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New horizons for science and innovation

cuna ciencia saludOne year following the publication of the first legal regulations governing the creation of Science and Technology Parks; University – Science, Technology and Innovation – Production Interface Companies; and the Programs and Projects system, the country is moving forward in transforming our Science, Technology and Innovation System (STI).

Armando Rodríguez Batista, Deputy Minister of Science, Technology and Environment (Citma), explained to Granma that these norms were the first of a much more comprehensive legal package which continues to be presented (Decree 2/2020 on Advanced Technology Enterprises, Decree Law 7/2020 and its complementary provisions), to guide implementation of policies to perfect Cuba’s science, technology and innovation system, approved by the Council of Ministers in October of 2018.

“This package addresses, in a comprehensive way, the main problems faced in science, technology and innovation activity: human potential, infrastructure, planning and financing, connection with the economy and society, impact… in addition to outlining specific short, medium and long term strategies.”

Rodríguez noted that this set of laws fulfills Article 21 of the new Constitution of the Republic, which stipulates that the state promotes the advancement of science, technology and innovation, as elements essential to economic and social development. Also established are organizational structures for financing and management of scientific activity, with the intention of promoting the systematic and accelerated application of research findings in production and services processes, he said.

“This policy and related legal norms are an essential part of the process of updating the country’s economic and social development model and the National Development Plan through 2030.

“Moreover, they are the result of an exhaustive study of positive experiences in science, technology and innovation systems at international level, plus exchanges with the scientific and technological community, particularly with the Cuban Academy of Sciences, taking into account Fidel’s teachings and his visionary goal of making Cuba a country of scientists, of thought, making it clear that knowledge cannot be confined to a specific labor sector (universities, research centers…), but is a genuine and essential source of national, sectoral, regional, institutional and personal development in our social project.”

The Deputy Minister stated that, to date, Science and Technology Parks in Havana and Matanzas have been created, the first in the area of the University of Computer Science (uci), and the latter around the University of Matanzas.

Referring to enterprises involved in developing ties between three key arenas – universities; science, technology, innovation institutions; and the productive sector – Rodríguez recalled that Cuba has two exemplary productive universities: Marta Abreu Central University, in Las Villas, and the José Antonio Echeverría Technological University of Havana (Cujae).

Rodríguez reported that during a meeting with participants in the Tecnogest event (which sought to promote links between producers and knowledge users), these professionals were asked how many were part of the Science, Technology and Innovation System, only a dozen answered affirmatively, most of them from research centers and universities.

The anecdote, he noted, invites reflection on a reality identified by the three Innovation Surveys conducted in the country by Citma and the National Statistics Office, in 2001, 2006 and 2018: the limited culture of innovation evident in our enterprises, managers and workers.

“This constitutes a challenge to strengthening the connection between universities, science, technology and innovation institutions, and enterprises, and expanding the impact of scientific findings in the production of goods and services.

“We have observed that, of every five new products introduced in the market by Cuban companies, only one is a result of their ties with universities. If we additionally pose the question to research centers, the figure only increases by two, an indication that the connections among actors remain limited.”

Companies themselves recognize the integrating role and impulse provided by the National Association of Innovators and Promoters of Efficiency; the Science and Technology Forum; the Youth Technical Brigades; and several professional associations, including the National Association of Economists of Cuba and the Cuban Association of Agro-forestry Technicians, Rodríguez noted.

“More than conceptual approaches, what is essential is the promotion of a daily, routine, effective interrelationship – via social and institutional communication – between universities, research centers and enterprises, which ultimately becomes an enriching conversation between producers and knowledge users, promoting the creation of new knowledge and leading to the generation of new products and services, with an impact on the economy and society.

“Science and technology parks will be able to incubate new companies and businesses, interface promoters will receive tax benefits for the management of innovative projects, while Programs and Projects will provide compensation for participants, whether they be researchers, technicians, teachers or students, with renumeration independent of their salaries and with no bureaucratic limits on the number of projects in which they can participate.

“In our country, the opportunities created by socialism, the thinking of Fidel and the personal example of President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez in the construction of a system of government attention to science and innovation, promoted in the midst of the COVID-19 battle, put us in a position to develop a national system of science, technology and innovation that integrates and enhances our values. Science, technology and innovation, like culture, are the nation’s shield and sword,” he concluded.

(Taken from Granma)

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