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  • Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel (left), and Vice President Salvador Valdez Mesa (right), led the fourth ordinary session of the Ninth Legislature of the National Assembly (Parliament), at the Havana Convention Center.

    Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel (left), and Vice President Salvador Valdez Mesa (right), led the fourth ordinary session of the Ninth Legislature of the National Assembly (Parliament), at the Havana Convention Center. | Photo: EFE

Published 18 November 2020
Opinion

President Díaz-Canel considered that, despite the 43 measures approved for strengthening the state-run sector, there is still inertia regarding proposals. 
 

President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez called on the Cuban business system run by the State to immediately promote a culture of innovation to solve the country's most pressing problems, during a speech he delivered at a meeting at the Convention Palace with the Boards of Government,  the bodies representing the State's interests in the control of state business management. 

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The president stated that we have the conditions to achieve a robust system of science, technology, and innovation. We can weave the necessary interconnections between the sciences sector, the productive and service sectors, and the government's activity.

This meeting, a regular part of the Cuban President's agenda, was led by Marino Murillo Jorge, head of the Permanent Commission for Implementation and Development. The second secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, José Ramón Machado Ventura; the vice president of the Republic, Salvador Valdés Mesa; the prime minister, Manuel Marrero Cruz; vice prime ministers and holders of several portfolios also participated in the meeting.

The Minister of Science, Technology and the Environment, Elba Rosa Pérez Montoya, presented a paper on the financing of science, technology and innovation activities - Díaz-Canel considered that, despite the 43 measures approved for the strengthening of the state-owned enterprises, there is still inertia in terms of proposals, in the midst of the situation the country is going through, with the COVID-19 epidemic and the intensification of the blockade.

"The eyes of those who lead the companies and the Boards of Government must be on this, to see what obstacles remain to be eliminated, what elements can motivate the state-run sector to push our economy," he said. As a country, the President stated, "this is key to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, with the Vision of the Nation and the National Economic and Social Development Plan until 2030".

"There is nothing more challenging for science and innovation than that Vision of the Nation: to have a socialist, sovereign, prosperous and sustainable nation, which demands innovation and scientific research in the solution of the country's problems," said the Head of State.

When analyzing these issues, which are being directly addressed by the government, the president referred to the contradiction that arises in Cuba: on the one hand, he said, we are an underdeveloped country with a high human development index, recognized in the latest UNDP report, which allows us to occupy the 72nd place at the international level, mainly because of the social work and public policies that the Revolution has developed.

However, he added, "When we look at the world innovation ranking, where several international organizations participate, among them the World Intellectual Property Organization, about 143 countries appear, and Cuba does not enter the Global Innovation Index."

"I expose those elements," he said, "because we lack awareness on those issues, mainly in the State-run sector. Two years ago, he recalled, we proposed that government management should be based on three pillars: science-innovation, social communication, and computerization."

There, the President of the Republic explained to the members of the Government Boards that at this moment in Cuba, innovation is led by the sciences sector and the universities; in second place, the research centers; meanwhile, the companies have a sparse representation, except for individual companies such as BioCubaFarma, which has introduced innovation as part of its production process and has closed the production and commercialization cycle with the contribution of science.

As a country, he pointed out, we have that model that works, which was conceived and developed by the Commander in Chief, Fidel Castro Ruz, and later by the General of the Army, Raúl Castro Ruz, who added the particularity of moving from a budgetary system to an entrepreneurial one. This has proved a good experience, but we have not generalized it, he said.

But in the face of these problems, "the country is not stopped," added Díaz-Canel, who also pointed out in his speech that in the last two years, several public policies, regulations, resolutions, which favor the applications of science, technology, and innovation, have been approved.

When asked what we need for innovation to become an essential lever for the country's development, especially in the State-run sector, Diaz-Canel set out the path: we need government management that stimulates innovation, and we are building it; an innovative business system, and we still have a long way to go; a regulatory framework, which we have, and a financial one, which we are developing; and the human potential that the country has created.

But innovation, the Cuban president warned the entrepreneurs, "is not only to seek and apply new knowledge, but it is also to combine the existing knowledge and apply it to new and old problems."

The head of state considered that, in these matters, COVID-19 was a litmus test. "What was the Government's working method for dealing with the epidemic? To summon the Ministry of Public Health experts, its Advisory Council, which is one of the ones that know how to manage innovation, the scientific community, all disciplines, and knowledge".

And what happened, he asked himself. We have the most robust protocols for the care of the disease and the best indicators in its management; our intensive care rooms have not collapsed; no health personnel in the country have died attending the COVID-19; no pregnant women or children have died; our protocols guarantee that the patient overcomes the disease faster; that fewer cases reach critical and serious states; and that fewer people die.

All of this has been managed with science and innovation, he said. More than 700 investigations, many with international publications in prestigious medical science journals; more than 13 biopharmaceuticals are being produced; and four vaccine candidates. "They are vaccination candidates in an underdeveloped country; look for how many countries have been able to do it in the middle of COVID-19," he commented.

Then, he summarized, "we responded to a complex and intense problem in a short time by applying innovation management. Now this system, the President reiterated, is being transferred to the Food Sovereignty and Nutrition Education Program. We have a large number of issues on which there are contributions from scientific institutions. Almost no research is new; they were all there and are starting to be applied. They are not as yet yielding the results we want, but I am convinced, said Díaz-Canel, that they would come.

On this essential path, he said, "we have to see innovation as a social, interactive, systemic process that is capable of promoting the production, dissemination, and use of knowledge."

We need the business sector's thinking to act, propose, and implement improvement actions to achieve progress in its economic and social development. In a more sustainable, more intense, and faster way, he concluded.

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