Feb. 1, 2015

René Ramírez Gallegos


René Ramírez Gallegos

National Secretary of Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Ecuador


René Ramírez Gallegos’s graduate studies are comprised of a MA in Development Economics from the Institute of Social Studies, the Hague, an MA in Government and Public Affairs from the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales Sede (FLASCO), Mexico, and graduate studies in quantitative methodology at the University of Michigan. Prior to his appointment to the position of National Secretary of Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Gallegos served as the National Secretary of Planning and Development, Content Coordinator for the Ecuador National Development Plan, and President of the National Council for Modernization. In addition, he was an associate professor at FLASCO-Ecuador Economics Department, Coordinator for the Millennium Center for Social Research (CISMIL), as well holding professorship at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, and the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar.

What would you say is the role science and technology play in Ecuador's efforts to transform the productive matrix?

It has an essential role, for technology and science contribute to strengthening the quality of human resources. The government has a vision that the transformation of the country's production matrix has to be based on the development of the finite resources in society, meaning the development of a society of knowledge through innovation. In this context, the country invests large amounts to make sure that the main value added to society is knowledge. To achieve this, it is necessary to develop, on the one hand, a strong education and culture system, and, on the other hand, a strong science, technology, and innovation system. We are at this particular stage right now.

What is the importance of Yachay in these efforts?

In the higher education segment, we still engaged in a nationwide reform since 2007 that entails the adoption of a new organic law, a restructuring of the system to eliminate lower quality higher education centers, and increasing expenditure budgets—from 1.1% to 2% of the GDP since 2007. In fact, we are the country with the largest expenditure on education in the region. We also put a lot of emphasis on human talent, and this is why we set up a Bachelor's degree in teacher training and education. We have also become the country with the best remuneration for researchers. We are in the process of developing four new universities, while also restructuring the network of technology institutes. We aim to build closer bridges between the private sector and the higher education system. We increased the budget for research, innovation and technology from 0.2% to 0.72% of GDP. We have also started strengthening the degree courses related to the pedagogical and educational sciences, because we believe the structural change has to do with childhood, primary, and secondary education. We want to further push the role of innovation and creativity through technological and industrial parks. Regarding Yachay, it is the physical space that will contribute to these and other developments, creating economic environments within research institutes, universities, and other such centers. Yachay will be the innovation center of Ecuador; a city, a company, and a university representing the innovation system of the country. It has to work also as a specialized cluster where people will live and generate innovation, knowledge, research, and future developments for Ecuador.

What is the importance of international partnerships for the development of education and research in Ecuador?

One of our first duties has to do with catching up, and we know international partnerships can give us that knowledge transfer we need. Ecuador's current stage of development requires that knowledge transfer right now. We need to boost ties between local universities and the main research and innovation centers around the world, for this is key for the development of a knowledge-based society. We also bring our view into it with several programs such as scholarships—at the moment, we grant over 9,000 scholarships for Ecuadorean students and researchers to study in the best universities in the world.

What are the main objectives of the Secretariat for the next few years?

Our top priority has been to strengthen the innovation system in Ecuador. Before the presidency of Correa, no government had the vision to guide its development. We also must make sure that innovation, technology, and education have sufficient financial resources for their development.