Modern economies must create conditions that support and enable innovation and entrepreneurship in order to achieve sustainable growth and competitiveness. This is especially true in Latin America and other emerging markets. The region has a number of well-known innovation hubs—Buenos Aires, Guadalajara, Santiago, to name a few—but Latin America generally lags behind other regions in global measures of innovation capacity. What will it take to change the situation? And can the building and fostering of innovation “ecosystems” provide the template for progress across the region? Three people fully engaged in the effort, Consuelo Valverde, Diego Molano, and Juan Carlos Navarro provide CONTEXT.
Consuelo Valverde is an electrical engineer with a Master’s in computer science and an MBA in science entrepreneurship. She was granted an O-1 Visa – for “Aliens with Exceptional Abilities” in business by the US Government. Consuelo has 25 years of experience as a tech entrepreneur, more than 10 years as an investor and 6 years as fund manager. She is Founding and Managing Partner of SV LATAM Fund, a VC fund with a Latin American focus and has been responsible for the entire fundraising process. She is also Co-founder of Zfunction University LLC in Silicon Valley and provides training, mentoring and advice entrepreneurs in biotechnology, diagnostics and health services, financial services, e-commerce, robotics, energy, education and software. She is the Co-founder of Expansion Bridge LLC, a San Francisco based company providing software development teams to startups seeking to accelerate time to market, and to fast growing enterprise and mobile companies.
Diego Molano is the former Minister of Information Technologies and Communications for Colombia. He was appointed by President Juan Manuel Santos in 2010. Molano led Colombia to become one of the top countries in the region in terms of ICT. In 2010, he created the “Plan Vive Digital,” a national technology plan portrayed as a model example at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The plan resulted in Colombia receiving the 2012 a GSMA Government Leadership Award for being the country with the best public policies in technology around the globe. In addition to his previous activities as Minister, Mr. Molano is a member of several boards, including the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) m-Powering Development Initiative, The Global Innovation Index, Barcelona Mobile World Capital, the Competitiveness Lab of the World Economic Forum. He also serves on the boards of major international business organizations, such as the American Association of Telecommunications Operators, the Mercosur Business Forum-Europe, EU Brazil and the Colombian Chamber of Commerce in Spain.
Juan Carlos Navarro is a Science and Technology Principal Technical Leader in the Competitiveness and Innovation Division in the Inter-American Development Bank. Since 1997, when he joined the IDB, he has contributed to the development of technical assistance activities and the design and implementation of lending programs in the fields of education, science, technology and innovation in 20 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, and has had a leading role in shaping the overall strategy of the IDB in those fields. He has conducted research and has a series of publications on topics such as policies, financing, management and quality assurance for higher education, political science, technology and innovation, public-private partnerships in innovation and education, technology applications to education, human capital development in technical and scientific fields and the political economy of education reforms. More recently, he co-authored the chapter on innovation and productivity in Latin America IDB a collective volume on productivity in the region, and led a team responsible for publishing a compendium of indicators of science, technology and innovation. Before joining the Bank he was a consultant to several international organizations and served as professor at the Institute of Higher Administration Studies (IESA) and Catholic University Andres Bello in Venezuela, his native country. In 1995 he was Ford Foundation-LASPAU Visiting Scholar at Harvard University.