ECUADOR - Health & Education
President, Escuela Politécnica del Litoral (ESPOL)
Sergio Flores Macías received his BS in electrical engineering from Lafayette College, and a MS in Electrical Engineering from Stanford. Later he earned his MBA from the Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral. Among the many academic positions that Macías has held at ESPOL leading up to his current position, he worked as Director of the Department of Electrical Engineering, Director of the Center for Computer Services, Provost, President, and Dean of the Faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He has also held the positions of Executive President of the State Corporation for Telecommunications (EMETEL), President of the Board, for Ecuador Telecom, and Founding Member of the Foundation for Science and Technology (FUNDACYT), to name just a few.
ESPOL was founded 56 years ago. During this time, one of our main goals has been to offer high-quality undergraduate education. I would argue that our undergraduates become the best-qualified professionals in Ecuador. Being a technical university, our primary contribution is to the industrial sector, the private sector—engineering areas such as electrical, mechanical, civil, petroleum, and, computer science, geology, and marine biology, among others. We work in applied research to generate knowledge for developing the agricultural sector. Our marine research lab CENAIM developed most of the techniques used to prevent white spot disease. We are also working on biotechnology for bananas growers to organically combat certain agricultural diseases. Our curriculum is designed to develop leaders and entrepreneurs, rather than only engineers.
This transformation requires well-trained people. For example, the Refineria del Pacífico project requires 2,000 engineers skilled in petrochemicals, automatic control, electricity, mechanics, chemistry, and so on. The country lacks these human resources, and the university’s role is to bridge this gap, which is difficult because training in any of these fields requires at least five years. The other option is to retrain professionals from other areas, for example training a mechanical engineer for the petrochemical sector. To transform the productive matrix we need well-qualified researchers in order to generate knowledge for innovation. Research plus development leads to innovation and to changes in the productive system, and research and development should be done at universities and through innovation by the private sector.
In the oil and gas sector, most companies are state-owned enterprises—PetroEcuador and PetroAmazonas, for example. These entities are destined to have an important role in the productive matrix and need well-trained people. You either bring these people in from abroad or you train them here, and this is where ESPOL plays an important role.
This is essential in both undergraduate and graduate education. We are the only university in Ecuador with international accreditation: two engineering programs accredited by ABET and our business school accredited by AACSB. We are going to start two PhD programs. A key component of these will be a six-month stint abroad at a research lab. We encourage our professors to author papers with professors from other universities and to write research proposals. Our professors work with colleagues from America and Europe on different research projects.
Until 10 years ago all universities in this country, including ESPOL, were teaching oriented, where the main goal was undergraduate education. We are today going from an educational to a research-oriented institution. This means that while we formerly hired professors for teaching positions, today we hire professors for research and teaching. We are now incentivizing professors to publish in international, high-impact publications. We also encourage people to seek research funding. Our key point is that all effort must ultimately be aligned with the productive matrix. ESPOL is developing an Innovation Zone for Ecuadorian Littoral (Zona de Innovación del Litoral Ecuatoriano [ZILE]) as a mechanism to work on applied research and development for innovation; because the coastal area needs a technical, economic, and social development engine.
ECUADOR - Energy & Mining
General Manager, Electric Corporation of Ecuador (CELEC EP)