E. William Colglazier
Science and Technology Adviser
Medellín, Colombia
September 29, 2011

Innovation depends on the creativity and motivation of individuals to turn new ideas into commercial assets. Nearly every country recognizes that innovation through science and technology is one of the most important engines of economic growth in modern economies. Innovation through science and technology is essential to improving the living standards for all of our citizens.

In this era of globalization, competition comes from smart people everywhere. Global scientific engagement is essential for any country to stay at the forefront and cutting edge in science and technology. Science and technology professionals speak a common language that facilitates their being able to work together and to learn from each other.

This conference focuses on challenges and opportunities for innovation in modern economies. The innovation systems in several countries are being examined. All of us can benefit from learning more about each other’s systems and seeking ways of making our innovation systems more efficient and effective.

Science and technology are also instruments for national security, tools for helping to solve national, regional and global problems, and assets for protecting the environment, ensuring public health, achieving food security, and developing new energy options. Being able to find solutions for many of the challenges facing the world will require countries working together.

The 2006 Report “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” by the U.S. National Academies highlighted the importance to the U.S. of strengthening our educational system in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics at all levels from kindergarten to graduate school, increasing funding for research and development , and improving our innovation system for transferring new ideas and technologies into the marketplace.

Factors that spur innovation include: efficient markets , a facilitative business environment, strong research universities, government and private sector investment in research and development, venture capital investment, foreign direct investment, protection of intellectual property rights, and trade. It is also important to identify barriers to innovation in a country and to target specific policies to overcome these barriers.

On September 16, President Obama signed important new legislation revising the U.S. patent system. The America Invents Act was passed with President Obama’s strong leadership after nearly a decade of effort to reform the Nation’s outdated patent laws. It will help companies and inventors avoid costly delays and unnecessary litigation, and let them focus instead on innovation and job creation. Many key industries in which the United States leads, such as biotechnology, medical devices, telecommunications, the Internet, and advanced manufacturing, depend on a strong and healthy system to protect intellectual property.

Secretary Clinton has placed a high value and priority on the integration of innovation into our foreign policy. The role of the Office of the Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary is to serve as an advocate for science-based policy at State, to help identify and evaluate emerging scientific and technical issues that affect U.S. strategic interests and international relations, to help bring scientific expertise to the department by increasing science-trained professional staff and increasing access to outside experts, to promote science and technology capacity-building and science-based policy-making internationally, and to serve as a strong proponent of global scientific engagement for mutual benefit as being in the U.S. strategic interest.

One example of how Colombia and the U.S. are working together to promote innovation is the Colombia-Purdue Institute for Advanced Scientific Research (CPIASR) which is enhancing the visibility and innovation management skills of Colombian scientists, connecting the Colombian scientific community with the rest of the world via Purdue’s nanoHUB cyber infrastructure tool, and developing an academic advanced research infrastructure in Colombia with tailored Ph.D. training at Purdue University for Colombian students in strategic technical areas.

Another example arose from the May 31 High Level Partnership Dialogue between Colombia and the U.S. The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is learning about the experiences of the Colombian Technology Innovation Centers and their biomass pyrolysis projects from the GOC Institute for Planning and Promotion of Energy Solution (IPSE). In addition, NREL is collaborating with Ecopetrol and Cenipalma on a biomass and biodiesel project.

Since President Santos has made innovation one of his five pillars for economic and social development, this conference presents a timely opportunity to discuss innovation issues. Each country can learn from the experiences of others.

I look forward to learning more about the innovation system in Colombia and hearing about the results of this important conference as all countries seek to utilize science and technology to improve the lives of our citizens and to solve the urgent problems that face the world.

[This is a mobile copy of EXPOUNIVERSIDADES 2011]