Luz A. “Lucy” Crespo, who for more than three decades climbed the executive ladder at Hewlett-Packard in Aguadilla and was the first woman to become president of the Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association, has been named the new CEO of the Puerto Rico Science, Technology & Research Trust.
The appointment represents a “key step forward” in the development of Puerto Rico’s public policy focused on research in science, technology and innovation, as a means to driving the island’s socio-economic growth, said Alberto Bacó, president of the Science Trust’s council during a news conference Thursday.
“Our priority is to strengthen Puerto Rico’s economic growth, and the Trust plays a fundamental role in its development. With this appointment we support our focus on creating initiatives that drive the reinforcement of a knowledge and innovation-based economy, concentrating mainly on the country’s human capital and intellectual property. With her global experience and background, Lucy is the consummate professional to move the Trust’s work agenda forward,” said Bacó.
Crespo brings to the table significant professional experience. For more than 30 years, she held several positions in Hewlett-Packard Puerto Rico Manufacturing Operation being the latest as general manager of the Business Enterprise division. On her list of professional achievements are the development, implementation and management of activities such as new product launches, research and development, manufacturing, end customer services, business development, re-engineering processes, and others. Her organization provided supply chain services to operations in Europe and Mexico, and she also managed UNIX operations on Latin America. She retired two years ago, and has now been appointed to a three-year term at the government agency. Crespo was the first woman to become president of the Puerto Rico Manufacturer’s Association and has been recognized and awarded in the industry’s highest forums, including, among others, the Sales & Marketing Executives Association, the Chamber of Commerce, the American Society for Quality Control, and the “Colegiala Ilustre” of the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez campus, her alma mater. She has served on several advisory roles under the administrations of five former Puerto Rico governors.
“The Trust is a key strategic element in Puerto Rico’s continuing transformation toward a knowledge economy. Our objective is to strengthen, expand and enhance the science and technology sector in Puerto Rico, as well boost the creation and commercialization of intellectual property through research and innovation,” she said.
“We also seek strong collaboration between the government, academia, and the private sector. By driving innovation, the commercialization of technology and high-tech job creation, the Trust becomes an agent of change and promotes Puerto Rico’s competitiveness on a global scale,” she added.
Crespo’s agenda focuses on positioning Puerto Rico as an “important and relevant player in scientific research and development fields in the Americas,” fueling the transfer and commercialization of existing and emerging technologies, and to foster the creation of new technology companies, with the goal of strengthening Puerto Rico’s role in the global knowledge economy.
That said, the Trust’s work agenda will adhere to four operational pillars: science and research, talent management, entrepreneurship, and world-class scientific infrastructure, she said.
Building upon what’s been done
In her new position, Crespo confirmed she will be building upon the work done over the past two years by Executive Director Iván Ríos-Mena and his team.
“The past two years have been tough and have served to set the foundation for the administrative, operational and programmatic aspects and to serve the scientific community,” Ríos-Mena said. “We’re giving the scientific community the tools they need to do their job and transform Puerto Rico’s economy into one based on innovation.”
Under his watch, the Science Trust has developed platforms to launch a number of initiatives and projects focused on entrepreneurship and talent development. The entity redesigned certain procedures, particularly those having to do with obtaining funding
As this media outlet reported, sometime in April, the Science Trust is expected to announce the winners of a grant cycle expected to benefit about 15 projects out of an estimated 250 proposals submitted requesting seed funding.
The Science Trust opened the request for proposals and received applications for projects in the fields of information and communications technology, aerospace, biotechnology and life sciences, medical devices, clean technologies and/or renewable energy, and electronics, among others, Ríos-Mena said.
Tough funding criteria
During the news conference, Science Trust Trustee Daniel Colón-Ramos, a professor at Yale University, said this funding round has been tough on proponents, noting “it’s easier getting into Harvard than getting a grant from the Science Trust, which denotes the wealth of talent Puerto Rico has.”
“We selected the leading experts in their fields worldwide to evaluate the proposals,” he said.
Colón-Ramos also praised Puerto Rico’s Act 101 that grants tax exemptions and incentives to scientific researchers who move to the island, saying “it’s the only one of its kind in the world.”
“If you’re a world-class scientist and have the type of proposal that seeks to generate knowledge that will impact humankind, then you can come to Puerto Rico and you’ll get incentives,” he said. “We want to recruit and retain the best talent in the world.”
“This law has generated much talk among the international scientific community,” he said of the mandate whose benefits drew 50 scientists to Puerto Rico last year.
On the horizon for the Trust is a second Request for Proposals for science and technology research grants, the creation of the Technology Transfer Office, support of activities aimed at fueling start-ups and entrepreneurship, the creation of a steering committee to lead bioprospecting activities, launching the second phase of the Science Boulevard to connect the Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Science Center — the Trust’s emblematic project — and strengthening alliances with a wide range of private sector industries that work together with the public sector and academia.
One of those partnerships with academia is already underway, in the form of a student exchange program between Yale University and the University of Puerto Rico, Colón-Ramos confirmed.
In the fall, a delegation of UPR medical students will travel to New Haven, CT to begin a concurrent PhD curriculum as part of a “true exchange program that represents the importance of creating that link between colleges here to research centers worldwide.”
Medical staff from New Haven and the Ivy League school is also expected to travel to Puerto Rico to learn about the developments taking place locally, he said.