Conscious of the need to promote innovation as a strategic factor of sustainable and competitive development, the University of Costa Rica (UCR) and the Chambers of Industries of Costa Rica (CICR) join strategically to create the Chair of Innovation and Business Development, a key instrument to consolidate a national system of Innovation that offers solutions to the productive challenges and research in Costa Rica.

We had a large conversation with Dr. Rafael Herrera, the main manager of the Chair:

Q: Dr. Rafael Herrera explain us how does the need to set up this innovative project arises to the University of Costa Rica:

A: Costa Rica is immersed in a deep discussion on the dynamics of consolidating a national system of competitive innovation. Understanding this like a space of cooperation and coordination between different actors that can benefit eachother, especially if we consider that roughly 60% of the R&D of the country is executed by the Public Universities.
The University of Costa Rica (UCR) and the Chambers of Industries of Costa Rica (CICR) signed in 2004 an agreement of cooperation, in which strengthen the existent relations and create a favourable environment for the development of joint projects in different thematics in accordance with the needs and possibilities of each institution.
In 2007, after an intense joint work between professionals of both institutions and thanks to the support of the authorities, we decided to create jointly the Chair Innovation and Business Development, conceived like a space of cooperation, where working together to boost the development of the productive sector of Costa Rica was a main objective. Betting on innovation has a strategic factor of sustainability and competitiveness.

Q: Which is the job of the Chambers of Industries of Costa Rica in the Chair and what other organisations and institutions have achieved to partícipate on the project:

A: The idea to establish the Chair arises form the discussion and the joint work between the UCR and the Chambers.
Gradually, during the process of creation of the Chair there were the incorporations of other academic units whose functions are intimately related with innovation. Among the institutions that collaborate with us are the Faculty of Agrofood Sciences, the School of Administration of Businesses, the School of Industrial Engineering, PROSIC, PROINNOVA, FUNDEV, amongst other.

Q: Which are the main aims of the Chair?:

A: The Chair Innovation and Business Development is an instrument of strategic cooperation, that in our case pursues the following aims:

  • To raise awareness for the consolidation of a model of development based in the innovation.
  • To stimulate, promote and develop analysis and research in the field of the innovation.
  • Participate in the research of solutions and proposals for the development of the innovation in Costa Rica.
  • To argue and propose actions on the conditions and the means to carry out successful or effective innovations.
  • Offer activities, like colloquia, seminars, symposiums, meetings and round tables, to promote the development of the business innovation.
  • Project and spread to the national community the activities of the chair in pro of the innovation In synthesis, the aims of the Chair coincide, fully, with the idea that the incorporation of the knowledge and the promotion of the innovation in the productive processes require of the joint work to create some enabling surroundings for consolidation of a more innovative society.

Q: Which users can enjoy the activities and profits to participate in this Chair? How can they contact with you?

A: The Chair is an instrument to serve all national community, both academic both productive, that tries to contribute to the discussion and the generation of knowledge that serve for decision -makers. Helping to the cooperation between university and productive sector, incorporating knowledge to add value to the national production and boost innovation.
We are opened to all users interested in knowing us and participate in the activities that we organise. Of any sector and geographic location. People can contact us by email: rafael.herrera@ucr.ac.cr, and visit our website, http://catedrainnovacion.ucr.ac.cr/.

Q: In the current world, why is important to bet for innovation and which is the role that in this context plays the Chair for companies and researchers?

A: In the last decade our country has signed a series of treaties of free trade and has opened to the world-wide trade, treating to promote more companies and productive sectors to export to more demanding markets. Without doubt, these changes force the Costa Rica companies to bet for strategies of differentiation. Here the innovation plays a predominant role, since the creativity and the incorporation of knowledge for aggregation of value imposes like a starting point to be more competitive.
Besides, with our work we have strengthened the relation of the University with the productive sectors and to facilitate the approach of the scientific and technological university offer.

Q: Which are the most important activities of the Chair?

A: We have realised a series of activities that look to support the innovation and development in the productive sectors. We are open to companies, to cooperation with organisations and institutions and to internationalise of our activity.
The narrow relation of cooperation and collaboration with the University of Costa Rica and the Chambers of Industries, facilitates information and contacts to approach more the productive sector needs to the University.The Chair has being in many cases the delegate speaker.
Among the cooperation agreements, stand out our collaboration with research groups and Universities such as the Researh Group in Innovation, Copyright and Technological Politics of the Polytechnical University of Madrid (INNOPRO) and the University of Alicante (UA). These relations have promoted traning courses, studies and research projects that show, from different perspectives, that the innovation is notable for the productive development. Between those stand out, for example, the project of joint research between the Group INNOPRO, the Chambers of Industries of Costa Rica and our Chair, designated “Analysis of the industrial technological surroundings as a support to export in Costa Rica”. It was funded by the Spanish Agency of Cooperation for the Development (AECID). As results of this work we have realised different activities, like a publication:”The sector of the Food Industry in Costa Rica: A perspective from the Chain of Value”. For the units and institutions that participate in the Chair it has been a very profitable process, since, enables the methodologies transfer, allows the exchange of experiences and realities of how to manage innovation and also contributs to promote the training of researchers in this matter. There are two technical workshops for the Food Industry sector, one on quality rules and production, and another on development of innovative products, that are executed in collaboration with the support of the National Centre of Food Technology (APPOINTMENT).
With the University of Alicante we have signed two agreements of cooperation that have allowed us to realise numerous activities. Among those, we received the visit of the President of the Foundation University-Industry of Alicante (FUNDEUN) and of professors of the School of Computation, amongst other. Also we developed a program of cooperation with FEMPA in Alicante, designated “METAL-TIC, that resulted of big success in the relation University-Industry. We had the opportunity to promot activities of cooperation between the Chambers of Industries of Costa Rica, ASOMETAL, the Chair and FEMPA.
Another of the most notable activities of the Chair has been the creation of the Prize “Innovative ideas”, headed to boost the innovative spirit and enterpreneurship between the young students of the University of Costa Rica. In the five editions, we have achieved fantastic results, for example one of the winners in the previous edition was a microbiology student that participated in a contest of the Organisation of American States (OEA) and won one of the prizes. At present, it is opened the fifth announcement in different categories: general, TIC and social innovation. You can consult the bases of participation in our site.
The enterpreneurship is a very important subject to work within the Chair. The Chambers of Industries of Costa Rica and the Incubator Parquetec, established the Consortium GEM of Costa Rica, that allowed us to realise for the first time a study on enterpreneurship in Costa Rica using the methodology proposed by the “Reporte Global em Emprededurismo (GEM)”. As a research result of this study we published Informe Nacional 2010: La situación del emprendedurismo en Costa Rica. Perspectiva Local en emprendimientos, retos y crecimiento”.
Finally, we realise numerous publications on innovation and productive development in which we invite to participate researchers, academics, professors, agents of the University of Costa Rica and others. Recently we have published our first book: Knowledge, Innovation and Development“, edited by Master Rafael Herrera and Doctor José María Gutiérrez.

Q: Can the professionals interested in the Chair propose activities and projects? How do you organise to promote those activities?

A: For planning activities, we established an Advisory board, in where there are representatives of all institutions of the Chair, and is the attendant to dictate the guidelines, design and develop programs.
We are opened to the participation of institutions and professional interested. Until now the majority of activities realised have been coordinated between different units and institutions, and depending of the type of activity to realise we look for the necessary resources (human, financial, logistical, etc.) to carry it out to practice.

Q: As you mentioned, the first book of the Chair is available free in Internet, in which measure the possibilities of ICT are present in your projects and relations with companies and researchers?

A: The publication of the book “Knowledge, Innovation and Development” and other documents are open in our website. This is a first approximation, but to be honest, till now we have not taken advantage of all these possibilities.
Until now we have entered in on-line surveys on metal-mechanic industry, facilitating the contact and reducing considerably the cost of doing it face to face. Internet is also very important for the international cooperation projects, for example the vídeoconference by skype are of big utility.

Q: Which are the future challengesd next projects for the Chair?

A: We would like to concentrate in doing research that serves for taking decisions, and also we are thinking to execute a study on innovation in the plastic sector. Likewise, in 2012 we will continue with the study on enterpreneurship in Costa Rica, as it is part of the Consortium GEM of Costa Rica.
In regard to the Innovative Ideas Prize from our criterion, has arrived to a stage of maturity and requires of some reforms, so the ideas that are proposed can have a true impact in the society and really turn into innovation.
Besides, we would like to execute a project to spread between the productive sectors the scientific and technological offer of the University. Consolidate our agreements of cooperation with institutions like the University of Alicante, taking advantage of your experience in subjects of management to boost the productive innovation and promote the knowledge and technology transfer between our Universities and productive sector.
Also, we pretend to continue with the preparation of publications and their respective dessimination, to increase the discussion and the culture on the importance that the innovation and knowledge has on productive development and the competitiveness of the country.

More information: Chair of Innovation and Business Development of the University of Costa Rica.

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