University as the innovation epicenter
By Mariam Ludim Rosa Vélez (firstname.lastname@example.org)
UPRM Press Office
July 13, 2018
To economically develop Puerto Rico’s western region is it important to place the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez Campus (UPRM) as the epicenter of innovation and entrepreneurship. This is part of a proposal that was discussed during a recent meeting between UPRM and Puerto Rico One, an organization composed of Puerto Ricans and friends of Puerto Rico that live in the United States, willing to contribute to the island recovery.
“They are excited to help. They have seen our entrepreneurship ecosystem, and they want to contribute with investment opportunities as well as networking with other investors. As we present our needs, the goal is that they can invest and help the University. The intention is to connect UPRM with the western region in economic development efforts,” said Dr. Ubaldo M. Córdova-Figueroa, recently appointed as Vice President of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR).
The objective is to promote an economy based on innovation and the search for technological solutions from UPRM. “The University cannot be an impenetrable wall, it has to be a permeable wall that allows interactions with the community. If we allow these spaces to be open, with transparency, we can get people involved. For example, we can create value and connect investors to some infrastructure within the area that is not being used right now. We want to position ourselves as partners in promoting the economy and that the first-class education we offer may serve as an agent of change,” said Córdova-Figueroa, who is also a Chemical Engineering professor at UPRM and, prior to his appointment, was Special Assistant to the Chancellor.
During his presentation to the group of entrepreneurs, mostly from Washington, DC, California and Puerto Rico, he highlighted three options to collaborate. First, to invest directly in research; second, to build infrastructure on campus, intended exclusively for research and development; and third, a student housing complex with spaces that can also promote entrepreneurship initiatives. “We must invest in research as the seed for innovation. Our proposal includes creating a multimillion fund so that the interests generated can be used in research efforts. We have great projects that are limited by infrastructure and it is essential to create places for collaboration. For example, the student housing complex could also have spaces for start-ups,” he said.
José Arnaldo Ortiz-Gaud, an entrepreneur based in the United States and Puerto Rico One spokesperson, said that they are very enthusiastic about the help they can provide to fulfill this vision of integrating the western side of Puerto Rico to the University.
“We want to see the island as the Silicon Valley of the Caribbean and start thinking about education and technology as opportunities for entrepreneurship. As a result of having this mindset, by-products will emerge in different dimensions, even in tourism. We seek to be the bridge that connects many people. I think that Puerto Rico is an amazing asset that we need to let the world know about”, Ortiz-Gaud said.
After the meeting, the UPR Vice President, along with the representatives of Puerto Rico One, visited several facilities such as the ViTec incubator, the Makerspace and the Prototyping Lab, among others.
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