What reasons led the Municipality of Guayaquil to create a public company for innovation and competitiveness?
Current world dynamics and globalization have led cities to gain more prominence in social and economic contexts. Cities share the responsibility of facing global challenges whilst their efficient processes and relatively faster reaction times allow them to present development plans and set economic investment landscapes specific to the conditions and needs of their communities. Empowered decentralization allows communities to create social and economic policy adjusted to their interests to complement the national agenda. EPICO was conceived as an instrument to create a municipal development plan through innovation, science, and human development based on sustainable and inclusive principles. The idea was to create an institution that would orchestrate stakeholders of different areas to push economically progressive initiatives without being distracted by the daily administrative burdens of the municipality. We are preparing, for example, significant reforms for our environmental policy and coordinating with key private-sector players and academia to carry out major programs to build a sustainable city. We are rethinking the Guayaquil Smart City program with the objective of improving the quality of life through technology rather than measuring success by the installation and technologic output of the project itself. The program will be called “The REAL Smart City, Guayaquil.” We have also assigned taskforces to re-engineer our transportation, public participation, and social inclusion policies. EPICO aims to promote partnerships between academia and major economic groups, specifically within the agro-industrial sector, to improve our production performance through research-based initiatives. We will create a brain belt in Guayaquil, a vibrant ecosystem to promote economic growth through innovation and joint collaboration. EPICO is the connector that will facilitate and coordinate this ambitious yet reachable goal.
How do you expect EPICO to increase collaboration between public, private, and academic institutions?
We decided to base our starting agenda on the main concerns of our citizens. 67% of the surveyed population expressed that sustainability is their main priority and concern. To them, sustainability involves not only an environmentally friendly city but also the expansion of public recreational spaces, the gentrification of historically significant districts of Guayaquil, and a significant improvement of their safety on the streets. When we formed our board of directors, we included local stakeholders from the public and private sectors alongside representatives of main academic institutions. Guayaquil's municipality has always led public policy related to all aspects regarding life in Guayaquil, and EPICO is just an extension of that trend. We want our people to perceive the municipal identity and influence our economic and social policies and initiatives.
Despite being a young organization, how would you describe EPICO's achievements to date?
We have already launched two innovation challenges, one of them applying NASA's research methodology. Both initiatives are in their beta stage for a duration of three months, as it coincides with the launch of the official strategic development plan. We have signed partnerships and developed joint collaboration programs between private-sector companies and academic institutions to promote entrepreneurship by challenging students to solve operational challenges of major retail chains and present them to their CEOs. We are set to release short technical education programs for 100 young, unemployed people not currently studying in university. These programs will develop specific skills and certifications related to the digital economy. Our expectation is to deploy this program on a quarterly basis and train at least 500 professionals by the end of 2020. We want to promote the green, blue, and orange economies. In addition to the above, and since October 2019, EPICO has assembled a team of 15 employees with multiple backgrounds committed to helping EPICO reach its goals and objectives. We have also completed the “Ideando Guayaquil” Challenge with the participation of 250 students from eight universities. Within the “REAL Smart City, Guayaquil” program, five projects will be launched in 2020 related to mobility, health, the environment, risk management, and urban planning. Furthermore, over 300 entrepreneurs have been reached through local programs