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Colombia has achieved high economic growth during the past decade and shown resilience during the global financial crisis, although it faces still the challenges to boost productivity growth and diversify the economy. In this context, the government has established the following STI hot issues in its National Innovation Strategy (2010-14).
Hot Issues are major national STI policy priorities, as self-reported by countries in their responses to the OECD STIO 2014 policy questionnaire.
Innovation to contribute to addressing social challenges (including inclusiveness)
Following the guidelines set out by the national STI strategic plan, several public bodies prioritise the allocation of resources in regions, sectors and knowledge areas considered strategic for social as well as economic development. In 2012, the Administrative Department of Science, Technology and Innovation (Colciencias) created the Ideas for Change programme to support innovative solutions that address societal and environmental challenges at low cost. In 2012, the programme focused on access to water in remote Colombian regions, funding 11 projects for USD 754 000 (COP 948.6 million). The programme currently focuses on the generation of clean and renewable energy in regions that are not connected to the central electrical grid.<br />
In addition, Colciencias carried out in 2012 and 2013 a call for a dialogue on encouraging the development of research from an intercultural perspective. This should create opportunities for generating relevant knowledge in academic, ethnic, territorial and social communities, promote traditional community knowledge, recover the role of knowledge in constructing a social identity and diversify options for socio-economic development.<br />
Moreover, Colombia is integrating its socially focused STI efforts in the design of a social innovation policy, the aim of which is to create a favourable environment for developing social innovation.
Improving the governance of innovation system and policy
Colombia’s innovation system is coordinated by the National Planning Department (DNP) and Colciencias which is an agency that encompasses the roles of science ministry, research council and innovation agency. These two bodies were responsible for Colombia’s National Innovation Strategy for 2010-14. In response to the growing importance of innovation in the national development strategy, in 2012 the government created iNNpulsa Colombia, within the National Development Bank (Bancóldex) to promote high-growth innovative companies and to support competitiveness by a more integrated business support system and by interacting with other actors in Colombia’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems. Colciencias has adopted a new business model, using online tools to enhance transparency and effectiveness in managing calls for grants.
Strengthening public R&D capacity and infrastructures
Colombia’s publicly funded GERD is only 0.08% of GDP (2011), well below the OECD median (Panel 1a) and that of other Latin American countries for instance Argentina (0.57%) and Chile (0.14%). Colombia’s STI strategic plan for 2010-14 sets the goal to increase GERD to 0.5% of GDP. The government has allocated 10% of the royalties from the exploitation of non-renewable resources to an STI fund. Between 2012 and 2020, the fund aims to disburse up to USD 636 million (COP 800 billion) per year for S&T projects (including R&D activities).With regard to education, the Ministry of National Education aims to promote international exchange programmes and accreditations to Colombia’s HEIs. By positioning Colombia’s HEIs in an international context, the Ministry aims to improve the quality of higher education, increase international knowledge transfer and raise the mobility of researchers.<br />
Colciencias has been strengthening the capacity and public infrastructure for R&D through strategic actions such as support for the standardisation and accreditation of testing and calibration laboratories, and the strengthening of research centres. Between 2010 and 2012, Colciencias supported 90 standardisation and accreditation projects with USD 14.5 million (COP 16 500 million) and between 2010 and 2013, it supported 74 projects targeted at strengthening research centres, with USD 51.8 million (COP 59 030 million).
The Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies (MinCIT) has devoted USD 281 million (COP 320 billion) during 2010-13 in two programmes: Vive Digital and APPS.co. The former supports projects promoting regional innovation and technological development through ICTs, while the latter fosters the creation of ICT companies that aim to develop mobile applications, software and Internet content.
At 0.05% of GDP, BERD is not only below all of the OECD countries (Panel 1d), but also that of other Latin American countries such as Argentina (0.16%). To address this situation, the government uses three main mechanisms to support business R&D investments. First, at the guidance of Colciencias and other relevant government bodies, Bancóldex provides preferential credits at below market interest rates for innovation projects. Secondly, a tax incentive scheme offers tax exemptions of up to 175% of R&D investments made during the taxable period. Thirdly, a variety of government agencies provide subsidies for firms’ STI activities. iNNpulsa provides non-refundable grants of up to USD 278 000 (COP 350 million) per beneficiary. Colciencias recently expanded its Innovation Management programme to further support the development of innovative capabilities in Colombian firms. In 2013, it allocated around USD 19 million (COP 21.4 billion) to fund knowledge-intensive business services from international entities specialising in business innovation.
With a budget of USD 138 million (COP 174 billion) for 2012-13, iNNpulsa Colombia seeks to promote business growth and to build an innovation culture in the Colombian society. 70% of Colciencias’ Innovation Management programme, with a budget of USD 20 million (COP 22.4 billion) in 2013, was directed to micro and SMEs, while Colombia’s business environment has improved in recent years.
While the numbers of fixed and wireless broadband subscriptions remain well below the OECD level (Panel 1l, m), much progress has been made in this area in recent years. MinCIT is on its way to meet the target of quadrupling connections across all regions between 2010 and 2014. In addition, a broadband infrastructure is being deployed throughout the country. Under this initiative, the number of connected municipalities grew from about 200 in 2010 to 777 by mid-2013.
Technology transfers and commercialisation
Colciencias organises regional Innovation Business Conferences, aiming to strengthen technology transfer and university- industry linkages. Colciencias also allocates up to USD 510 000 (COP 550 million) per year since 2009 to support collaborative projects between companies and universities or research centres.
Since 2005, Colciencias organised 25 regional Innovation Business Conferences in 9 regions. Furthermore, the Regional Innovation Alliances (also coordinated by Colciencias) initiative aims to foster public-private partnerships within regions. In collaboration with the DNP and several ministries, iNNpulsa designed Competitive Routes, a regional programme that designs roadmaps to support productivity growth and cluster formation in key sectors (e.g. ceramics, tourism, coffee, leather and agribusiness). This programme has covered 18 of Colombia’s 32 administrative divisions.
The Colombian government prioritises increases in the number of researchers. In particular, two programmes promote the education of PhDs and their employments in the economy. Colciencias’ Doctoral Training Support Programme funds graduate studies both domestically and abroad. It aims to double the current number of 7 000 PhDs by awarding 1 000 scholarships per year during the next four years. The programme will allocate USD 678 million (COP 752 billion) during 2011-14, targeting researchers in the business sector, academics and those who work in strategic technology areas. Colciencias will also launch in 2014 the Brain Repatriation Programme that aims to attract 500 diaspora doctorate holders of Colombian origin in the next four years. This initiative provides subsidies to companies and universities so that they can offer internationally competitive salaries.