COLLECTIVE WORK

Colombia 2018 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Alejandro Franco R., Executive Director of Ruta N, on its extensive portfolio of projects, its partnership with the University of Miami, and its support for ICT companies.

Alejandro Franco R
BIOGRAPHY
Alejandro Franco R. is the Executive Director of Ruta N. He is an administrative engineer from EIA University in Medellín and holds a master’s degree in innovation and entrepreneurship from Manchester University. With over 15 years of experience as an entrepreneur and then working in the private and public sectors, he is dedicated to promoting innovation as the key engine of economic development. He has broad experience in innovation and technology, strategy development and management, and technology transfer processes.

Ruta N has become one of the main business incubators in the region; how has it evolved in the past few years?

Ruta N does tactical planning based on three elements: first, the application of science, technology and innovation to help the citizens gain a better quality of life. Second, we are transforming the economy of Medellín from a traditional one to a knowledge-based economy. Third, we are assessing how innovation regulates the economy. As a result of these efforts, Medellín has attracted more than 195 companies from 27 countries providing more than 4,100 jobs. We have built a portfolio of more than 270 projects based on applied research and technological development worth more than USD100 million, of which we have been able to leverage more than USD30 million. Under this modality, we have more than 60 projects, 10 of which are about to be launched in the market. We are having an improvement in our innovation, providing seed capital for start-ups, and structuring debt and venture capital financing. This financing model has also developed a smart capital with 18 sources of venture capital and 21 investments worth USD280 million. Another element is the innovation in business development: more than 730 companies have participated in innovation processes by connecting budgets and innovation concepts with the best route to innovating and reaching a minimum viable product (MVP). We have also been working on an open innovation program with the purpose of helping people learn more about innovation.

What strategy do you use to attract large customers such as Huawei or Konecta?

The strategy is based on understanding Medellín as an ecosystem made up of universities, corporations, and government. What international companies like best about us is our collective work. As a city we also provide a quality of life that consists of our favorable attitude to business, and our climate, culture, and security. Finally, we have also put a lot of effort into activating our innovation, science, and technology ecosystem.

What advantages does Ruta N offer ICT companies located here?

Between all of our companies, there is support and collaboration. In a nutshell, we want things to happen here, and we like to see progress in Medellín. From the technical point of view, there is a strong technological position; we have a certified silver building, our technology infrastructure is in great condition, our servers work very good, and our technology plants can meet any technical eventualities that might occur.

Ruta N has partnered with a leading innovation hub at the University of Miami. What is the significance of this project?

We want to work on the technology hub because the supercomputers will be at high speed and it would help to have more data collection. Regarding the Alcobendas hub in Spain, we have just signed an agreement to promote the development of innovative projects based on technology. This corporation has more than 15,000 companies, including multinationals, focused on biotechnology.

What was the result of the Smart Capital Event in November?

That was a truly successful event. More than 600 participated, including the US Embassy with Ambassador Kevin Whitaker, the main representatives in terms of investment and financing of entrepreneurship of the Pacific Alliance, 273 investors, among them angel investors, family offices, capital funds managing over USD400 million, main business groups, entrepreneurs, and innovation agencies of entrepreneurship were present. The main actor in impact investment worldwide, Capria, led the work agenda to establish partnerships with local investors. There was also a training course for investors to strengthen the region's capacities, offered by Venture Well, an organization commissioned by the US Department of State to strengthen emerging economies through angel investment in initiatives that have components in science and technology.