Posted on behalf of Elie Gardner.
Peru’s Prime Minister Juan Jimenez last week launched a US$100 million programme to boost scientific research, technological development and innovation.
Juan Rodriguez, the director of the General Institute of Investigation at the National University of Engineering in Lima, called the announcement a “magnificent sign”.
The Innovation Project for Competitiveness will be funded by the Peruvian government ($65 million) and the Inter-American Development Bank ($35-million loan). The money will be distributed through a public bidding process that targets emerging enterprises and service providers of technology.
During the announcement on 18 December, Jimenez said that the government is making
the “most important economic contribution to science, technology and innovation” in Peru’s history. Last week the government also announced that the country will reopen its research base in Antarctica after a five-year hiatus, and in late November, it created an organization (the National Service of Environmental Certification) to carry out environmental-impact assessments.
But Peru still has a long way to go to match the investment of its neighbours: it spends only 0.15% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on research and development, compared with 0.7% in Chile and 1.1% in Brazil. Before taking office in July 2011, president Ollanta Humala set the goal of increasing the investment to 0.7% in just three years.
But Rodriguez says that money alone won’t make a difference until all of the funds are more efficiently managed and used. Between 2004 and 2011, about $650 million designated for science and technology was not spent by public universities, for example. This money comes from mining royalties, and comes with specific constraints about where it can be spent and who can use it. Rodriguez says that many of the regions receiving the money lack the know-how and experience to conduct research or build up scientific infrastructure.
Rodriguez suggests that researchers and investigators from all over the country should be allowed to compete for the funds, by proposing projects that would benefit the region where the resources come from. He says that technology developed by these projects could potentially bring electricity to isolated communities in the Andes, find medicines in plants, develop proper water management for agriculture along the coast and allow Peru to refine its own minerals instead of having to send them abroad.