Grupo Guayacán

Science Trust, Guayacán to foster knowledge economy

Puerto Rico Science, Technology & Research Trust Chief Executive Officer Lucy Crespo presented Friday the organization’s strategic plan to further its mission of inserting Puerto Rico in the global knowledge economy.

As one of the first initiatives related to the implementation of the plan, Crespo announced that the Trust is strengthening its partnership with Grupo Guayacán, Inc. (GGI) and the Georgia Institute of Technology (GT) to bolster its current efforts regarding commercialization and innovation-driven entrepreneurship.

The collaboration with GGI and GT is an important pillar toward the execution of the Trust’s strategic plan, she said.

Through the partnership, the Trust becomes the main sponsor of I-Corps Puerto Rico, a customer discovery boot camp for entrepreneurs looking to build and develop scalable business models. The funding will allow GGI to continue to carry out the local program, which is modeled after the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Innovation Corps (I-Corps), in partnership with the Georgia Institute of Technology (GT), whose VentureLab manages the regional node for the NSF program. The NSF created I-Corps to help NSF-supported researchers identify product and company opportunities, and learn about entrepreneurship.

Through the program, NSF grantees are able to identify valuable product opportunities that can emerge from academic research and take the first steps toward commercialization, she said.

“This partnership allows us to strengthen the research, innovation, and entrepreneurship ecosystem in Puerto Rico as a way to promote the development of new innovation, science, and technology based businesses and our industrial base,” Crespo said.

“This in turn, furthers our mission to invest, facilitate, and build capacity to move forward Puerto Rico’s economy and the wellbeing of our citizens. Through the I-Corps Puerto Rico program, and a series of new related initiatives, we are furthering Puerto Rico’s science and technology agenda,” said Crespo.

Meanwhile, Laura Cantero, GGI’s executive director, said “At Guayacán we feel very proud of supporting the Trust’s strategic plan through concrete and specific actions that help us further out common objectives around developing Puerto Rico’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem.”

“This multi-sector partnership is an example of what we can achieve by working together. We are thankful to the Trust for their unwavering support and to the team from Georgia Tech, who have exhibited incredible commitment to this project and to Puerto Rico, becoming key allies in these and other efforts to advance commercialization and entrepreneurship as engines for economic development,” she said.

The first edition of I-Corps Puerto Rico, which was funded through a grant from the Economic Development Administration, took place during the first quarter of this year. The first of the upcoming two editions, sponsored by the Trust, kicked off this past weekend with an intensive three-day workshop; the third edition will take place during Spring 2016.

Both cohorts will include participants from the first round of Science and Technology Grants, a new Trust initiative that this year provided $1.8 million in grants to 12 projects in fields such as life sciences, aerospace, and information technology. The I-Corps Puerto Rico program will support and accelerate the commercialization of these innovations, which have already received funding from the Trust, supporting participating researchers in the process of getting their products to market.

“This initiative is another example of the Trust’s investment in various programs and businesses, providing access to our resources, knowledge, and expertise. The conversation about entrepreneurship and innovation in Puerto Rico becomes more important with each passing day, and the moment to act is now,” said Iván Ríos, the Trust’s chief operations officer.

“We’re committed to building a robust pipeline that allows us to commercialize innovations stemming from academic research, providing researchers with the tools to transform their discoveries in businesses with the potential for global scale. To achieve this objective, we create strategic partnerships with renowned organizations who share our mission, such as Grupo Guayacán and the Georgia Institute of Technology,” he said.

Complementing initiatives
Crespo also announced that the Trust will fund another two initiatives that complement I-Corps Puerto Rico. The first program will offer a year of tailored support and mentorship to high-potential graduates from the first three editions of I-Corps Puerto Rico. These high potential teams will be selected in collaboration by GGI, GT, and the Trust.

The second program is an island-wide boot-camp for training individuals interested in becoming mentors. This group will receive intensive capacity building through workshops by GT instructors with the objective of teaching the Customer Discovery methodology, on which the I-Corps program is based. A mentor will support participants throughout the process of getting to know their customers and developing a sustainable business model accompanies each team participating in I-Corps Puerto Rico.

“Puerto Rico’s economic future depends on our capacity to establish an entrepreneurial culture that is able to translate innovative ideas into products that can be commercialized and exported. In a modern and integrated knowledge economy, this requires close collaboration between universities, industry, and government,” said Rafael L. Bras, Provost and Executive Vice President of the Georgia Institute of Technology.

“Georgia Tech’s relationship with Puerto Rico spans more than 100 years, beginning with our first Puerto Rican student. We are very pleased to collaborate with the Puerto Rico Science, Technology, and Research Trust and with Grupo Guayacán on this effort aimed at sharing our experiences and success with this economic development model,” he said.

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