Economic Development Lab helps biomedical researcher from Puerto Rico pursue entrepreneurial vision

Visit follows Georgia Tech offer helps Hurricane Maria-affected entrepreneurs and researchers from Puerto Rico tap into Technology Square’s innovation ecosystem.

Mónica Novoa (left), project manager at Georgia Tech’s Economic Development Lab, stands with Jamily Ali Pons, a biomedical researcher at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico. Ali Pons, who spent a week on Tech’s campus to further her research, recounted her experience in a recent radio interview with Georgia Public Broadcasting. (Photo: Péralte C. Paul)

As a third-year biomedical student at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico, Jamily Ali Pons has been studying how parasites affect the monarch butterfly’s life cycle.

 

But Hurricane Maria, the costliest storm to ever hit the U.S. island territory, wrecked her research and lab facilities when it hit Puerto Rico, Sept. 20, 2017.

 

Now — after recently spending a week at the Georgia Institute of Technology — the 26-year-old San Juan native, said she’s broadening her sights beyond research and thinking about commercializing her findings.

 

“Georgia Tech helped me to meet a lot of experts in my field and get my research experiments to the next level with new methods and expand my opportunities in in the entrepreneurial field as a researcher,” Ali Pons said. “Being here helped me to see my research as an entrepreneur and to see the possibilities of taking it from the research stage to a product by immersing myself as an entrepreneur.”

 

Ali Pons’ visit to Georgia Tech followed the Institute’s offer to host entrepreneurs and innovators from Puerto Rico still affected by the deadly storm to continue their work here temporarily in Technology Square.

 

She shared her experiences in recent interview on Georgia Public Broadcasting’s “On Second Thought” radio program. (Listen to the broadcast at this link: https://bit.ly/2FlrjxB.)

 

The Economic Development Lab (EDL), program of Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, has been a partner to various universities and economic development organizations on the island since 2012.

 

EDL is able to offer use of the space temporarily to Ali Pons and others via the Georgia Advanced Technology Ventures Inc., a non-profit organization and Tech affiliate.

 

The initiative followed a November 2017 visit to Georgia Tech by a delegation of the Echar Pa’Lante (Move Forward), a multi-sector alliance based in Puerto Rico and comprised of business and government leaders and educators.

 

Mónica Novoa, a project manager at EDL, said the offering is part of its ongoing work in Puerto Rico since 2012, when a team from the Institute went to the island to conduct a full assessment of its innovation ecosystem in a government-funded study.

 

“Our initial work with that study and what we’re doing now has been centered around the role of universities in developing entrepreneurial programs and to teach how to be innovative and creative from that standpoint,” Novoa said.

 

That initial assessment led to EDL partnerships with two non-profits Grupo Guayacan and Echar Pa’lante to implement a host of programs funded by various organizations.

 

Some of the collaborative accomplishments in Puerto Rico in the last three years alone include:

 

  • Startup bootcamps for 80 entrepreneurial teams.
  • Successful teams have raised $5 million in capital.
  • The launch of the island’s first-ever seed fund, which raised a $1 million.
  • Building one of the first mentor networks.
  • Supporting the University of Puerto Rico licensing its first securing the first license technology in its history.
  • Trained over 400 faculty and ecosystem members in lean startups techniques.
  • Supporting a $40 million research grant in cell manufacturing technologies for a consortium of partners that includes Georgia Tech, Emory University, and the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez.

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