When it comes to technology hubs, California is, hands down, the international leader. Meanwhile, in Latin America, Chile is among the markets best poised to emulate it. Based in San Francisco, the Chile-California Council (CCC) is seeking to connect the two markets and explore ways in which they can develop relationships, programs and proposals that are beneficial for both.
Founded in 2011, the CCC, a non-profit organization, supports and engages in activities that promote education, cultural exchange, human capital, technology development and environmental protection. It is the culmination of years of cooperation between Chile and California, including the Chile-California Program (promoted in 1963) and the Chile-California Plan (a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2008).
The CCC is active on a number of fronts, from human capital development to R&D promotion and, of course, technology.
On the human capital end, its emphasis is on collaboration. “We center our efforts on bringing actors from both the public and private world together and supporting collaboration among scientists, researchers, and entrepreneurs from Chile and California,” explained Juan Ibañez, executive director of the organization.
To accomplish this, it depends on its councilors, professionals who help to “connect the dots.” The group includes entrepreneurs, professors, ambassadors, executives, diplomats, researchers and writers, fostering an extensive network across numerous industries.
“Interdisciplinary and cross-field work is an important tenet in our strategy to develop human capital,” Ibañez added. “These ideas come together when we think about how to transfer the advancements being made in science and other specialized fields into public and private initiatives where this knowledge can have a wide impact on society as a whole. The CCC places a premium on facilitating the connections that will aid this transfer both at a wider organizational level through agreements and at the individual-to-individual level. The CCC has carved a space wherein various actors can collaborate, e.g., marine biologists with educators and public policy developers or engineers with influential investors.”
The Chile-California Council also focuses heavily on academic institutions. For example, in 2012, it spearheaded a program in conjunction with Prácticas para Chile to provide students from Stanford, U.S. Berkeley and U.C. Davis with an opportunity to participate in Chilean public policy institutions, including the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Social Development. Most recently, the CCC connected Berkeley with the Chilean National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT) through an agreement that allowed 10 Berkeley professors to initiate research projects in collaboration with Chilean scientists. To date, Chilean and Californian institutions have signed upwards of 20 such agreements to facilitate education and technology exchange.
For more developed projects, the CCC helps Chilean researchers assess and enter the U.S. market. It works in conjunction with institutions like CORFO to provide the tools necessary to turn Chilean intellectual property into marketable global technologies.
“The most recent case with which we have worked closely is Dr. Alberto Rodriguez-Navarro, Founder and CEO of Levita Magnetics, a business venture that aims at developing new medical devices that diminish the need for incisions,” explained Matatea Changuy, Operations Manager at the CCC. “While CORFO provided financial support and the SRI, the training, the CCC facilitated the implementation of the idea by providing Alberto access to the wider Californian network that provided him with the context to constitute his team, and as a result, gaining the necessary support, knowledge and skills to obtain a patent in the U.S., among other achievements.”
The council has also hosted experts in astronomical instrumentation, its objective being to transform Chile’s astronomy industry into a research hub, open up new opportunities and disseminate findings that will benefit other fields. Other specific areas of interest in technology applications include urban planning, agriculture, education and health.
So what has the Chile-California Council accomplished so far? Changuy pointed to milestones like the creation of a national program of marine education in Chile with the support and guidance of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, calling it “an example of a successful collaborative project that has a national impact on Chile.”
Other notable achievements include First Lady Cecilia Morel’s visit to Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley. Morel is working on an initiative, Vive tu Huerto, to install small edible gardens in 100 of Chile’s most vulnerable schools. The CCC also designed the museum exhibition Lands of Opportunities: Chile and California in Chile, illustrating the connections joining the territories since the gold rush. And it sponsored the 2013 Chile-California Conference, where Vivek Wadhwa, one of the early proponents of Start-Up Chile, was the keynote speaker.
As to what the CCC has in store for the year ahead, there are some specific sectors on the radar. “We are currently drafting a strategic plan for the upcoming years to increase our impact in high-priority areas for both territories. Biotechnology, astronomy, entrepreneurship and innovation, marine conservation and education are example of areas we are planning to focus on this year,” Changuy highlighted. The council will also work to establish the U.C. Davis Center of Excellence in Chile and send a delegation of Chilean biotech companies to San Diego.