Univercyt launched a consulting start-up that pretends to help High Education Institutions from Latin America to improve their internationalisation and management processes of science and technology. The mission is to promote institutional capacity in the areas of research, innovation, entrepreneurship, technology transfer and linkage with business. For that, IN4GIVE is a prototype service, open to participation and opinion of all professionals who wish to contribute.

We spoke to Javier González Sabater and Carlos Alberto Vigil Taquechel, co-founder of the business project and consultants to know this initiative.

P: What is Univercyt?

Javier González Sabater (JGS): Univercyt is a company created to promote the internationalisation of High Education Institutions and research centres of Latin America.

We like to call Univercyt as a start-up consulting services, in which we have set ourselves the task of contributing to the revitalization of the scientific and technological capacity in Latin America to consolidate innovative models of management and institutional cooperation, allowing to promote a global knowledge-based society.

P: Who integrates the enterprising team?

JGS: Univercyt was founded by two entrepreneurs with a combined experience of over 20 years in management processes related with internationalisation of science and technology in Latin America and the European Union.

The team is composed by Carlos Alberto Vigil Taquechel, who is a consultant in university international cooperation, international relations and with a wide experience in management of university projects in the context of institutional relations of the European Union and Latin America.

And I, Javier González Sabater, I am a consultant of technology transfer, R&D and innovation. I have a long experience in the field of university-company cooperation. I am also founder of The Transfer Institute.

P: Why there is a need to undertake this business project?

Carlos Alberto Vigil Taquechel (CAVT): Univercyt was born to offer solutions to problems that we have identified in Latin American institutions as a result of previous research. We focus in two strategic areas of university activity: internationalisation and science and technology management.

P: Which are those deficiencies detected?

CAVT: The first problem is that there is a big gap between both areas of university activity. That is to say, there is a very little interaction between units responsible for those processes, as if the management related with to the internationalisation, science and technology were two small islands inside of the global University structure. This affects noticeably the impact that research should have inside and outside of University.

To give an example that illustrates this problem, we might ask what comes into our mind when we speak about promoting internationalisation. There is the global idea to relate it with actions directed to the increase of students, professors, researchers or administrative staff mobility, or to attract more foreign students or even invite professors to give conferences. As well we may relate it with the increasing number international agreements (wich often end up having a low profile of execution) or encourage participation in international projects and networks which mostly have a predominantly academic goal. All that is legitimate and valuable in strengthening the capacity of international action of a university, however constitutes a partial vision of internationalisation.

From our perspective, the internationalisation has to be really able to permeate all fields of university activity and is required to generate substantive activities related with scientific, research, innovation, technology transfer and relationship with the business. Some areas also rarely have indicators in the context of the universities.

Besides, it would be necessary to increase some remain challenges in team work of those units, among them the limited resources, both human and economic; the low level of specialisation of the team to develop its work; the low profile of autonomy and independence or a poor hierarchy in the global institutional structure.

Those failures characterise the current situation that constitute the true origin of Univercyt and that we would like to synthesise as a need for a change in the management models. A change in the way university agents work, many times they devote hours to questions that may result irrelevant no institutional strengthening. A change that allows a university to identify, in an organised and scheduled way, a strategy and its own needs, potentialities and strengths.

P: How do you understand the need for C&T internationalisation nowadays?

CAVT: The internationalisation nowadays is an imperative, the world changes in an extremely dynamic way and only those institutions that have the capacity to adapt and to keep pace with these changes will have options to survive. Latin America (Spain and Portugal are not exception) is forced to make a crusade for promotion of an economic and social sustainable model whit its pillars in knowledge, science and technology development. The universities have to be in the avant-garde of those changes.

For example, it is totally not understandable that all the knowledge and technology generates in Latin America, just only 2% of the Latin American universities are classify as research-oriented institutions and the shortcomings are evident in their research systems, for instance the low scientific production, the limited generation of patents, licences, start-ups and spin-offs companies and in a poor connection bond with the business.

P: What is the IN4DES model?

CAVT: IN4DES, is the acronym of what we have designated institutional Model of innovation and internationalisation for High Education development. We are working on it and hope it to become a methodology to innovate within the university internationalisation processes and to reinforce the quality and capacity of higher education institutions performance.

It is focused essentially to activities related with science and technology management, although it does not exclude other university activities. In essence, it can be defined as a prototype service that traces a strategy related with university internationalisation dimension.

We have elaborated the work document: General ideas of the model IN4DES for university internationalisation promotion actions”. It is available in our web site and describes the key principles of this methodology.

IN4GIVE. Informative document of the model, by Univercyt.

The model proposes the creation of IN4DES Unit. In order to understand better this unit, here it is an example. If we think of a university, as there are many in the heterogeneous Latin-american universe, that can not afford to have independent offices and skilled personnel with high level of expertise to manage its international business links and research results transfer processes, the result generally is that the work in all these fronts is of a low profile. However, perhaps this situation could be corrected if the institution merged those functions in a polyvalent and multidisciplinary team that could coordinate and promote the internationalisation processes, projects management, technology transfer, entrepreneurship and business connections.

Obviously, for the set up of this unit it would be always necessary to develop a professional qualification process. The IN4DES model proposes to use the OPM3 methodology (Organisational Project Management Maturity Model) of the PMI (Project Management Institute), that is a management model tested successfully in the most varied business surroundings.

P: In which phase is Univercyt?

CAVT: We are applying the Lean Startup methodology and at present we are in the experimentation phase. This is characterised by the dynamics create-measure-learn, that is, we have launched an idea that afterwards will be measure and then learnt so we are able to validate our hypotheses and build from here products and services that provide a true profit to our potential customers.

To do this, from the informative document “General ideas of the IN4DES model for promoting university internationalisation actions”, we have developed a survey with which would like to know the opinion of professionals. We would like to invite all our readers to participate.

P: How can one participate in this survey?

CAVT: It is very simple and just takes10 minutes. For us it is essential at this phase that managers, researchers, professors and all those involved in university actions would read the informative document, collaborate in filling up the survey and let us know the comments, as well as share their own experiences.To fill in the survey you can visit the following link: http://www.univercyt.com/servicios/in4des/

P: To whom is Univercyt addressed?

CAVT: Univercyt as a project essentially designed to higher education institutions and research centres of Latin America, although we would like to work with technological centres, companies interested in research processes, technology transfer and innovation.

For instance, if we analyse the initial proposal for setting up a IN4DES unit, we will see that there are establish four reference stages.

Anyone interested can contact us through our web site: www.univercyt.com. As well, one can register to receive our newsletter, that we expect to be launched in April and follow us in social networks such as Linkedin and Twitter.

Q: The present moment demands a deep economic and social transformation of the agents that compose the innovation system. In your opinion, how does the relationships University-Business should developed in this context? Which rol plays the scientific-technological entrepreneurship?

JGS: Fast and deep changes are occurring, catalysed the technology. Many of the current approaches of technology transfer and links with industry are not enough or are not able to meet the challenges, producing a mismatch between scientific talent of the institution and its socio-economic capitalisation.

Obviously it is a lot to do, but from our point of view, relationships between University-Company will have to evolve on several axes of performance, as for example:

  • Opening university in all the senses,

  • Motivation and autonomy of the research staff,

  • Creation of relationship ecosystems,

  • Professionalism of the management staff,

  • Culture of innovation,

  • Scientific and technological entrepreneurship focussed to students.

P: Which kinds of opportunities the ICT or the social networks phenomena such as collective intelligence bring to technology transfer and entrepreneurship in the Latin American countries?

JGS: The ICT, and mainly Internet are revolutionising our life. Phenomena such as the social networks, the collective intelligence, the mobile devices applications, etc., have a very high potential in our area because it all allow the creation of electronic platform markets, related with technology, knowledge, information, professional services, development and qualification.

Definitely, the universities and research organisms have today a series of opportunities that go around two fundamental ideas: in the first place, they can approach knowledge to any consumer of the world and in second, but not less important, they can establish a great relationship among all actors in order to grow steady.
In our case, and following the trend, we developed our internationalisation IN4DES model by means of collective intelligence, having the participation and opinion of all those professionals that wish to contribute.

P: In your opinion, which are the main challenges for scientific and technological cooperation in the Ibero-american Universities?

CAVT: This may need a long answer, but I will try to be brief and tackle only those that seem to me more notable. In the external plane, the most important maybe is the need for bigger government support, a true support, not based on speeches and statements in summits. A decisive support to the work of universities, to promote science and technology, to the promote innovation ecosystems. Two examples, Latin America needs a significant investment to improve the infrastructure of its universities and research centres, at least those of strategic importance. It needs a program, such as Erasmus in Europe. For a long time, Spain has supported financially the main programs of university and scientific cooperation of Latin America, is an indisputable merit that no one can refute but nowadays there is a time for this responsibility to be shared by other states that are able to assume it.

Internally, universities need of major changes in their management models, there is a need to adapt to challenges imposed from the global world and new technologies. Universities have to be more flexible in interacting with companies, helping professors and researchers to explore the advantages that public-private partnership offer. Managers in charged of internationalisation processes and international cooperation should act with autonomy, independence and capacity to represent the institution in a professional and responsible way. Anyway, to sum it up, universities should promote an entrepreneur ecosystem.

P: To finish, which are the main challenges for Univercyt?

JGS: The most important challenge for our company is to reach the operational sustainability from a minimal critical mass of customers and projects, allowing us to set up a proper team and initiate a business the development.

In the short term we would like to have a complete portfolio of services that covered the internationalisation needs of our customers and accelerate the growth of the company. As well as, consolidate a platform that serves as a contact and interface with our customers and through which we can connect ideas-people-opportunities to promote projects in which all actors obtain a tangible benefit.

Regarding the future we wish to create a multidisciplinary team covering the different perspectives of internationalisation, science and technology processes. In this sense, we are open to collaboration with other professionals with whom we would collaborate in projects and activities.

We would like to have a network of partners and offices throughout all Latin America and in the main centres of scientific, technological and entrepreneur activity, that will generate strategic opportunities for our customers internationalisation and thus forge successful results.

Our ultimate goal is to become a key agent in the knowledge progress-based in Latin America, and all that contributes to attain this purpose will be very welcomed.

We would like to end up by thanking your team (OVTT) this excellent opportunity to present our project.

More information: Univercyt

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