SCIENCE PROJECT

Panama 2017 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Jorge A. Motta, National Secretary of Science, Technology and Innovation, and Victor Sanchez Urrutia, Director of Business Innovation at SENACYT.

Dr. Jorge A. Motta
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Jorge A. Motta began his academic career at Georgetown University, then continued his post-graduate education at Yale University, completing his training in internal medicine and cardiology at Stanford University. He served as Director of the Gorgas Memorial Research Institute from 2004 to 2008.
Victor Sanchez Urrutia
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Victor Sanchez Urrutia has more than 20 years of experience in developing technology and innovation. He is a full professor at the School of Mechanical Engineering of the Technological University of Panama.

How is the current government working to foster the concept of innovation in the Panamanian economy?

JORGE A. MOTTA SENACYT strengthens the National System of Innovation by promoting programs to financially support entrepreneurs and companies that develop business innovation to create or improve a process, service, or product. Furthermore, SENACYT encourages private companies to invest in innovation and technology. Even though the path has been difficult, the effort of the government in this respect has yielded significant results, such as the recognition awarded to innovative companies every year for the last 10 years.

VICTOR SANCHEZ URRUTIA The Department of Business Innovation of SENACYT has worked closely with the National Authority for Government Innovation (AIG), the private sector through the Panamanian Chamber of Technology, and local universities to establish the Panama Digital Hub Strategy, which will strengthen the development of the IT sector in Panama for the next 10 years. The strategy defines the guidelines to create programs that will make the IT sector of Panama more competitive internationally. The first step is to establish an IT observatory that will help us understand the current state of the IT sector in Panama. The data collected by the IT observatory will be used to elaborate public policies and to develop the market strategies to follow.

Thanks to fruitful collaboration between SENACYT and CAF, Panama will soon position itself as the fourth country in Latin America for the number of registered patents. How did this come to be?

JAM It is a culture-changing initiative. Our society has been oriented toward providing service instead of creating patents. Therefore, we do not have the infrastructure to deal with the patent process. For this reason, SENACYT has collaborated with CAF in an effort to generate more patents.

VSU We already have 230 patent applications thanks to the alliance with CAF. What follows is working on strengthening the patent process so that it becomes easier for innovators to generate more patents. Due to the fact that patents are a viable commercial strategy, this is a priority for the Department of Business Innovation of SENACYT.

How are you fostering the growth of the healthcare sector?

JAM Together with the Ministry of Health, SENACYT gives scholarships to healthcare professionals to continue their studies in the medical area. We are also working on activating a simulation center to train local medical doctors. The medical schools have simulation areas but the size and sophistication of the simulation center we are planning to build will set it apart from anything else in the region.

VSU Together with the Institute of Scientific Research and High Technology Services (INDICASAT), SENACYT promotes health research in areas such as diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, malaria, and others.

How can SENACYT use science to deal with the lack of use of technology and innovation outside of the capital?

JAM Infoplazas are community centers that provide internet access as well as educational training for kids and adults to help close the digital breach in Panama. More than 200 Infoplazas exist all over the nation, including in the indigenous regions. Together with the Department of Education of SENACYT, the Infoplazas offer courses to improve digital literacy in the Panamanian society. To attract participation, the Infoplazas launch competitions in coding, math, and videogame programming with high acceptance among young people.