Making Costa Rica the Next Silicon Valley

October 11, 2010

Costa Rica’s Central Valley is already home to some of the world’s leading companies in computer and biomedical technology. Its dominant export is Intel’s microchip and boasts an array of other multinational companies such as Cisco Systems.

As part of a forum meant to push the country further ahead in research and development, Stanford University’s Ximena Ares made a presentation last week at the University of Costa Rica on technology transfer – or the process of getting ideas off paper and into practice.

Ares works in a specialized area at Stanford, acting as the liaison between university researchers and industry. She said Costa Rica has a lot to gain from streamlining technology transfer, in that it can help develop skilled workers for the country’s industries and boost Costa Rica toward its often-stated goal of being the first developed country of Latin America.

She said the greatest handicap to innovation in Latin American countries is an excess of bureaucracy. “If Latin American countries are really going to do this, it is key that they get rid of bureaucracy because bureaucracy kills the process. Inventors need to be quick in publishing. Companies can’t wait for the time it takes multiple government agencies to OK something.”

She also said policies should be developed to clarify whether the fruits of research done in universities belong to the researcher, the university or the company providing the funding.

Despite its small size, Ares said Costa Rica has the potential to grow as a center for research and development.

“I would concentrate on the core expertise of a country,” she said. “It you find that your country is very good in agriculture or bio-resistant genes, focus on that and there is huge potential.”

From her experience, she has found that companies need to be “spoon fed” opportunities by universities. “You really need to have a person that can go out and reach out to industries. They are very busy, but the fact is, in order to maintain excellence, these companies need to look for ideas elsewhere. They are not going to have all the good ideas in house.”

The conversation on innovation will continue ‘Congreso CRinnova’ scheduled for Nov. 1, 3, 4 and 5 at the Franklin Chang building in the western San José district of Rohrmoser. For more information, visit www.crinnova.net.

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