrepreneurs.
"I would like universities to have better relationships with companies through the model of the technological centers, where there is a close involvement, with periodic meetings, with works and businessmen sitting at the university and participating in the various Departments and Centers," he said. At the same time, he argued that academics must go out into the field, participate and get immersed in the work of the companies. On the other hand, he recommended being attentive to the "aromas" of change in order to anticipate what is coming.
A second panel, moderated by the dean of the Faculty of Economics and Business, Arcadio Cerda- included presentations on regional innovation, through the experiences of Guillermo Garcia, General Manager of Coexca; Paulo Escobar, Executive Director of Bionativa; Cesar Aldana, Chairman Of The Board of Directors of the Center, and José Antonio Yuri, Director of the Pomes Center (PC) of the UTALCA.
 Yuri explained that the PC is dedicated to providing solutions to the problems of the industry and added that an innovation is a change that improves the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and also the quality of life of the people. "Not all silly things that one change is innovation," he argued.
On the other hand, the participants from the private sector contributed to the conference with various stories that revealed the little support they get from development agencies and banks to finance their projects.
At the closing of the activity, the president of the university thanked the participants for their real testimonials, "delivered very honestly", showing their interests and difficulties.
"As organizers, we are very satisfied with the conference", he remarked, at the same time that he announced the organization of other similar events.
Likewise, Rojas noted that from failure we can get vital experience to move forward and he indicated that those decision-makers at the central level should get more involved in this type of Innovative experiences.