PUCRS and Tecnopuc mission has immersion in the social innovation experience of Medellín

The city is a Latin American reference in social transformation and for the University’s role in this process

05/02/2024 - 09h34

Photo: Personal archive

After the visits to the main Colombian universities in Bogotá, the PUCRS and Tecnopuc mission in Colombia went to Medellín. The host of this second part of the mission was Santiago Uribe, anthropologist, professor at the University of Antioquia and consultant of the Territórios Inovadores do Pacto Alegre project, promoted by the UFRGS, PUCRS and UNISINOS Alliance for Innovation.

The goal in Medellín was to see the city’s experience in social innovation. The visit featured the participation of Br. Evilázio Teixeira, President of PUCRS, Jorge Audy, Superintendent for Innovation and Development of PUCRS and Tecnopuc, and Marist Brother Donavan Farias Machado. The city of Medellín is the biggest Latin American reference regarding social transformation and for the university’s role in this process, particularly because of the actions of the University of Antioquia, Uniminuto and Bolivarian University of Medellín.

Learn about the visits:

Comuna 1 and Innovation and Creative districts

In the first two days, visits were made to Comuna 1, the first territory of the city, and to the Innovation and the Creative districts. The city is divided into 21 communes, 13 of which already have their own PUI (Integrated Urban Project), implemented or in the process of being implemented, and features 7 thematic districts. As a whole, the city is described as a District of Science, Technology and Innovation.

The most emblematic action of Comuna 1 was deployed in 2007 involving the urban mobility plan and public services at the top of the hill of the territory. During that year, the Comuna 1 cable car was installed, inspired in the gondola lifts of ski stations, particularly from Switzerland, where the technology was imported from for the cable cars in the communities. In the stations at the top of the hill, the first qualified public services were installed, as well as a library, financed by the Spanish Government, and a Center for Training and Software Development, funded by the local entrepreneurs in the field of technology. In the first visit, we were accompanied by Daniela Brauner, researcher from UFRGS’s School of Administration, and Everaldo Daronco, director of the SCTI (State Department for Innovation, Science and Technology of Rio Grande do Sul).

In the Innovation District — the most specific one, regarding environments of innovation, visits were made to the RUTA N Technology Park, the most important and renowned Technology Park in Colombia — which has already hosted several IASP LATAM meetings and technical visits. It was inaugurated in 2009, after a request from CUEE, and it is funded and maintained by the City Government of Medellín, cooperating with the 8 local Universities, especially the Bolivarian University and the University of Antioquia.

Still in the Innovation District, close to the RUTA N Technology Park, a visit was made to Parque Explora, a huge and modern interactive structure, which combines traits of an Interactive Museum, such as PUCRS’s Science and Technology Museum, spaces of innovation and projects of public access. In the Park, we were welcomed by Andres Felipe Roldan, director, Alejandro Hincapié, manager, and Rafael Aubad López, who was President of the University of Antioquia when RUTA N was created.

The last visit made in the Innovation District was to MOVA, a structure of support and enhancement of education (public and private) of Medellín. Projected by Parque Explora, and built with resources from EPM (Public Company of Medellín), when part of the city’s phone company was privatized, this structure aims to train the city’s Basic Education teachers, hiring services in the field of education and teaching from the universities. MOVA’s structure draws attention for its size and number of teachers seen regularly in programs for professional improvement and training in new technologies, in modern and unique environments.

Comuna 12

Photo: personal archive

Afterwards, the mission headed to Comuna 12, the most recent community to have been worked on, precisely on the front hill, after the river that divides the city north to south. Comuna 12 features the same set of high-level public mechanisms, like the library, House of Music, day care and public schools, and park, in the same environment and concept. This space, created in each Commune at the top of the communities, connected with urban mobility mechanisms, are articulated in a UVA (Articulated Life Unit). The project, which is currently over 17-years-old, involves an action articulated by society, with the local (city) and state (in Colombia, Department) governments playing important roles, articulated with the Universities. The CUEE Committee, which involves a panel with representatives from the universities, companies and government, with monthly meetings since 2023, points to the directions and priorities to be followed regarding the city and its most relevant public and private actors. The mission to Colombia has been greatly inspiring to Porto Alegre.

“Accompanied by anthropologist Santiago Uribe, one of the project’s mentors, I end this mission certain that the three alliances made by the people of Medellín also serve for Porto Alegre: an alliance for innovation, an alliance for education, and an alliance for life, as the supreme worth. Medellín is reaping the rewards of 20 years of learning,” stresses Br. Evilázio Teixeira. “In the words of Santiago Uribe: ‘In peripheral areas, structures can’t be mediocre, because this is about dignifying people’s lives,’” concludes the President of PUCRS.

Next steps

After these visits and meetings, the second phase of the mission in Colombia ended. After that, the President of PUCRS and Brother Donovan, led by Santiago Uribe, will go on an immersion during the following four weeks in the Medellín experience. They will participate in events, such as a lecture on February 2nd in the meeting that opens the year for CUEE (in the RUTA N Technology Park) and meetings with the Presidents of the University of Antioquia and the Bolivarian University, as well as with the Mayor of Medellín.

History of cooperation

PUCRS maintains cooperation with the University of Antioquia since 2019, based on the development of projects and on sharing academic activities with faculty from both institutions on research, classes, seminars and boards. In 2022, PUCRS went on a mission in the University of Antioquia, with the purpose of strengthening internationalization actions between both institutions, especially in the fields of Medicine, Public Healthcare and Nursing.

The universities have a cooperation agreement which has resulted in various positive experiences and exchange of students and faculty. Regarding Tecnopuc, there is an active agreement since 2023, involving Santiago Uribe as a consultant of Pacto Alegre. The anthropologist will spend the second semester of this year in Porto Alegre, in a project that has already been signed with Tecnopuc, within the framework of Pacto Alegre and the Alliance for Innovation, performing activities in the fields of social innovation and development of innovative territories.

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