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Latin America Issue

From Guns and Drugs to Collaboration and Innovation: the Outstanding Transformation of Medellin

Latin America Issue
In the 1980’s during the time of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, the Columbian city of Medellin was once the most dangerous city in the world. However, the city is now a shining example of how cities can transform themselves from the worst of situations, given a fully-functioning triple helix of government, business and universities working collaboratively. Juan Quintero, Executive Director of ‘Ruta N’ speaks with UIIM about this fascinating transformation.


Talking about the transformation that Medellin has been through in the last years, Mr Quintero explains, “The transformation of Medellin has a very long history. It is a transformation that unfortunately took place more categorically as a result of a critical moment for the whole country, the war against Pablo Escobar in the late 80s and early 90s. The city was undesirably listed as the most violent city in the world with a record of 381 murders per 100,000 inhabitants.


What happened was that Medellin worked together as a city. When the city bottomed out, government, educational sector and business industry organized and created a common mission, making the city feasible in a national and international context. While the government was fighting against the war of violence and drug trafficking, the whole institutional apparatus continued to support the public administration and obviously, worked to create specific capabilities to advance the city. The majority of the companies of the Antioquia region started to trade shares. The property was enlarged. The shares and properties were distributed and business owners had to stay here. The society of Antioquia decided to join them together in order to move the city forward”.


He informed that there were three different periods with a plans that built on top of each other. In the early 2000, academics started to participate in the public life and create long-term plans independent on any political party, which were adopted by all parties. In 2002, a mayor started to transform the city and talk about the importance of education. Later on, another mayor raised the importance of entrepreneurship and the current mayor has kept education and entrepreneurship and introduced the concepts of science and technological innovation.


Read the rest in the University Industry Innovation Network Magazine, available to view online here:

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