What are the most important areas of study at UTPL?
Our region needs to promote the orange economy and incentivize arts and creativity-related businesses. For provinces without major natural resource exploitation such as Loja, where we are located, the services sector is the main source of income, and thus the citizens become the most important resource. We have developed our research programs based directly on the national development objective and to cover the knowledge gap in important areas. We recently opened the Science and Technology Park, the only space of its kind in Ecuador's south, where we research subjects such as cancer treatments in partnership with outstanding international research groups. We also have the leading national startup incubator in PRENDHO, which serves as a platform for entrepreneurial development. The university is also working on technological trends and their implementation such as IoT, and finally, there is significant research being conducted on Palo Santo, its benefits, and the overall commercial chain and production. Most of these activities have been worked on at the Scientific and Technologic park in just the two years since we created it in 2017.
Regarding the strategic sectors of the Ecuadorian economy, how is UTPL contributing to the creation of an increasingly skilled workforce?
The optimum way of promoting these activities is through supporting entrepreneurship and incentivizing innovation in these industries. Accordingly, we have created a business school that oversees entrepreneurial courses in every program we offer. Our entrepreneurial ecosystem also has a prototype laboratory that allows ventures to further study the market performance of their product through the reception of prototypes. Only after successful completion of testing can a start-up go to the incubator to receive the necessary institutional support for a project to be realized. In the established six-month incubation period, a project will either graduate to become a small enterprise or be removed from the program in favor of rising successful projects from the prototype labs. We have gone as far as securing funding for the early stages of full-on business operations for projects that need capital to cross that productivity and profitability line. Overall, there is an important humanistic nature in our institution, and we want every student who graduates from UTPL to have the integral knowledge of the career of their choice and at least the basic skills required to start a business. One sector drawing considerable attention is mining, and we have established strong relations with the mining companies operating in Ecuador. Indeed, we recently opened a mining innovation center in Zamora where we train the industry's workforce. For example, there is a heavy machinery operation school that certifies operators who go on to be hired as technicians at mining companies, which helps the company meet industry standards. Our labs also aim to certify the concentration of gold, copper, and silver in the materials extracted and to support local governments in this key task.
UTPL has pioneered regional online education. What role does this methodology play in your academic planning?
Effectively, we were the first university in South America to offer long-distance higher education programs. Remote studies have played a major role in the growth of our institution, and we want to make the offer better with a complete overhaul of our model. We want to modernize our remote education programs and are preparing for future trends as well. We have created a knowledge factory that constantly keeps programs up to date with the latest trends and content. Still, we want to take it one step further by opening our academic offer internationally. Although we have university centers in Rome, Madrid, and New York, these were created for Ecuadorian immigrants living in those countries or just looking to study overseas. Now, we want to globalize our offering and expand our reach to basically be accessible by anyone interested in taking our courses and enrolling in our programs.