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P.R. western region’s academia, industry, government present joint initiatives in technology forum

The UPR-RUM aims to create awareness as a major driver in the island’s technology and knowledge-based economic development


May 6, 2005
Copyright © 2005 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Three science and technology institutions recently presented to fellow professionals and private-sector leaders seven ongoing research & development projects and collaborative initiatives with local and multinational companies aimed at converting Puerto Rico’s western region into a knowledge-based economy.

The projects and initiatives by Puerto Rico TechnoEconomic Corridor (PRTEC), the Mayagüez Science & Technology Business Incubator (Vitec2 by its Spanish acronym), and the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez campus (UPR-RUM) were spotlighted during a forum held in Mayagüez titled, "UPR-RUM & Industry: A Partnership for Success in the New Knowledge Economy in Puerto Rico."

"The main objective [of the presentations] was to [make local economic leaders] start viewing the UPR-RUM as a driver in the knowledge-based economic development of Puerto Rico," PRTEC Executive Director Nelson Perea said. He added, "Activities like this one highlight research initiatives such as these and at the same time serve to acknowledge the manufacturing firms, especially the local businesses, that participate in them."

UPR-RUM Chancellor Jorge I. Vélez Arocho described the forum as "a way to recognize the research activities at the UPR-RUM, particularly in knowledge-based economic areas such as biotechnology, aerospace engineering, and nanotechnology."

Perea pointed out that several initiatives already have come to fruition and are proof of success when the private sector, academia, and government work together. PRTEC and Vitec2, the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. (Pridco), in conjunction with the UPR-RUM, were instrumental in convincing Infotech Aerospace Services Inc. to establish a development center to provide engineering design and software development for airplane engines.

In less than two years, Infotech has grown from its original 18 employees, most of them engineering graduates from the UPR-RUM, to 135 engineers, and has now relocated to a new Pridco facility in Isabela. Infotech also helped develop a certificate program in aerospace engineering for UPR-RUM to accommodate the company’s growing education and training needs. Infotech plans to set up a research laboratory at Vitec2 for materials-related research, in collaboration with UPR-RUM’s department of mechanical engineering.

Commoca, a local technology company created by a former Texas Instruments employee and a UPR-RUM electrical engineering professor, leads one of the ongoing initiatives. The company is developing voice over Internet protocol technology for several original equipment manufacturers in telecommunications.

Another initiative, led by a group of professors and researchers from the UPR-RUM School of Engineering, involves establishing a future medical devices research, training, and manufacturing center, expected to help local medical device companies become more competitive by working on research projects with industrial companies. The group’s objectives include designing a medical devices and materials certification program and providing a multidisciplinary effort to help the industry solve complex problems.

Hewlett-Packard Corp. has developed a dozen patents in Puerto Rico through its research & development center in Aguadilla, which also works in conjunction with UPR-RUM professors and researchers. Although the company will be transferring part of its ink-jet manufacturing operation to Malaysia, it is considering setting up its research subsidiary, HP Labs, in its place.

Multinational chemical and healthcare company Dupont and the UPR-RUM department of chemical engineering recently worked together to solve a problem the company had with certain nanomaterials. Other collaborations are expected from this effort. In addition, Tecnium Products Corp., a local information technology solutions company headquartered in Mayagüez, worked with the UPR-RUM to develop a software application for the healthcare sector. Tecnium is a Vitec2 "graduate" and developer of medical records software application MediRec.

Puerto Rico’s first bioprocess research and workforce development pilot plant is scheduled for construction in Mayagüez in 2006, in a 17,300-square-foot structure owned by Pridco in Guanajibo Industrial Park. The plant will house the Bioprocess Training Facilities, a joint effort between academia, government, and industry to develop the professionals needed by the island’s biotechnology industry. The UPR-RUM has already developed a biotechnology curriculum to provide continuing education courses for employees from pharmaceutical and biotechnological companies such as Amgen, Abbott Laboratories, and Eli Lilly & Co.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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