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Latin America and the Caribbean is an innovative region. More and more Latin Americans are offering ingenious solutions to problems that often seemed impossible to overcome. In its nearly three decades, the innovation laboratory of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB Lab) It has supported these entrepreneurs in 26 countries in the region either with financing, knowledge or connections. But always with the same objective: to improve lives.
“In one of the most challenging moments in the history of Latin America and the Caribbean, innovation is an irreplaceable ingredient for us to resurface with the resilience that characterizes us,” said Mauricio Claver-Carone this Thursday during the Annual Meeting of Governors of the IDB that he presides. “We must be able to accelerate the digital transformation in all sectors of our industries and our public services, because only in this way will we increase productivity and competitiveness, generate employment and improve the quality of life of our people.”
Since its creation in 1993, the IDB’s innovation laboratory — formerly called the MIF — has financed more than 2,300 projects in the region for more than $ 2 billion. It has done so together with more than 1,500 partners from all over the region and the world. “IDB Lab can and must help Latin America and the Caribbean through innovation, because it is the best way to accelerate inclusion,” said Irene Arias, who directs it. “If we use the usual solutions, we will have linear growth, but there are opportunities that can allow us to close the gaps.”
In the virtual session Innovation for inclusion, The laboratory presented the stories of some of the entrepreneurs it has supported in the region. For example, in Guatemala, Katia Cerwin has created the Valentina Program, a technology company named after Valentina Tereshkova, the first female cosmonaut to travel to space in 1963.
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Vicky Ricaurte, director of Arukay
“Valentina represents young women who seek to reach a space of job opportunities and our program is the rocket that will take them,” said its founder at the meeting. Using data and analysis, this women-led program trains at-risk populations in soft and technological skills to place them in formal jobs. Julia Valle is one of the 2,000 participants in the initiative who, after two weeks of training, got her first job in a bank. “It is an opportunity that teaches you things that unfortunately we do not learn in schools, such as going to the real world and offering companies what we are and what we have,” says the young Guatemalan woman.
Innovations like Arukay and Valentina are applicable beyond their place of origin. For Arias this is essential because “there is no innovation laboratory that can be successful if it does not have a model where the tests later escalate.” Every year, the level of expansion of IDB Lab projects increases. Currently, this level is at 29%, 13 points more than in 2017. “We continue working together with a comprehensive vision to scale much more.”
In this vision, Japan is recognized as one of its main shareholders. “IDB Lab has functioned as an indispensable innovation laboratory that promotes the development of the region with innovative technologies from the private sector,” said Taro Aso, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of Japan at the meeting. “We are determined to continue to support them and we hope they will continue to play this unique innovative role,” he added.
For its part, Spain appreciated the effort of the laboratory to which it has contributed 137 million dollars (115 million euros) since its creation, as well as that of the Spanish partners between companies, universities, entrepreneurs and civil society entities that “have worked beyond borders to generate concrete actions that promote inclusion and sustainable growth ”, said Nadia Calviño, Second Vice President and Minister of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation of the Government of Spain. In addition, he expressed confidence that the economic recovery of Latin American countries will soon take place, “taking advantage of the entrepreneurial talent that will be a key element in building a better future for all the inhabitants of the region.”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.