Opinion: Mr. Félix García Lausín

An interview with Félix García Lausín technical secretary and coordinator of the Ibero-American Space of Knowledge. Cooperation and mutual agreement for the promotion of knowledge and innovation

June 30, 2016

Felix Garcia Lausin (New York, 1963) has a long career working for superior education, innovation and knowledge. He has been adviser of the General Direction of Universities and Research of Madrid, member of the Spanish Committee of Academic Sport and, during nine years, general secretary of the Conference of Spanish Universities’ Rectors. In 2004 he took his functions as adviser to the Cabinet of the Spanish President of the Government. Furthermore, he has served for several years as General Secretary of the Ibero-American University Council, and currently holds the position of Technical Secretary and Coordination of the Ibero-American Space of Knowledge of which he has been a driver since its creation in 2005.

1. What is the the Ibero-American Knowledge Space (IKS) and what are its functions?

The Ibero-American Knowledge Space has been created in 2005 in the framework of the XV Summit of Chiefs of State and Government in Salamanca.

Its objective is to promote the quality, coverage and internationalization of superior education and encourage the research, development and innovation as necessary conditions to improve the quality and accessibility of goods and services, reduction of disparities and inequalities, as well as to boost competitiveness.

The IKS is supported by the Ibero-American Secretariat General, the Ibero-American States Organization and the Ibero-American University Council. The coordination of the IKS is executed thanks to a unit constituted for this purpose by the general secretaries of the three organizations.

The Technical Secretariat of the IKS was also created in January 2016, with the aim to strengthen its basic structure and organizational framework. The purpose of the general secretariat is to serve as an interactive space of dialogue, effective cooperation and complementarity between superior education and sciences systems, technology and innovation of Ibero-American countries.

2. Is it easy to reach the coordination of an initiative such as the IKS under the “umbrella” of three institutions?

Yes, in fact the IKS is conceived as an initiative to agglutinate the interest of all the agents interested in knowledge and innovation. That is why it is so important to reach the collaboration and coordination of the most significant institutions of cooperation and Ibero-American political agreement, as well as representatives of Universities, fundamental actors in the design and development of higher education policies in the region.

Thus, the functioning of the Technical Secretariat allows relying on a stable structure with an operative nature for the coordination and follow up of cooperation actions to be developed under the supervision of the Coordination Unit and with the support of the three organizations making part of it. Furthermore, I can say that the three institutions feel the IKS is part of them.

3. What does the IKS represent in the framework of the Ibero-American Secretariat General?

The Iber-American Secretariat General (ISG) is an international organism which operates as an official space of convergence, work, follow up and agreements of the Ibero-American region. With more than 20 years of existence, the ISG clusters 22 countries assisting to conferences and Ibero-American summits. It represents 19 Latin-American countries and 3 belonging to the Iberian Peninsula.

The IKS is a mandate created during one of the summits of Chiefs of State; this is why knowledge is one of the priorities of Ibero-American cooperation.

The chiefs of State have been sensible to the suggestion of creating an Ibero-American space of knowledge since it corresponds to a basic strategic line for the governments: boosting knowledge as a basis, so that development and economic growth can be more stables and sustained.

It is evident that governments from the entire region consider knowledge as one of the fundamental pillars of the growth model.

4. What are the main activities of the IKS?

The space has three Programmes: Ibero-American Programme of Sciences and Technology for Development (CYTED); Ibero-American Programme of Industrial Property (IBEPI) and Postgraduate Ibero-American Programme of Academic Mobility (Pablo Neruda). These Programmes serve as a framework in which several activities are developed. Among them for example, in the framework of the Programme IBEPI the project Iberqualitas has been established to promote quality and excellence in the management through the grant of an Ibero-American prize to public and private organizations that stand out in these areas. The 16th edition has already been celebrated.

Pablo Neruda Programme, which already runs for its 2nd edition, has generated 392 opportunities of interregional mobility. However, the big news is the creation of the Ibero-American Framework of Academic Mobility. This is the most ambitious initiative of the region regarding mobility and exchange of students, professors and researchers. Its goal is to encourage the realization of superior studies, teaching or research in other countries from the Ibero-American Community. For 2020 it is expected to have implemented 200.000 cases of mobility.

Lastly it is also important to highlight the Ibero-American initiative of social, cultural and scientific communication whose target is to strengthen the development of a civic integral culture in the Ibero-American population, based on the appropriation and responsible use of scientific-technological knowledge.

5. Do you think there is a real political commitment for scientific development and knowledge in Ibero-America?

Os course there is a consensus in the region regarding the need to adapt and improve the economic and social model in order to bypass the big challenges of today and of the future. The mandate in the Summits has been clear and consistent along their 25 years of existence.

In addition to the support in the Ibero-American space, we can also see how most of the countries of the region are raising national political and budget challenges in order to improve the fields of innovation, sciences, technology and higher education.

6. Is Ibero-America a region with possibilities to develop systems of training, research and technological development competitive at a global level? What are the challenges and opportunities?

Fortunately, innovation and technological development are not a “train” passing only once, but a challenge that can be reached when states do their best for it. It requires the will, the budget support, and the coordination from the institutions. Even if it seems difficult we can find very clear examples in the world of countries that have committed to “board the train” of knowledge and innovation and managed it.

7. Could we see the IKS as an example of innovative strategies for the creation of new spaces of cooperation between countries and interregional networks’ strengthening?

There is a principle shared by the Ibero-American Cooperation Programmes: horizontality. Countries cooperate with the same conditions, since Ibero-American cooperation in general, and the IKS in particular, doesn’t operate as a fund for financing projects but as a space of agreement and mutual collaboration where common projects are created. It is a network which enables building on equal terms and takes advantage of the consensus regarding a strategic sector such as knowledge.

8. How do we raise the sustainability of the projects considered by the IKS?

The space is one of the oldest Programmes of the Ibero-American cooperation system and instead of losing preeminence it has been gaining it thanks to its consolidation as one of the main lines of action.

There are several aspects showing its sustainability. First of all, we already mentioned the political will. More than 10 years of common efforts of all the Ibero-American countries show it, as well as the preeminence gained by knowledge within public policies of each country. In second place we can mention the strengthening of the IKS through the creation of the technical secretary and the harmonious relationship between the entities involved. In third place remark the adoption of four-year plans - despite the leaders’ summits are organized on a bi-annual way - as one of the guarantees of sustainability within the Ibero-American system. These plans not only guide the action but also introduce goals to be reached that facilitate the follow up of the Programmes.

9. So far one of the problems of the Ibero-American agenda that has been pointed is the preeminence of Spanish leadership facing the weakness of commitment or interest from the Latin-American countries. Can the IKS contribute by encouraging the participation and empowerment of Latin-American countries in the Ibero-American agenda?

This is not the case of the IKS, since in its case countries have built their participation not through the donation of funds but pulling their wills together. Thanks to the own philosophy of the space there is no preeminence of a specific country but the will of a group to build tools in order to reach their common and proper goals.

10. What is the next challenge of the IKS?

This year we will celebrate the Ibero-American Summit in Cartagena de Indias, which will focus on Youth, Entrepreneurship and Education as a proposal of Colombia, the host country. It will be an excellent opportunity to communicate all the progresses made by the IKS and to continue the regional dialogue.

 Opinion: Mr. Félix García Lausín