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DISCOVERY MAGAZINE

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David V. Gibson and Julie Nordskog

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IC2 Institute: Networking Communities


The IC2 (Innovation, Creativity, Capital) Institute at the University of Texas is a global, transdisciplinary “think and do” tank that contributes to society through knowledge creation, transfer, application and diffusion. Since 1977, when the institute was founded by George and Ronya Kozmetsky, IC2 has been dedicated to fostering creative and innovative research, education and practice on “unstructured problems” such as accelerated technology-based growth, civic entrepreneurship and prosperity sharing. IC2 seeks to further the knowledge and practice of technology commercialization through an integrated combination of “action research,” innovative teaching and creative outreach.

Illustration depicting Networking Communities
The institute has more than 230 IC2 Research Fellows and a range of long-term global partnerships, including key champions in academic, business and government sectors worldwide. IC2 is globally recognized both as a leader in research, education and training and as a participant in the process of regional economic development.

In fall 1998, Dr. Robert Ronstadt became IC2 director, re-dedicating the institute to cutting-edge research, education and application for accelerating technology commercialization and regional economic development. In spring 2001, IC2 Institute became a research unit reporting to UT’s vice president for research. This positioning will facilitate the leveraging of research and intellectual capital across the University for “think” and “do” partnerships with academic, business and government champions in Latin America and the Caribbean as well as other regions at home and abroad.

The Austin Technology Incubator (ATI) was started in 1989 by IC2 and the University of Texas to retain and capitalize on Austin-based R&D and entrepreneurial talent. Over the years ATI’s mission has evolved to include national and global initiatives. This world-class incubator has graduated sixty-two companies, creating more than 2,500 high-value jobs in the Austin area. Four of the graduated companies have gone public and thirteen were acquired. UT Austin students and faculty have gained valued education and research opportunities in this real-life “experiential learning laboratory.” Latin American businesses and entrepreneurs have participated in ATI programs, and ATI staff has participated in workshops and conferences in Latin America and have trained local incubator staff on developing and implementing appropriate “best practices.”

The Capital Network (TCN), started by IC2 in 1989, has grown to become one of the largest and most successful “Business Angel” networks in the United States. In addition to introducing investors to entrepreneurs and generally assisting new business ventures with management expertise and know-how, TCN conducts venture forums where national and international entrepreneurs present business plans to business angels, venture capitalists and institutional investors. In 2001, working with local partners, TCN organized a series of venture forums in Brazil.

IC2’s Master Degree Program in Science and Technology Commercialization was started in 1996. Students either meet bi-weekly at IC2 Institute or they take the degree program on the Internet along with CD ROM-based instruction. The program emphasizes global perspectives on technology assessment, knowledge/technology transfer and adoption, venture plan construction, entrepreneurship, and business plan development for new ventures as well as enhanced global awareness. Students have come from large firms and entrepreneurial start-ups as well as government and academic sectors. International students have come from Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Portugal, Japan, China and Russia.

EnterTechTM is an IC2 Web-based training program providing an innovative approach to teach basic job skills to better prepare the underemployed for entry-level jobs in technology firms. Using the latest in e-learning and broadband technology, EnterTechTM places learners in the work environment of a virtual company where they complete job tasks, engage in problem-solving scenarios and interact with co-workers and supervisors.

Latin American Initiatives. Based on a twenty-year record of research and practice in both emerging and developed technology regions in the U.S. and worldwide, IC2 Institute is working with its Latin American partners to develop and use frameworks and methodologies for benchmarking assets and challenges to accelerate regionally based economic development and shared prosperity. These assessments include collecting quantitative and qualitative data on regionally available talent, technology, capital and business know-how. A key objective is to partner with regional champions in the academic, business and government sectors to design and implement near-and longer-term action plans for accelerating technology-based growth while maintaining a sustainable and accessible quality of life for all the region’s inhabitants.

IC2’s specialized body of knowledge has been leveraged with UT’s Latin American programs such as the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies, the Brazil Center and the U.S.-Mexico Policy Center. Faculty and students from these programs have facilitated the development and implementation of several important IC2 initiatives in Brazil, the Texas-Mexico border and the Caribbean.

In 1992, Ramiro Wahrhaftig, then Vice Rector of the Pontifical Catholic University in Curitiba, Brazil, and now Paraná Secretary of Science, Technology and Higher Education, spent six months as a visiting scholar at the institute. His objective was to study IC2’s methodologies and programs and the “Austin Model” of technology-based growth. At the same time, others from Curitiba were sent to Silicon Valley, Boston and Orlando, but the personal and professional relationships developed with Austin’s academic, business and government leaders have been the most long-lasting and beneficial.

Wahrhaftig’s visit has been followed by nearly a decade of exchange of academics, public officials, managers and entrepreneurs between Curitiba and Austin. Professors and students from IC2 Institute, McCombs School of Business, Colleges of Communication and Liberal Arts, and Graduate School of Library and Information Science have participated in workshops, conferences, education and training programs and research development and application activities in Paraná.

In 1994 Austin Technology Incubator admitted Polo International, a Paraná-based software company. And in 1998 Brazil’s National Society for Software Export (SOFTEX) opened an office at ATI to promote Brazilian software firms in the U.S. and assist Austin-based software firms in entering Latin American markets.

Curitiba Conference. The Instituto Superior Técnico in Lisbon, Portugal, and IC2 Institute partnered with academic, business and government champions in Curitiba, Brazil to hold the 4th International Conference on Technology Policy and Innovation on “Learning and Knowledge Networks for Development” in August 2000. The conference had more than 350 participants from Latin America, Europe, Asia and the United States. UT faculty and students participated from the LBJ School of Public Affairs, Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies, Brazil Center and Office of the Vice-President and Dean of Graduate Studies. Austin Mayor Kirk Watson gave a keynote address on Austin’s emergence as a global city. His visit was the catalyst for Curitiba to become a “technopolis partner” with the City of Austin, a new association to foster the development of knowledge sharing among emerging and developed technology regions worldwide.

A Memorandum of Understanding on Science and Technology Collaboration between UT Austin and the State of Paraná represents one of UT’s first multi-institutional agreement in that it involves several leading Brazilian public and private technological institutions. This relationship will bring a range of research and training programs under one institutional umbrella, thereby strengthening networks and garnering support from academic, business and government sectors within Paraná, the University of Texas and the City of Austin. This formal agreement will also foster cross-campus collaboration among an increased range of academic disciplines.

IC2’s various research and development initiatives with Paraná have proven to be valuable “experiential learning laboratories,” in which collaborative efforts are based on knowledge sharing to overcome challenges, achieve near-term successes and energize long-term visions. Several of IC2’s Latin American initiatives focus on disseminating similar programs and methodologies to other regions in Brazil and other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Another expansion and leveraging of UT Austin networks within Brazil is developing between Paraná and the northeastern state of Pernambuco. With the support of the Banco do Nordeste of Brazil and the Inter-American Development Bank, Pernambuco’s capital city, Recife, is building a software technology park dubbed Porto Digital. IC2 was invited by the Inter-American Development Bank to participate in this project as an international mentoring institution. This relationship will broaden IC2’s Brazilian initiatives by joining Paraná and Pernambuco in an exchange that emphasizes collaboration and cooperation as well as competition.

Other Emerging Initiatives. A range of IC2 Institute initiatives are being developed with academic, business and government institutions in Colombia, Ecuador and Chile. Like the Brazil initiatives, these partnerships will leverage UT Austin’s broad range of resources for accelerating regionally based education, research and enterprise development.

Colombia. In 2000, IC2 Fellows and staff traveled to Bogotá and Medellín to complete a five-module training course on technology management and commercialization. Academic and business leaders from Colombia visited IC2 Institute in March 2001 to facilitate relationship building and to broaden information exchange with UT Austin. As a result of these activities, plans are being developed to find innovative ways to fund and foster technology-based ventures in Latin America. This initiative will draw on the resources of IC2 and its partners in Colombia and Mexico as well as in California with the International Business Incubator in San Jose.

Ecuador. The Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral (ESPOL) of Guayaquil, Ecuador has asked IC2 Institute to provide both degree and non-degree educational programs in technology commercialization and to assist in assessing the region’s assets and challenges for technology-based economic development. Initiated by UT alumnus Freddy A. Larrea, director of Lamco Energy Group in Houston, a delegation from ESPOL visited UT in March 2001, and a formal Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Rector Victor Bastidas and UT President Larry Faulkner.

Argentina and Chile. IC2 Institute is building relationships with local champions and institutions in Argentina and Chile through the efforts of Dr. Joel Wiggins, director of the Austin Technology Incubator, and IC2 researcher and LLILAS graduate Julie Nordskog.

Una Región – Un Futuro. IC2 Institute initiated the Cross Border Institute for Regional Development (CBIRD) in 1999 as a bi-national, collaborative, community-based initiative for accelerating development of South Texas and northeastern Mexico. CBIRD is supported by a bi-national advisory board that includes the University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College, the University of Texas Pan American, Texas State Technical College in Harlingen, the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM) in Mexico, Houston Advanced Research Center, IC2 Institute and other private and public organizations on both sides of the border. It is also supported by the Texas Regional Action Committee whose members come primarily from local business, government and not-for-profit foundations.

Executive co-directors are Professors Pablo Rhi-Perez at UT Brownsville and Manuel Zertuche at ITESM in Monterrey. CBIRD’s mission is to help coordinate and leverage grassroots support and the region’s business, academic and government leadership to transform and diversify economic and social conditions along the border region.

Project Caribe. This project is an IC2 Caribbean-based “think” and “do” program that is examining appropriate initiatives for regionally based entrepreneurship training and education for business development and an enhanced quality of life. Partnerships with academic, business and government leaders have been initiated in Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Tobago, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Belize and the Caribbean Common Market consortium in Guyana.

Planned activities for Project Caribe include benchmark strategies for fostering regional development and a sustainable quality of life, strategic networking of Caribbean-based human capital and business assets, workshops and regional conferences and training local educators and business leaders through distance learning initiatives.

Science and Technology Commercialization. Since 1998, IC2 has partnered with the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey and Adelaide University in Australia in offering the institute’s one-year master’s degree in Science and Technology Commercialization. Classes are linked between Austin-Monterrey-Adelaide and other countries such as Russia, Canada and Brazil by two-way video and audio as well as the Internet, chat rooms and instructional material on CD ROMs. Participants from academic, business and government sectors contribute to curriculum design and pedagogy. In a very real way, the global classroom exists in cyberspace where international teams collaborate to access talent, technology, capital and know-how to commercialize technologies from universities, businesses, consortia and public sector laboratories while at the same time enhancing knowledge of their sociocultural environments.

Conclusion. The Digital Age offers windows of opportunity and causes for concern for developing as well as developed regions worldwide. Latin American initiatives at IC2 Institute are based on working with regional academic, business and government leaders in select regions to accelerate economic development and shared prosperity. The challenge is to research and disseminate effective and efficient ways to build physical and virtual communities for knowledge creation, diffusion and adoption to better leverage a region’s assets while mitigating challenges through technology and civic entrepreneurship.

Please visit the IC2 Institute Web site.

David V. Gibson
Dr. David V. Gibson is associate director for research and the Nadya Kozmetsky Scott Centennial Fellow at IC2 Institute. His research, teaching and publications focus on knowledge-technology transfer and adoption; cross-cultural communication; and regional technology-based growth. During the 1999-2000 academic year Dr. Gibson was a Fulbright Scholar at Instituto Superior Técnico in Lisbon, Portugal. He is a consultant to academic institutions, businesses and governments worldwide. His publications have been translated into Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Italian, French, German, Finnish and Portuguese. He earned his Ph.D. in sociology from Stanford University. He can be reached at 512-475-8900.
Julie Nordskog
Julie Nordskog is an IC2 researcher and a 1999 graduate of the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies. Ms. Nordskog’s research and writing focus on key success factors for building virtual communities for regional development within Latin America. She has collaborated with IC2 Institute since 1998 and is the lead researcher for IC2 on the “Paraná High Tech” project for benchmarking and promoting high-tech entrepreneurship in the region. A Fulbright Scholar for the Southern Cone Common Market region in 2000-2001, Ms. Nordskog is conducting research on the use of networks and virtual community to promote technology-based entrepreneurship and regional development in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. She can be reached at 512-475-8900.

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May 14, 2002
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