Puerto Rico Science Trust begins ’22 with new strategic plan, 20+ programs
The Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust is entering 2022 with more than 20 programs grouped into its areas of research and development, public health, and entrepreneurship and an ambitious strategic plan, CEO Lucy Crespo said.
The goal is to increase the capacity for innovation, transforming the public health paradigm, expanding, and streamlining the capacities Puerto Rico has to carry out clinical research, accelerating technology transfer, retaining talent on the Island in entrepreneurship and research, promote job retraining, promote the adoption of STEM programs in the educational system.
“As an optimistic person, I’m always looking for those opportunities within the challenges we face. Reviewing our annual report, you can appreciate the commitment and passion that the leadership, associates, and trustees of the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust have with the programs and stakeholders we support. It is impressive how the Trust is incorporating innovation and technology into all our programs to fulfill our mission,” said Crespo.
As expected, there have been multiple challenges that the Trust and its programs have faced in these years of innovation and evolution. The pandemic that is the latest push for adaptation has accelerated the adoption of technology at a rate never seen before, she said.
Trust employees and collaborators have adapted to the new remote virtual work and life environment and have transformed the delivery and deployment of existing programs to a mainly virtual format.
During a presentation, Trust officials also outlined the results for 2020-2021, which included impact metrics in areas such as entrepreneurship, investment and development, and public health.
In entrepreneurship, Colmena66, the referral network of the Trust’s entrepreneurship ecosystem that is part of Sourcelink in the United States, increased its number of resource partners to 259, generated 15,521 search engines in the referral network, and has managed to connect a total of 8,091 entrepreneurs to provide support and guidance.
In the case of parallel18, the global accelerator that provides grants, mentoring and business connections and investment to entrepreneurs from Puerto Rico to the world, they have managed to accelerate 290 companies with more than 700 jobs created since their inception. This past year, they had 359 participating startups. The program reached $12.1 million awarded in grants.
It raised $189 million in total revenue, of which $61 million was local. An estimated 85% of companies continue to operate. A private investment fundraising of $126 million was achieved with $20 million of local capital. Some 40% of foreign companies maintain operations in Puerto Rico.
These programs have strengthened the business ecosystem by expanding the organizations that support entrepreneurs at all stages. In addition, this pillar continues to expand with new programs such as Phase 1 and Xpand, said Sebastián Vidal, Chief Innovation Officer of the Trust.
“The interesting thing about crises is that they are the perfect platform for innovation. There is no doubt that these years have presented situations that require seeking new solutions. The fascinating thing about the research, projects and undertakings that are born from crises is that, although they first address local issues, the problems they seek to solve are global,” he said.
“At the Trust, we’re committed to innovation to find solutions, develop them, and enhance them so that they are not only possible, but sustainable,” he said.
As for the Investment and Development pillar, the Research Grants Program awarded $13. 5 million to 113 researchers and generated $33.1 million in return on investment.
More than 300 students benefited, and more than 96 posts were peer-reviewed. Regarding patents, there were 60 patent applications from researchers and 39 patents were obtained by researchers. Eight companies were founded by fellow researchers and 18 SBIR/STTR proposals were awarded to fellow researchers. The Trust received 294 abstracts during the period. The grants allowed researchers to secure funding that enables them to continue their projects and advance scientific activity on the island.
This year, the Puerto Rico Public Health Trust (PRPHT), under the direction of José Rodríguez Orengo, continues to advise on how Puerto Rico should address the COVID-19 pandemic and advance the mission of promoting and improving public health initiatives based on evidence and provide ways to improve the economy in Puerto Rico.
To do so, it has worked alongside the Puerto Rico Department of Health, the Puerto Rico Scientific Coalition, and private entities. In addition, 45 localities in Puerto Rico (in the most isolated areas) were impacted with the Telemedicine and Telehealth program, providing specialized medical services remotely.