BOLIVIA
SICD is cooperating with two innovation programs one driven by Universidad Mayor de San Simon (UMSS) in Cochabamba and one by Universidad Mayor de San Andrés (UMSA) in La Paz. The following presentation has a perspective formulated by UMSS.

UMSS – see link

UMSA – see link

Background

Similarly to other low income countries, science and technology was not seen in Bolivia as an important issue to support development processes. Some attempts to apply important laws was made in 2004 but could not be approved because of regulations .

During the Evo Morales administration, some policies and a national science, technology and innovation plan were prepared recognizing the importance of generation and use of science and technology, the recovery of ancestral knowledge and stating the creation of institutes in some selected as strategic sectors, like biodiversity, energy and agricultural.

The Vice Ministry of Science and Technology, depending of the Education Ministry, make efforts working on some initiatives like researchers networks and specific support to some sectors like food and leather (and others). The Vice Ministry also conducted some activities related to functions of an innovative system like workshops on science and technology indicators, national inventories and others.

UMSS participates actively in these activities and in some cases supports the events organized in Cochabamba. As a matter of fact, the great majority of research capacity resides in public universities (with the highest concentration at UMSA and UMSS).

The research objective of UMSS establishes that “Research at UMSS is a significant activity aimed primarily to contribute to the regional and national development processes through the generation of useful knowledge and analytical capacity. This activity also intends to contribute to the universal progress of scientific knowledge”.

This objective, aligned with what the Institutional Development Plan 2008-013 establishes, emphasizes that research must focus development solving problems making possible for Bolivians, and with precedence for Cochabamba residents in urban and rural areas, to have a better life.

This objective will be achieved only if there is a local and regional innovative system and if UMSS has the capacity to play a role on it. This last point is stated in one of the specific objectives of the UMSS research concept notes that says “A research-supportive environment prevails at UMSS assisted by an efficient system of research and innovation management that relies on quality management principles”.

In other words, research at UMSS, organized according the prioritized areas to face socio economics problems, will have impact or incidence in development processes if innovation is understood as a transversal concept for the management and research areas.

Specific background

The year 2007 the project INNOVA-UMSS was approved as one of the projects of the Research Cooperation Program SIDA-UMSS 2007-2010.

This project had the aim to strengthen institutional capacities of UMSS to participate in innovative processes and innovative systems. The question at that moment was how UMSS can use the research capacities, supported and strengthened by international cooperation mainly Swedish, to apply or transfer research results or use the research capacities in this own CBBA context.

It was identified that it would be necessary to introduce the innovation concept internally at UMSS (administration, researches, students), which meant changing the cultural attitude of the institution and the individual mindsets as well. It was also necessary to play an active role promoting the creation of external (at UMSS) inter institutional relations.

The contact with SICD and the acceptance of working cooperation was a key function for the project. It applied the Triple Helix model to organize the activities and to generate favorable relations for innovation that was used developing the food and one year later the leather cluster.

Inside UMSS it has been possible to mobilize and involve researchers. Outside UMSS it has been possible to congregate important institutions of Cochabamba showing the capacity of UMSS, as public university, to become an important departmental actor.

In summary the project has laid the foundations for the operation, on a pilot basis, of the Unit for Technology Transfer (UTT). Some positive outcomes are: a) a small team of researchers with initial training and competences in innovation issues; b) basic facilities; c) mobilization of the scientific community and research centers at UMSS in the initiatives organized by UTT; d) two clusters, the food cluster and the leather cluster, assembled with the participation of producers, representatives from the central and local government as well as the municipality following the Triple Helix model.

More information and a preliminary evaluation of the clustering activities are presented in the report “Innovation Systems and Cluster Initiatives: Strategic Evaluation of a Sida Portfolio – individual cases (PRI, 2011)”.

Strategic analysis

The execution of the pilot project allowed the operation of the UTT, mobilize research capacities of UMSS and promote clusters operation following the Triple Helix model, involving a lot of activities that gave knowledge and experience that have been and should be further utilized.

A strategic analysis of the results of the pilot project done by UMSS team and SICD team pointed out:

− The UTT can be the basis for an Innovation Center. UTT was presented as a model in an official meeting of Bolivian public universities (XI RENACYT, 2010).
− The staff of the project needs to be strengthened and it is necessary to be stablized.
− UMSS through INNOVA Project is recognized, in contrast to other institutions of Cochabamba and even of the country, as a neutral actor contributing to improve the confidence between institutions.
− It could be proved that the Triple Helix model can be applied in clusters development.
− Promoting clusters is a good way to improve the links between UMSS and society using a systemic approach.
− It is necessary to investigate from an academic viewpoint the processes related to of evolution of innovative systems.