| 6 minute read

Universidad del Desarrollo’s global pursuit of collaborative innovation

Lauren Kroemer-Pope
Universidad del Desarrollo campus

Introducing Universidad del Desarrollo, new Accelerator member and trailblazer in Chile’s educational landscape. The university joins the UIIN community to connect with and learn from like-minded institutions globally. Join us as we speak to Maria Jose Morgado, Deputy Director of Industry Engagement in R&D, and Mariluz Soto, Teaching Researcher, exploring the universities goals, successes, and challenges in fostering innovation through university-industry engagement.

What are your institutional goals in terms of university-industry engagement?

We have a motto at our university which is Innovation and Impact on Society. This motto aims to inspire the actions of our students, academics and researchers at the University to acquire the knowledge and experience they need to address societal problem with innovative solutions and become agents of change. We are a small university but what sets us apart from other universities is that we are an entrepreneurial university. We collaborate with industry and society and we strive to make impact in different areas: in research, in public responsibility and for our students.

UDD's E+i Ecosystem
UDD’s E+i Ecosystem, provided by Universidad del Desarrollo

What are your reasons for joining the UIIN community?

We joined the UIIN community because we want to access best practices around the world that we can adjust to our reality. In Chile, I feel we are lagging in terms of technology transfer and generally in Latin American, the culture of collaborating with industry is not as developed as it is in Europe. In the UIIN community we see some universities that are similar to us; they are technical and entrepreneurial, and we want to learn from them. In this way, we can avoid creating a new methodology from scratch or reinventing the wheel. We want to know how others achieved the objectives that we are striving for, we want to implement tried and tested methods that have been beneficial to other universities, and we want to collaborate.

What is driving your university to become more entrepreneurial?

The government wants us to innovate so there is a growing need to invest in R&D on paper, but the budget given to Chilean universities for R&D is much smaller than it is in Europe, so in actuality it doesn’t happen as much as we would want to.

There is some resistance to change at the university towards this more entrepreneurial mode, but on the other hand we have a growing international community at our university as many of the researchers have studied in other countries, and built an international network who they want to continue to collaborate with. And because we work with universities across the world, we have to be on a similar level as them in order to be valuable partners.

Our institution is also very agile in the way that it adapts to changing global trends. For example, in the last six months we have created new careers pathways which focus on knowledge, information and data, and we are introducing how to work effectively with tools like Chat GPT in our existing career pathways. We respond and change depending on how the world moves and what it needs. And we are continually looking at how to innovate and improve things.

Can you share with us some of your institutional success stories?

In 2016, the university partnered up with industry partner Telefonica and pooled resources to create an institute of excellence. This collaboration culminated in the creation of the Data Science Institute. The Institute represents a great success for the university as we have not only developed the physical infrastructure of centre but now we also have a mix of professionals (data scientists) and researchers collaborating at the centre. The professionals and researchers work collaboratively on challenges together, harnessing their different strengths and areas of expertise. The success of this centre has also contributed to the wider culture of collaboration at the university.

Another institutional success at the University is the creation of the Design Centre for Experiences and Services (Centre DES). The main goal of the centre is to create new service experiences with a focus on empath and the emotional side of service. The centre also places an emphasis on prototyping.

In terms of prototyping, we have a laboratory, Lab DES, which opened in November, which is part of an international network. The aim of the laboratory is to bring different stakeholders to work together on simulating or piloting services in a controlled space. Through this prototyping we can implement small and large changes to improve our services. Since the lab is part of an international network, we are sharing all the experiences and learnings with other researchers in different parts of the world.

We must move forward not only in producing science but also in ensuring that the generated knowledge is transferred to the development of technologies and innovations that improve the well-being of individuals and the population as a whole.

Vice Rector for Research and Doctoral Programs, Sergio Hernández Ollarzú

We are now working together with a publisher to create a book about the experience of adopting this laboratory model in different parts of the world, showcasing different cases, collaborations with companies and research projects.

In addition to this, the university, has a co-funding mechanism that takes place between the university and external companies, both giving a 50:50 contribution. In this way, both parties contribute to the project and both have to work together to apply research to solve a problem that the company experiences.

What challenges did you encounter when setting up these initiatives?

One of the main difficulties we faced when developing these initiatives was to do how academics and industry professionals communicate and can come to understand each other. Sometimes, it is as if  they speak different languages. For example, when the industry comes to the academics with a problem, the academic might respond with a paper, but this is not how the industry wishes to receive its information. Furthermore, industry and academia work on different timelines: industry wants to see results straight away, whereas academia takes longer to produce results.

As a university we have a commitment to research and the creation of knowledge but in working with industry we also have to think about how to make that knowledge more flexible and how to better transfer it to society. It is really interesting work, to face the same challenge together from different sides but with the same goal and under the same name.

Maria José Morgado Mariluz Soto

María José Morgado and Mariluz Soto

If you want to know more about the Universidad del Desarrollo, contact Maria Jose Morgado via email.
If you need more information about the Design Centre for Experiences and Services and Lab DES, contact Mariluz Soto via email

Ready for more?

If you enjoyed this article, check out our Podcast Maximising research valorisation through university-industry collaboration or the article Six dimensions of readiness: What universities need to engage and collaborate.

Lauren Kroemer-Pope (interviewer) is the Outreach and Partnerships Specialist at UIIN.

Tasha Day (author) is a Project officer at UIIN, where she undertakes research activities and creates content on a wide variety of topics including entrepreneurship education, sustainability and research valorisation.

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