Colombia’s National University is receiving some $40 million in funding from counterparts in Germany, Holland, and Japan to expand the school’s science and technology capabilities.
The most significant investment comes from Germany’s prestigious Max Planck Institute, which will be providing $20 million over the course of the next five years toward research on tropical diseases and medicinal plants, according to the El Espectador newspaper. Max Planck society scientists have been awarded 17 Nobel prizes for their work since 1946, reported El Tiempo.
“The quality of our institutions was the reason Max Planck set us apart as a research partner, through which our working groups will have full autonomy to investigate and our country will benefit from all the results, said Ignacio Mantilla, dean of Colombia’s National University.
“This is a hugely important step in the history of scientific research in Colombia. The Nacional University is ready to have relations with these institutions,” he said.
|“We want to convert the National University into Colombia’s first world-class university. We have made many advancements and have a tradition of research.” -Univ. Dean|
Mantilla invited research teams from Colombia and abroad to apply to work out of the two state-of-the-art laboratories the Germans plan to construct, one in the National University and another one in the University of Antioquia. The laboratories, the first of their kind in the country, will be able to take advantage of Colombia’s immense biodiversity to search for new medical applications of native plant species.
For years, the intense rural violence of Colombia’s longstanding armed conflict had made any such research prohibitively dangerous.
A new chapter
“At the end of August we are going to open a global competition to bring the best scientists to these groups, which can be comprised of Colombians or foreigners. Each laboratory will have 15 high-level researchers. The groups should be ready by the end of the year to begin operations next year,” said Paula Arias, director of Colciencias, a public agency tasked with promoting science and innovation in Colombia.
Arias agrees with Mantilla’s sentiment that the partnership is an important development for Colombian science.
“Our purpose is to modernize science in Colombia, and part of that means exposing ourselves to the international environment that will allow us to equip ourselves with the quality of science they perform in other countries,” she said.
Mantilla, meanwhile, sees the Max Planck investment as further recognition for the effort the National University has made to establish itself internationally. In the past three years, the university has tripled foreign enrollment in its undergraduate and graduate programs from 50 students to 150.
“They come, they study, they become involved in our research, and they head back to their countries with the assurance that their credits will transfer. It wasn’t like that before,” said Mantilla.
Others following suit
Germany’s University of Giessen is also getting in on research opportunities, currently working out a partnership with the Universities of Valle, Antioquia, and the Andes, along with National University, to fund a center for ocean studies in Colombia.
And Germany isn’t the only country with higher learning centers interested in partnering with Colombian schools.
According to the National University’s foreign relations director, the school is negotiating investments of around $17 million from Holland and Japan to fund the construction of a campus in the southern border state of Nariño, which features dense jungles, among other ecological features of international interest.
Schools in the United States, South Korea, Turkey, and China have all showed interest in forming similar partnerships, reported El Espectador.
“Colombia has a special attraction for academic mobility,” said Mantilla. “It’s time to take advantage of it.”
- U. Nacional se alía con los grandes de la ciencia (El Espectador)
- Colombia investigará con el gigante de la ciencia mundial (El Tiempo)