NEW IDEAS

Colombia 2015 | ECONOMY | B2B: INNOVATION

While the state is crafting policies that promote innovation, companies in the private sector are at the forefront of creating the right conditions.

Lina Vélez de Nicholls
LINA VÉLEZ DE NICHOLLS
Executive Director
Medellín Chamber of Commerce
Juan Camilo Quintero
JUAN CAMILO QUINTERO
Executive Director
Ruta N

How are your organizations promoting innovation in Colombia?

LINA VÉLEZ DE NICHOLLS In particular, the sector that requires the most changes is the textile production, design, and fashion sector. This generates high levels of employment, but in the globalized economic setting it faces many competitors. At the Chamber of Commerce we offer specific services for this sector, as exemplified by INEXMODA, an institution that undertakes systematic research into global trends. INEXMODA also organizes two large textiles exhibitions, namely Colombiatex and Colombiamoda. Regarding the energy cluster, we are focused on the internationalization of local energy companies. Colombian and regional companies in this cluster have a long history of outstanding trajectories with high quality standards. A good example is Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM), which has excelled on an international level. The goal of these companies is to provide strategies to penetrate new markets with their products or services. We are continuously reviewing free trade agreements to acquire an overview of supply and demand. Concerning the health sector, Medellín has been a reference for the health sector in Colombia, given that the Universidad de Antioquia has a highly ranked medicine program, and is the city in which the first private clinics were established.

JUAN CAMILO QUINTERO Currently, we have an area focused on delivering the products and services of entrepreneurs to the market, where the main focus is how to support various players in the innovation ecosystem and put their ideas and products into production, as this is the most challenging part of the innovation ecosystem. We have financed a number of products; these include seed capital risk, and we are investing in the area of ICT. In 2014, we reviewed 400 projects, investing in around eight of them. Some of the projects are specialized; yet we are confident of swift turnaround in realizing them. The other component involves giving entrepreneurs funds to increase their ability to create new products and services, either at their existing company, or by establishing a new company. This program is called Product Innovation. We recently closed and evaluated around 300 projects, and are expected to disburse $2.5 million over 2015. We have another line to commercially sell the resulting products and services abroad. Our resources have three components; the first is providing new capital for companies, and then to withdraw from them to let them develop alone. Another component is the lost fund, namely the resources that will stimulate new products and services to provide innovation in the company or start up, while the final component involves the commercialization of that product or service.

What have been the most significant initiatives for the development of a culture of entrepreneurship and competition in Antioquia?

LN The most important initiatives that the region has undertaken to support development over the decade have been the fostering of social equality, innovation, and productive specialization. Social equality is important because Medellín has owned the profitable public service companies under Empresas Publicas de Medellín EPM for the past 50 years. The profits generated are directed to the city to support social development programs. Secondly, in Antioquia and Medellín, innovation has helped the region to become recognized for its industry. The globalizing economy has been a catalyst for the transformation of EPM and as a result an agreement was finalized between the public and private sectors to create Ruta N.

How do you plan to transfer the knowledge and experience gained to other regions of Colombia?

JQ In 2015, the board of directors approved the creation of another area inside Ruta N, called New Projects, with a work plan that can define our model, not only the Ruta N model, but the ecosystem model, which is more important than Ruta N. This is because I do not want people to see Ruta N as the regional leader. We facilitate a connection between relevant actors to permit faster growth in different institutions. That area is codifying the system, including both ecosystems and Ruta N to integrate it into their project management system to stimulate revenue and confirm our efforts of the past five years. Each region can take whatever it requires, because you can't copy an ecosystem.