Puerto Rico Science and Technology Interactive Database
In 1995, PR-EPSCoR initiated the first Science and Technology Database for the Puerto Rican Scientific Community. Requests for information were sent to the ca. 2500 scientists, engineers, science teachers at the college and university level, and other technology-related professionals in Puerto Rico, of which 392 responses were received. The information requested included current job status, educational background, areas of expertise, recent publications, active funding, contact information and keywords. From this information, a searchable, Internet-based data base was constructed, which is currently active at http://web.uprr.pr/wais. While this database is still useful, it is in need of updating and expansion to be a viable economic development tool and technology enabler. We propose here to update and expand the Puerto Rico Science and Technology Interactive Database.
Information in the database is being updated by contacting (mostly electronically) each and every one of the existing entries, and renovating the files to reflect the latest data. A concerted effort is being made to grow the database from the current 392 entries to 700, which we estimate to be the number of people in Puerto Rico that are active in R&D in the science and technology fields. The database is also being expanded by including all the major R&D facilities on the Island, their capabilities and how to access them. Our partners in the private sector, the Chamber of Commerce of PR (CoCPR) and the PR Manufacturer's Association (PRMA), are strongly urging their members and their employees to become part of the database. The Puerto Rico Science and Technology Interactive Database will remain on the Internet, and its address is being circulated to all the major search engines.
Technology Transfer, Commercialization and the Protection of Intellectual Property
Consistent with its history as a primarily teaching institution, the University of Puerto Rico has not maintained strong technology transfer or intellectual property offices in the past. Now, as the UPR emerges as a research/teaching institution, a strong pro-active policy on intellectual property, commercialization and technology transfer is required. The newly created Vice President's Office for Research and Academic Affairs recognizes this need and is currently in the process of establishing an Office of Technology Transfer, Commercialization and the Protection of Intellectual Property for the entire UPR system. Interviews for a Director of this office are ongoing, and the position is expected to be filled by July 1999.
This office will have a crucial role in increasing the interaction between University researchers and the private sector, and in educating university faculty on their full range of opportunities. At the outset (first two years) of this office, the following activities are anticipated: Outreach to Faculty, Development of a Commercialization Strategy, Patent and Disclosure Portfolio Management, Licensing Arrangements and a Focus on Start-Up Companies. Following the first two years, many of these activities will be expanded to meet the growing needs of the University. Furthermore, the Office will serve as a resource to the entire industrial, government and academic communities in Puerto Rico.
High Technology Incubators
Both the government and academia have recognized the importance that incubators can play in the development of new business. Recently, the DEDC helped establish a 40,000 square foot incubator for a new high-tech industry in Mayaguez. The new industry maintains strong connections with the Mayaguez campus of UPR, and the incubator provides an important testing facility for the development of new products. Similarly, the UPR in its new policy to establish Multicampus Multidisciplinary Institutes (MMIs), provided for the inclusion of incubators as a key mechanism to stimulate greater interaction between University researchers and private sector personnel. University faculty and staff will be able to provide technical assistance with technology assessment, business plan development, market and product development, management assistance and legal assistance.
PR-EPSCoT will stimulate the development of incubators in Puerto Rico by being the broker for these facilities. Broker activities will include: 1) Identify and match groups of researchers and entrepreneurs who need incubator facilities; 2) Locate potential sites and capital sources for incubators in conjunction with DEDC; 3) Develop physical facilities to meet the specific needs of potential users; and 4) Recruit students from the sciences, engineering and business schools interested in working in incubators. Particular emphasis will be placed on those opportunities that have the potential to lead to new products and processes that will open new markets for technology developed in Puerto Rico.
Increased Participation in Federal Technology Programs
Puerto Rico has always had a notoriously low number of submissions to federal technology programs, such as Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR), Advanced Technology Program (ATP) and other technology transfer mechanisms. Highly competitive S&T states, such as California and Massachusetts, maintain large numbers of submissions to these technology transfer programs. As the University of Puerto Rico emerges as a research/teaching institution, and Puerto Rico continues to build its scientific infrastructure, more SBIR-type proposals need to be submitted and approved. In recognition of the low number of these type of proposals, and of the small business proposals in general from Puerto Rico, the UPR and Small Business Administration recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding to increase participation of Hispanic-owned businesses in the SBA's capital-access, procurement, international trade, women's business, welfare-to-work and advocacy programs. To stimulate this activity, PR-EPSCoT will hold two-day workshops twice a year in Puerto Rico designed to educate and inform the scientific community about the opportunities available in federal technology programs. Each workshop will target 3-4 specific federal agencies, and personnel from Washington will be invited to directly address members of the Puerto Rico Scientific Community. Funds have been allocated to bring in experienced personnel to provide seminars in grant design and submission, proposal writing, etc. The workshops, which will be at a minimal charge to the attendees, will be broadly announced in Puerto Rico, and will be held at various locations around the Island to reach the largest possible audience. In addition to the workshops, PR-EPSCoT will provide help with proposal writing from its UPR offices on a year round basis.
Technology Access Seminars and Workshops
The UPR, with its eleven campuses, 70,000 students and 3,000 faculty, has a vast array of technological resources that can benefit the community-at-large. PR-EPSCoT will hold four activities a year that are designed to raise the level of awareness of the local business community about the technological resources of the University of Puerto Rico. These seminars and workshops will be done in conjunction with the Office of Technology Transfer, Commercialization and the Protection of Intellectual Property, and will be targeted specifically at small business in Puerto Rico. Technical resources at UPR (besides the Technology Transfer Office) to be highlighted will be the Natural Sciences Departments, the Multicampus Multidisciplinary Institutes, the Engineering School at Mayaguez, the Clinical Departments at the Medical School and the Business Schools. The seminars and workshops will also feature invited experts in Technology Transfer that will assist in the exchange of information and matchmaking between needs and resources/capabilities of the participants. The seminars and workshops will be held at different locations around the Island, to maximize the outreach within Puerto Rico.
The success of PR-EPSCoT will be based on its ability to change the environment for commercial R&D in Puerto Rico. One way to have a lasting effect is to begin to develop a new generation of researchers, inventors and entrepreneurs in Puerto Rico. Towards this end, PR-EPSCoT will sponsor summer internships for ten undergraduate students at local high-tech related companies and commercial R&D facilities. The internships will be open to science, engineering and business students throughout Puerto Rico. Application materials for the summer internships will be disseminated through the RCSE network to all institutions of higher education in Puerto Rico. Applications will require transcripts, letters of reference (2), and a personal statement indicating career and entrepreneurial goals. Students will be selected by a committee comprised of academics, business people, entrepreneurs and members of the executive committee following a 20 minute interview. Local firms that have agreed to participate are Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Mova Pharmaceuticals, Bristol-Myers-Squibb, and Electro-Biology. More companies will be recruited, with the help of the CoCPR and PRMA, prior to the announcement of the internships.
Strategic Planning and Advocacy
The Puerto Rico Science and Technology Council is already in the process of a strategic planning exercise in conjunction with Arthur D. Little, Inc. consulting firm. The plan has reached Phase 4 (out of 5). The University of Puerto Rico has also constructed a strategic plan for Science and Technology. This plan addresses the role of the University within the S&T Policy of the Government. Due to this strong recent effort in strategic planning undertaken by both the Government and UPR, we do not believe that PR-EPSCoT should engage in its own strategic planning. However, we do believe that PR-EPSCoT can play an important advocacy role with both the Government and the University by letting them know which parts of their plan are working and which parts are not, and why. This is an extremely important function that will have a lasting effect on the S&T-related economic development of Puerto Rico.