A Peruvian perspective of STEM Valorisation

In order to have a broader and more comprehensive perspective of the context of STEM valorisation, within the STEM Valorise project we have tried to cover opinions and experiences of experts from all around the world. Therefore, we had the opportunity to interview Peruvian STEM researcher and entrepreneur, Francisco Cuellar, who shared with us interesting insights of how the concept of Research Valorisation is understood in Peru and the Latin American region, as well as which are the major challenges and ideas to enhance its impact.

Being a STEM entrepreneur in Perú

Francisco is currently a professor and a researcher in the faculty of Engineering of the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú. Since 2016, he decided to sail the waters of Entrepreneurship when he recognised the potential and opportunity to apply his research production to generate value to users instead of just letting it rest on the paper. He founded Tumi Robotics in the university labs, a technology start-up focused on the fields of mining and construction, energy and hydrocarbons, and oceanography and fishing. They work with the support of the university and most of his team (10-15 people) is composed by his former students. With Tumi Robotics, Francisco has won several entrepreneurship recognitions and awards from the Peruvian government and established important alliances with relevant players of the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem of Perú and LATAM. Among their clients are several big national and multinational companies coming from the mining and engineering sector.

Opportunities and Challenges of STEM Research in Perú: Articulation and collaboration are needed

Francisco strongly states that potentializing the valorisation of STEM research is crucial in the Peruvian context, not only for achieving financial results but for the benefit it can represent in the life quality of people living in developing countries. Unfortunately, the reality is that in contexts such as the Peruvian, there is a lack of comprehensive understanding of the potential of research valorisation as well as a lack of inclusion of this topic in the country’s strategic development plan. Although there are currently some governmental bodies pushing valorisation incentives, the efforts are not sufficiently communicated nor supported by the rest of the governmental structure. In addition to this, there is not much participation of the industry, except for companies who have foreign investment, who work under high standards and expectations of generating not only profit but social and environmental impact. On the bright side, the people are important actors in the valorisation efforts, because in Peru there is an inherent entrepreneurial spirit propelled by the fact that people are looking for creative ways of having a better life quality.

The University’s barriers: a roadmap of opportunities for enhancing STEM Valorisation in Perú

“And what about universities?” you might wonder. Well, Francisco tells us that Peruvian universities are still in the process of learning about Research Valorisation, being their main focus still academic production. One of the barriers in this realm is the traditional academic ethos, which is against the idea of commercialisation or marketisation of research production. A second barrier is that private and industry organisations are not convinced of investing in R&D initiatives with universities, preferring to buy/import the final solution/product. A third barrier comes from the fact that current university structures and processes are not designed nor friendly for research valorisation, being more a stopper than a facilitator. A fourth barrier is the general lack of knowledge and skills in the Peruvian university context of how to conduct research valorisation activities, especially regarding the lack of business knowledge and entrepreneurial soft skills in STEM researchers.

All these barriers draw many opportunities for improving the state of STEM Valorisation in Perú. Some of the suggestions given by Francisco are to promote interdisciplinarity and joint projects between STEM researchers and business professionals; to generate more exposure and awareness to literature related to STEM valorisation, as well as hire international trainers with extensive valorisation experience; to improve the government’s communication and dissemination efforts of STEM valorisation incentives; and one of the most important, to provide better support coming from university policies, processes, structures and culture for STEM valorisation.

There is still a long way to go for achieving the full potential and impact of STEM Valorisation in the Peruvian context, for which joint efforts and collaboration between Academia, Industry, Government and Society are needed. From the STEM Valorise project, we hope to contribute for achieving this impact through our findings and resources.

Authored by Viviana Rojas

Featured image retrieved from Pexels.

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