Somos Innovación is an alliance of over 30 think tanks, foundations, and NGOs, primarily in Latin America but with bases all over the world. It represents the diverse voices of a global civil society committed to advancing human creativity, adopting new technologies, and promoting innovative solutions.
As knowledge-sharing partners, Access Partnership and Somos Innovación representatives meet on a regular basis to discuss cutting-edge technology and LatAm innovation excellence. Yamel Sarquis, Access Partnership’s Emerging Markets Manager, spoke to Somos Innovación’s Executive Director Federico N. Fernández about why innovation serves as the cornerstone of progress.
Federico N. Fernández, Executive Director of Somos Innovación
AP: Why did you launch Somos Innovación? What is the need it meets?
Somos Innovación, or We Are Innovation, was sparked from a compelling vision: a united front of the world’s leading think tanks, foundations, and NGOs, all dedicated to advancing human progress through innovation. We recognised a global hunger for a platform that offers innovative solutions to pressing challenges. In a world ever influenced by transformative tech, Somos Innovación is both a response to a need and a beacon for the future, echoing Access Partnership’s enduring commitment to progress and accessibility. After all, in the grand tapestry of change, shouldn’t we be the ones holding the needle?
AP: In your experience, what are some common showstoppers to innovation?
The Harvard scholar Calestous Juma put it well when he wrote, “The greatest risk society faces in adopting approaches that suppress innovation is that they amplify the activities of those who want to preserve the status quo by silencing those who advocate for a more open future”. In essence, resistance to change, often rooted in fear of the unknown, stands as a significant barrier. Both individuals and organisations can cling to familiar ways, viewing new ideas as threats rather than opportunities. This can lead to bureaucratic red tape, limited resources for R&D, or a culture unwilling to take risks. On a larger scale, regulatory challenges can delay or prevent the rise of new technologies. It is crucial, then, to champion innovation and overcome the inertia of the status quo.
AP: What opportunities do you think Latin America has in driving forward innovative technologies, and why?
Latin America, with its dynamic societal pulse, has emerged as a fertile ground for driving technological innovation. Take Chile as a prime example. Our commissioned study, “Perceptions of Chileans on Digitalization”, unveiled an impressive revelation: a whopping 76 percent of Chileans oppose governmental restrictions on innovation. Such a profound inclination towards progressive thought indicates an openness and an eagerness to embrace and champion novel technologies and business models. This is not just an isolated sentiment. Evidence from our 2020 survey reaffirms that this pro-innovation mindset resonates across the Latin American landscape. Given such a conducive social climate, Latin America is poised to adopt and pioneer transformative technologies globally. Why? Because the people have spoken, and they are ready for the future.
AP: What synergies are you seeing between Europe’s approach to innovation and your existing work in Latin America? What differences are you seeing?
Through our sister organisation, We Are Innovation, we are actively combatting overregulation in Europe and fostering an environment where fresh ideas can flourish, encapsulated in our vision of “Europe 3.0”. Both entities organise events, produce studies, and maintain open dialogues with policymakers, underscoring the boons of innovation.
However, differences in the regional approaches are evident. While Europe historically has a robust infrastructure and tradition of policymaking, Latin America often brings a more agile and adaptive stance. The Mercosur and EU trade agreement exemplifies this complementary relationship. We ardently back this agreement, primarily for the potential technological exchange that can equip Mercosur nations with tools to embrace environmentally conscious innovations.
AP: As you know, we believe in ‘fair tech’; our mission is to make sure as many people as possible have access to transformative technologies without eroding competition or consumer choice. What does ‘fair tech’ mean to you?
First, hats off to Access Partnership for your stellar work pushing ‘fair tech’ forward! We are totally on the same page with you on this one. To us, ‘fair tech’ signifies a realm where innovation thrives amid healthy competition and robust entrepreneurship. Moreover, ‘fair tech’ is about striking the delicate balance in regulation – ensuring it safeguards citizens without curating a market that inadvertently promotes some players while sidelining others. It is a vision where no entity should have undue advantage or face undue barriers. In essence, ‘fair tech’ is the promise of a future where technology empowers all, without bias, creating a level playing field for every dreamer, developer, and consumer.
AP: Finally, what emerging technologies or applications are exciting you right now, personally?
For starters, it feels like a massive breakthrough is around the corner in Robotics. Then there is AI, of course, which is continually evolving and reshaping our world in ways we are just beginning to grasp. And let’s not forget fusion energy – a potential game-changer in how we approach sustainable power.
Visit Somos Innovación at somosinnovacion.lat