Bolivia was the location of our latest training course on the ‘Design and Evaluation of Innovation Policies’ (DEIP). One of the least developed countries in Latin America but with one of the highest investment rates in education, Bolivia is a special case in many ways. In the last few years the Bolivian Government has focused on the potential rewards of innovation and R&D, specifically by bringing together researchers and manufacturers. Crucially, this DEIP fed into a long-term process that aims to reform the country’s science and technology policy, with a view to securing a major ‘leap forward’ by 2025. A leap based on social innovation and the sustainable exploitation of natural resources. The main themes are summarized below by government officials and course lecturers, in Spanish and English and in video and text.
“This course helps us, helps everyone in Bolivia, from decision makers to knowledge generators… It is important for ensuring the greater visibility and mobility of researchers, for building bridges between academia and commerce, and for bringing together those who innovate and those who produce… We are seeking to innovate not for the market but for the society, to resolve problems within wider society.” Vice Minister of Science and Technology, Pedro Crespo Alvizuri
“Bolivia is at a crucial moment in its science and technology policy design, as we are now trying to establish new mechanisms to foster and promote scientific development. Mechanisms that focus on national needs in oil, mining, health, agricultural development, manufacturing, ICT – all sectors prioritized by current governmental policies.
The Vice Ministry of Science and Technology is now bringing together the private sector, academics and government officials to establish new goals for the 2025 agenda – our main development public policy for the next years. Specifically, we are working on a new ‘National Science and Technology Policy’. During 2012-2013 we’ve organized 30 workshops, gathering more than 1000 specialists from all major sectors, and with them built a proposal that now — in this training course — we are discussing with professors and stakeholders. We are now at the end of the process. By the end of this year we’ll have this plan. All that remains is to begin implementing these policies.
In this DEIP course we’ve had some really good speakers, including from Latin America. We had one Bolivian speaker who showed our specific policies and experiences in science and technology. I think the course was well-designed and allowed all the participants to understand the challenges that we have in Bolivia for the next 10-15 years in science and technology.” Mauricio Cespedes, Programme Manager, Vice Ministry of Science and Technology
“This UNU-MERIT course has been very timely because in three weeks we’ll have a national meeting, bringing together representatives from the country’s universities, productive and entrepreneurial sectors, along with the government, to reform the country’s science and technology policies. We are seeking a technological leap forward to 2025: to develop the capacities of higher technology with regard to natural resources, while ensuring the country’s socio-economic development. That’s what we’re trying to achieve. This UNU-MERIT course has supported us in recent days on topics such as innovation, systems of innovation, and how human capital is important for general development processes. It has helped us to share knowledge and reflect on the best ways to reform our science and technology policies.” Roberto Sánchez Saravia, Director General, Vice Ministry of Science and Technology
“Bolivia is a special country in several respects in Latin America. It is a very large country, it is very fragmented with different ethnic groups and different economic conditions, and this poses special challenges for the government and for innovation. The country is relying on natural gas and oil reserves that have been exploited recently and this is giving a lot of wealth to some parts of the country; whereas agriculture and agricultural development and innovation related to agriculture are very needed in other parts of the country. So innovative efforts are being directed towards the exploitation of natural gas on the one hand and natural resources and agriculture on the other hand. And this has to do with addressing extreme poverty levels, which are still very frequent in the country.
During this DEIP we’ve been discussing a lot the issue of social innovation. We’ve been discussing biodiversity and innovation in the agricultural sector and the rural sector. We’ve been discussing how and to what extent enterprises should be supported to provide a sustainable response to the needs that the country is currently facing. I think this specific DEIP is addressing all these issues and will hopefully help the government to develop the right strategies to tackle these challenges.” Carlo Pietrobelli, Lead Specialist in Innovation and Competitiveness, Inter-American Development Bank
“I think DEIP takes a very interesting approach. It teaches people about the importance of innovation, including policy makers and other people working in the public or university sector. The good thing about this course is that it puts together the kind of people who normally don’t talk together daily. This problem of coordination affects not only Bolivia but every single country in Latin America. People are simply are not connecting and not sharing knowledge about innovation / R&D, and its implementation. So the DEIP programme is useful not only in terms of the content, but also in how it connects people.” Jose Miguel Benavente, Professor, Adolfo Ibanez University, Chile
Howard Hudson is the editor and communications coordinator at UNU-MERIT. He has previously worked for Amnesty International, the European Commission and European Parliament. He has drafted 100 reports for the European Social Fund, brochures for several EU summits, and a Corporate Social Responsibility report for Air France-KLM. He is also a guest lecturer in media at the European Institute for Public Administration.