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Call for researchers a ‘success,’ says Science Trust

Ivan Ríos-Mena Ivan Ríos-Mena

The recent call by the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust for local researchers to opt for grants in various areas generated “great enthusiasm” among island scientists and researchers, to the point that the 234 letters of intent received exceeded the projected amount the entity expected by 200 percent.

“This response reflects the high potential of our scientific community and its interest in developing a true knowledge economy in our island,” said Iván Ríos-Mena, executive director of the Science Trust.

In June, the Science Trust’s Board of Trustees agreed to allocate $ 4.7 million for grants to local scientists and researchers, looking to promote cutting-edge projects on the island. The main objective of these grants is to provide funding for those projects in science and technology with the greatest potential impact to Puerto Rico, advancing their development and bringing them closer to the commercialization phase.

“This initiative serves as a tool to boost the island in research, patenting and eventual marketing of technology in various sectors such as health science, biotechnology, information technology and aerospace, among others, which are considered essential to expand Puerto Rico’s competitive opportunities in the knowledge economy, “said Ríos-Mena.

The results showed that 54 percent of the applications received are from the academic world, and of this percentage, 69 percent represents scientists from the University of Puerto Rico at various campuses.

“Within the academic sector, a significant number expressed the expectation that their project will generate technology transfer activity, which pleased us very much as this is one very important strategic area for the Trust,” said Ríos-Mena.

Meanwhile, 37 percent of the letters of intent were submitted by private for-profit organizations and the remaining 9 percent by other nonprofit organizations, including hospitals.

Ríos Mena explained that a significant point was the diversity of disciplines for which applications were submitted, the main area being biotechnology and life sciences, representing 34 percent of the total letters received.

“The area of information and communications also received many applications, with 26 percent of the total. Other areas were: clean technologies and renewable energy, medical devices, aerospace science and agriculture, among others. Our scientists definitely have varied interests and are keen to develop studies and research that have implications in many areas and global impact,” he said.

Meanwhile, Daniel Colón, a member of the Board of Trustees, and researcher and professor at Yale University, said a panel of scientific experts worldwide will identify, evaluate and support projects that best promote research and scientific innovation in Puerto Rico.

“The program is based on the best available support models for scientists worldwide and will result in an open, transparent and accessible system that will support the identification of the best ideas in science and innovation for the benefit of Puerto Rico,” he said.

The selection panel will assess the letters of intent and will disclose their decision on Nov. 15, asking chosen proponents to submit a formal proposal by Dec. 15. Between December 2014 and January 2015,

The panel will evaluate each proposal between December and January to determine the winners and final grant amounts approved.

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