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Interview
Interview with Dr. El Tayeb Mustafa, President of Future University, Sudan
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As a project implementing organization, STEPI officially started a two-year project on establishing a master plan for capacity building for STI parks in Colombia in August 2014. Since then local field visits were carried out twice and training program for Colombian counterparts took place in Seoul. Mrs. Yaneth Giha, General Director of Colciencias, Colombia participated in the training program also and she expressed her high hopes for STEPI’s role in enhancing STI capacity of Colombia.


First of all, thank you very much for agreeing to do the interview. This is your third visit to Korea. What are your thoughts on Korea and Korea’s S&T development in particular?

Coming to Korea has always been an incredible experience and an inspiring one. To see what you have accomplished makes me think of all that we have accomplished already in Colombia, a country that has been naturally endowed with more advantages. It gives me extra encouragement to strive for the great things that can be accomplished through STI development.

I believe that, just as we have been blessed with natural resources, Korea has been blessed with a culture that values STI and, specifically, education and hard work as the main element for economic and social development. Nevertheless, I believe that the effective management of these conditions has been accomplished through brilliant STI policy design. I have seen here that dreaming of big things has not been equal to ignoring the reality of your country and, because of this you have been successful in showing and exploiting the value of STI in very different phases of economic development. In fact, both encouraging the culture that you have been endowed with and designing specific STI policies for our stage of economic development will be in our main goals for the next four years.


Congratulations on your appointment as the Director General of Colciencias. What is your main goal for Colciencias? What is the role of Colciencias in promoting STI development in Colombia?

I intend to make Colciencias an example in terms of planning and execution of programs and resource for STI, an example that can be later replicated by other actors of the National System of Science and Technology. For instance, one of the main challenges that we have in STI development in Colombia is to increase the expenditure in R&D, coming from both public and private sources. However, this expenditure has to be focused towards our needs as a country if we want to have a positive and considerable impact over our research and innovation output, and to guarantee that this output becomes one of the main tools to solve our country’s challenges, such as sustainable economic growth. In this sense, the focus of resources towards strategic areas, such as renewable energy, will be a fundamental condition in Colciencias’ budget execution.

Nevertheless, I believe that setting an example in terms of planning and execution is only a step to reinforcing Colciencias’ role as the leading institution for that National System of Science and Technology. Its leadership role implies that we will also have to strengthen our capability to design public policy for STI. As we saw in Korea, the development of STI as a motor for social and economic transformation is an endeavor that involves the commitment of several actors of both the public and the private sectors. In this sense, besides contributing with its own budget, Colciencias’ task is to encourage this commitment by setting clear and common goals and to generate favorable conditions in the STI ecosystem so that all public and private stakeholders can interact cooperatively and easily in the development of STI.


Could you introduce Colciencia’s focal projects or programs to enhance public perception of S&T in Colombia?

Public perception of STI is a cultural issue and in this sense, to improve the public perception we must design programs targeting all actors in society: children and their teachers, scientists, entrepreneurs, public servants, etc.

For example, in the next four years we will increase the number of children enrolled in our Ondas program, to reach 6 million. This program encourages children to think about science as a problem solving tool. We will also work on STI perception for entrepreneurs: we have designed programs according to the innovation phase of the companies (ranging from no innovation capabilities to innovative companies in the strict sense) to improve innovation management capabilities. With these programs the objective is that 11,000 companies develop innovation processes within the next four years.


Colciencias is currently conducting a cooperation project in partnership with STEPI. How do you think this cooperation with Korea can promote STI development in Colombia?

I believe that perhaps the greatest challenge in the promotion of STI, not only in Colombia but in general, is the cooperation between the academia and the productive sector. We know that it is only when these two converge that we can accomplish great things in STI. This is why techno parks, which are the figures that we are working on with the valuable cooperation of STEPI, are such an important tool for STI development and as a consequence they have become a priority for us. Through the successful establishment of these parks we will be encouraging the cooperation between these actors and simultaneously, we will be strengthening the regional capabilities for STI which is of course another of our main objectives.
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