Ruta N, based in Medellin, Colombia has been lauded as one of the most innovative hotbeds in the world. Having emerged as a joint public venture, Ruta N serves as a platform that helps spur development of innovative, tech-based companies. Acting as a catalyst for the thriving innovative ecosystem, Ruta N has certainly contributed to Medellin being hailed as the world’s “Most Innovative City”, an award conferred by the Wall Street Journal, Citi Financial Group and Urban Land Institute. Situated in a 33,140m2 three-building complex, Ruta N is home to EPM-UNE research laboratories, the ViveLab animation learning centre, international companies, and international start-ups.
The story of Ruta N began in 2009 when the City of Medellin joined forces with public telecommunications company EPM-UNE in accomplishing the mission to transform the city into an innovation mecca. The joint undertaking was rooted in the Strategic Plan (Strategic Science, Technology and Innovation Plan 2011-2021) that identified three priority areas relevant to the regional context, those being: information and communication technologies (ICTs), energy, and health. The plan ambitiously aims to turn Medellin into the Latin American capital of innovation.
The Core Mission and Activities
To achieve its ambitious mission, the Strategic Plan lays out 3 directorates:
- The Directorate for Innovation Platforms is charged with developing and improving the conditions of the regional innovation system with main target groups being universities, business incubators, technology development centres and knowledge brokers.
- The Directorate for Knowledge-based Business is responsible for facilitating the activities of knowledge-based businesses, encouraging high value transactions and fostering the supportive ecosystem in general.
- The Directorate for Innovation Culture is tasked with promoting social appropriation of science, technology and innovation and fostering inclusion and sustainability in the city of Medellin.
One of the colossal missions further includes the creation of Medellinnovation District, a technological district next to the University of Antioquia in the north of the city, with the aim of attracting the best companies, institutions and entrepreneurs primarily in the areas of health, energy, and Information Technology and Communications.
The core activities undertaken by the centre include: (1) developing entrepreneurial talent, (2) establishing strong networks both inside and outside the ecosystem, (3) securing capital for innovation, and (4) providing adequate and sufficient infrastructure for start-ups and innovative companies. In the frame of developing and shaping talent, predominantly in the areas of STEM, Ruta N has designed and implemented various educational programs for schoolchildren in different grades. In its attempt to contribute to social dimension, sustainability and inclusivity Ruta N delivers free workshops, offers fablabs and creative working spaces open for everyone.
The Success in Figures
Owing to its sustained efforts, Ruta N has made a sizeable impact in the context of Medellin and Colombia. One of the most prominent achievements includes creating over 3000 new jobs since its inception due to having welcomed over 150 local and international businesses in its premises. For a country that grappled with record high unemployment rates in the first decade of 2000s, this achievement has been of particular importance for the economy of Colombia. The centre has made a major impact in the aspects of social mobility and poverty reduction as well, as over 7000 underprivileged children have befitted from the services offered by the centre in the area of STEM training. Ruta N has also linked global networks to the ecosystem that have facilitated the connection of 16 funds and establishment of 20 investment mechanisms for the launch of new innovative enterprises in Medellin and attracted 3 business development centres (Atom House4, Biointrop-ic5 and Endeavor6) to scale up start-ups in specific markets.
With a diverse palette of offerings and activities, with numerous success stories under its belt, Ruta N is on a good track to transform Medellin into a global innovation centre and enhance the quality of life of its “Paisas”.
Would you like to learn more about the Ruta N and its approach to entrepreneurship, education and technology? Please find the original case study report here.
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 Paisa – a person coming from a region in the northwest of Colombia.