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Versión Español | April 2015


OAS-US Tour Inspires Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Third ACE Furthers Regional Cooperation on Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Following a week-long tour of economic development sites and innovation centers in the Midwest United States, the Third Americas Competitiveness Exchange on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ACE), co-organized by the OAS, came to a conclusion on April 24. High-level participants included 47 Ministers, Vice-ministers, private sector  and academic leaders from 27 countries of the Americas, interested in exploring opportunities to increase trade with participating economies, accelerate business development, and further collaboration with different stakeholders.


During this Third ACE held from April 19 to 24, participants learned first-hand about innovation and high technology centers, public-private alliances, and strategic investments in a total of three States and nine cities in the United States, including Minneapolis and Rochester, Minnesota; LaCrosse, Viroqua, Gays Mills, Westby, Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Chicago, Illinois. Local authorities were on hand to meet the international visitors in each city, and showcased their particular model of supporting business development.


Participants were given to opportunity to learn about food programs at the University of Minnesota; visited the Mayo Clinic Health System, the largest not-for-profit medical group practice in the world; learned about the farmer-owned cooperative model of a creamery in Westby, and the operations of a multi-tenant food enterprise center in Viroqua. Other sites included EPIC, a private healthcare software company that produces electronic health records for over 50% of the nation’s market share, and the Argonne National Laboratory, where world-renowned scientist and engineers are researching solutions to challenges in clean energy, environment, technology and national security, to name some of the 40 plus economic development sites visited during the tour.


Upon returning to their cities and countries of origin, participants have expressed a desire to engage in new projects and establishing long-term strategic partnerships with site hosts and others whom attended the Exchange. For example, the Manager of the Small Business Development Centers in Belize, Nilda Riverol, is seeking to replicate food incubators in her country. Likewise, Zoila Castillo from the Technological University of Panama will explore collaboration with the Water Council in Wisconsin and Big Data in Illinois, and Ricardo Irias, entrepreneur, founder and CEO of Grupo Nueva Higueras in Honduras is interested in launching a co-work space to support social-tech startups.


Bringing the week’s activities to a close, Ambassador Niermala Badrising, Chair of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development and Permanent Representative of Suriname to the Organization of American and States, acknowledged that the Exchange offered the opportunity to learn from the types of innovative approaches required in the region, and praised participant’s engagement “I believe that this is an excellent opportunity to promote high-value regional development, which builds on mutually beneficial cooperation. Your participation and the laudable efforts of our hosts, should allow us to build significant momentum towards achieving the fundamental goals of this Exchange.”


The success of this third gathering of the ACE has already prompted discussion among the organizing partners on future collaborative efforts to ensure that the Exchange continues to be offered in Member States, through the Inter-American Competitiveness Network (RIAC). As stated by U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, Jay Williams, “the idea is to continue the Exchange for hopefully many years to come” highlighting it as a “valuable experience” that showcases the best of public-private partnerships and the collaboration with the Organization of American States. “We are excited about the future opportunities of the ACE Exchange,” he concluded.


ACE is co-organized by the OAS, as Technical Secretariat of the Inter-American Competitiveness Network (RIAC), as a mechanism to support high-level decision makers to establish long-term regional partnerships and to deepen the exchange of good practices in strengthening innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems. The Exchange is part of the Network’s Work Plan for 2015 and serves to facilitate collaboration on the 150 successful experiences that OAS Member States shared in the 2012-2014 Signs of Competitiveness Americas Reports (www.riacreport.org). 


Other convening institutions of the Third ACE were the U.S. Department of Commerce, through the International Trade Administration (ITA) and the Economic Development Administration (EDA), the U.S. Department of State, and the Government of Guatemala, as Chair Pro Tempore of RIAC 2015. The program benefited from the financial support of the Governments of the United States and Canada.

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