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A strategic relationship: Science-government collaboration to support the nation’s development

Canel cientificos“At the time this contribution is being prepared, our country is having unquestionable success in the COVID-19 battle. Among the keys to this victory is the close, productive relationship between government administration, the healthcare system, and the intelligent, committed work of many scientists and professionals, alongside the entire people,” emphasized Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, in a recent article written in collaboration with Aurora Fernández, advisor to the Ministry of Higher Education, on government work, higher education, science, innovation and local development, published in the virtual library SciELO.

This effort, in addition to talent and dedication, has required novel organizational mechanisms, including the innovation committee coordinated by representatives from the Ministry of Public Health and BioCubaFarma; coherent work systems; joint action; regular interaction between government and the scientific community, the authors noted. All of which, they argue, has allowed for an integrated social, scientific, political and sanitary response capable of confronting the challenges posed by the pandemic.

“This experience suggests that science-government unity must constitute a regular work practice, a model that, with the incorporation of every situation’s particularities, must be employed to confront the most important tasks required to advance our development. Science-government articulation is also key to successfully addressing another of the great challenges the nation faces: stimulating local development,” they state.

According to the article, over the last decade, two tendencies related to this issue, discussed here, have been noted. On the one hand, they indicate, local development has become an important element of the Cuban social and economic development model. And on the other, the Ministry of Higher Education has included local development as a priority objective in its strategic plan for the period 2012-2020 and is interacting with many actors, programs and projects working toward this end.


Addressing the issue, the President and the higher educational advisor emphasize that this premise is established in no.17 of the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and the Revolution for the period 2016-2021, which notes the necessity of stimulating local development in accordance with national strategies, to strengthen municipalities as the fundamental level of the economy, with the needed autonomy, sustainability, and productive foundation, and the need to reduce major disparities among these, taking advantage of all potential.

They additionally note that, in accordance with the legal framework outlined in Article 168 of the Constitution of the Republic, the municipality constitutes the primary political-administrative unit and foundation of national organization. Likewise, territorial development is incorporated in the National Economic and Social Development Plan through 2030.

“Given all of the above, it can be stated that local development constitutes a public policy of strategic importance that holds a central place on the agendas of governments at the municipal and provincial levels, and also demands action on the part of Central State Administration agencies, the Council of Ministers, and the Presidency of the country, itself,” the article states.

Nonetheless, the authors note, the territorial development policy – elaborated with the participation of academics and currently in the process of approval – contains an assessment which, among other aspects, indicates that a comprehensive conception of local development, its mechanisms and management tools, widely accepted at the institutional level, does not exist.

On the basis of this reality, several needed steps were identified, including:

-Ensure progress in capacity building that will allow for strategic conduction of local development processes, in particular the management of projects that strengthen the productive base of municipalities and generate wellbeing for the population.

-Promote systematic policies of innovation at the local level, and in line with these, prioritize the training of the skilled workforce needed to implement municipal development strategies.

-Facilitate multi-level dialogue to support joint action at the national, provincial and municipal levels, thus reinforcing unity and counteracting excessively sectoral, vertical, or centralized thinking. This dialogue likewise requires an adequate legal and normative framework, and the strengthening of cognitive, scientific, and technological capacity at the local level.


Science and innovation, computerization and social communication are fundamental to the Cuban government’s work, and making their contributions in a unified manner have made this clearly evident in the battle against COVID-19, the authors note.

In a similar fashion, universities are expected to make a significant contribution to processes of innovation – technologically in the strictest sense, as well as socially and organizationally, among other ways. Likewise, government and state cadres must be prepared to act as conscious promoters of the contributions science, technology and innovation can make in solving the problems of development that every sector and territory face.

“Given this perspective, the most important expression of the ties between higher education and government in advancing local development are those constructed within systems of innovation in provinces, municipalities, and communities throughout the country.”

This local effort, however, can benefit as well from action taken by the national government that provides support, and from the public policy followed consistently by the Ministry of Higher Education in favor of local development, the authors argue, while recognizing that there are many problems yet to be resolved.

“For example, the issue of training human resources, the management of knowledge and innovation, are subjects that are not always given the priority they deserve in municipal and provincial development strategies.

“Systematic processes of innovation are not generalized. While excellent examples exist of government-higher education alliances in a number of municipalities, others have fallen behind. The road is long and winding, but the government-science alliance at this level also appears to be a promising model,” they affirm.

In their article, the President and Aurora Fernández also assert that national government visits to the provinces have shown positive results, facilitating multi-level dialogue and strengthening ties between education – especially universities – Central State Administration agencies and enterprises, all critical to local development.

The basic objective of these visits has been to analyze the current and perspective state of the province’s main development programs, holding conversations with cadres, workers, and the people in general. During these exchanges, decisive issues have been debated, including food production; housing construction; transportation; computerization; confronting corruption and illicit activity; strengthening state enterprises and creating productive chains with foreign investment projects, joint ventures, the cooperative and private sectors; as well as promoting foreign investment, among other questions.

“In particular, with much emphasis, the importance of turning to scientific research, science, innovation, computerization and communication has been insisted upon, as pillars of government policy, to find solutions to the most dissimilar problems,” the authors report.

Thus the role of science and innovation, in particular the contribution of universities, has been emphasized, with the intention of having direct economic and social impact, especially in advancing local development.


The country’s government has assumed the task of making science-government ties a key element in its development strategy. Higher education is positioning itself as an important actor in the process of production, dissemination and use of the knowledge which local development requires and is increasingly functioning as a key ally of governments implementing local development strategies.

The creation of municipal higher education centers, articulated with universities, offer significant opportunities in this regard. National government visits to territories have contributed to strengthening universities’ ties with both national and regional actors and promoted innovative dynamics with an impact on local development.

These ties between government and science must be consolidated, the authors insist, with the purpose of finding effective, innovative solutions to all of the country’s development problems.

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