Thursday, July 9, 2020

Carlos Mataix, director of the itdUPM: "Technologies can be powerful but alone they do not change the world"

“New technological trends and innovation can be very attractive and powerful, but alone they do not change the world. It is necessary to create ecosystems around them, to work together towards the common good ”.

Carlos Mataix is ​​director of the Center for Innovation in Technology for Human Development at the Polytechnic University of Madrid (itdUPM), a space that integrates researchers, teachers, and students working in collaboration with companies, civil society organizations and the public administration to address significant social problems and co-create solutions in line with the United Nations SDGs.

Professor at the UPM School of Industrial Engineers and an expert in innovation and alliances in the field of development and sustainability, he was one of the founders of the NGO Ingeniería Sin Fronteras. Matrix has been one of the drivers of the Shire Alliance, an innovation platform that researches and applies sustainable solutions to improve access and quality of energy services in refugee camps.

"This alliance goes far beyond traditional cooperation, it is a laboratory that is generating better living conditions in the Adi-Harush field (Shire, Ethiopia)," he says.

It is the first alliance in humanitarian action in Spain, made up of Spanish companies –Iberdrola and Signify-, a business foundation –, the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) and the Polytechnic University of Madrid. Between 2018 and 2022, access to energy will be extended to three new refugee camps with EU funding.

This alliance “should be taken as an example to radically rethink development cooperation. We need a system change. What is being considered is a model of radical generosity, different and far from the obsession with the project, the ego, or the medals. Because the 2030 agenda is telling us about a deep, systemic, and accelerated transformation ”.

Alianza Shire is an example of collaboration between competing energy companies that, nevertheless, have managed to promote a common interest: multiply by 100 the project not only in funds but also in impact, reaching a reach of 50,000 people.

“It is important to abandon a technocentric vision of innovation to focus on social and cultural changes. In the EU, programs are being rethought by focusing on the idea of ​​mission directionality in technology, science, and innovation. ”

Some elements make alliances work: rules, work processes, and values.

“We continue to think obsessively in terms of a project and not an interconnected project, of learning platforms that allow us to incorporate what you learn. Through the training of the refugees themselves, the beneficiaries of the aid become actors who build a reality, "explains Matrix.

For Matrix, we are exactly in the middle of the digital revolution: “We know that in technological revolutions there is a first stage where there are massive investments and the benefits are concentrated in a few, thus generating inequality. And then there is a transition stage in which the benefits of technology expand and improve people's lives. We are in a transition phase and what happens will depend on what we know how to negotiate, interpret, and design among all ”.

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