In order to further strengthen COMSATS’ collaborative links with its focal point and Centre of Excellence in Colombia, a delegation of COMSATS Secretariat visited Bogota, Colombia, from 1st to 6th September 2019. The delegation was led by Ambassador (R) Fauzia Nasreen, Advisor (SDGs), and comprised of Ms. Huma Balouch (Senior Assistant Director Programmes) and Mr. Laeeq Hassan Jaswal (Manager Strategic Partnerships).
On 2nd September 2019, the visiting delegates accompanied by Dr. Eduardo Posada (Director of International Centre of Physics (CIF), COMSATS’ Centre of Excellence in Colombia) held a meeting with Ms. Maria Piedad Villaveces, Executive Director of Colombian Association for the Advancement of Science (CAAS). After receiving a briefing on COMSATS, Ms. Villaveces showed great interest in replicating COMSATS University Islamabad (CUI) model in Colombia.
Later during the day, the delegation visited Colombian Academy of EXACT, Physical and Natural Sciences, where they met with the Academy’s President, Dr. Enrique Ferero. During the meeting, presentation about COMSATS and Academy were exchanged between the two sides which resulted in identification of following areas for bilateral cooperation: tele-health, climate education and curricula development. Dr. Ferero suggested streamlining COMSATS’ International Thematic Research Groups (ITRGs) projects and activities in accordance with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Further, he pledged his support for setting-up of COMSATS’ Regional Office in Bogota and expanding COMSATS’ membership within Latin American region.
The visit to COMSATS’ Focal Point, COLCIENCIAS, was made on 3rd September 2019, wherein opportunities of furthering the collaboration were explored in a meeting with Ms. Sonia Esperanza Monroy and other members of COLCIENCIAS international office. It was communicated to COMSATS’ delegation that in view of the Colombia’s development plan (2018-2022), the country is attaching great importance to STI for national development and progress which is indicated by the upgradation of COLCIENCIAS, the highest level scientific forum, to Ministry (to be renamed as MINCIENCIAS). Under the umbrella of MINCIENCIAS, it was informed, focus will be given to national STI programmes; mindset and culture (management of knowledge and innovation); technological development and innovation; and Colombia Bio (focusing on bio-expedition, historical expeditions, regionalization, bio-products and scientific ecosystems, and bio-internationalization). Furthermore, matter of Colombia’s Annual Membership Contribution (AMC) to COMSATS was discussed along with the particulars of establishing COMSATS’ Regional Office in Colombia.
Further during the day, a visit was made to National University of Colombia, where the delegates met with Dr. Luz Teresa Gomez (Vice Rector of Research) and Prof. Melba Libua Cardenas (Director of Office of External Affairs). Areas of common interest that transpired from the discussions were: energy, health, education, information technology and environment. Dr. Gomez expressed interest in initiating student exchanges between COMSATS University Islamabad (CUI) and its counterparts in Colombia.
An important meeting was held at CIF, Colombia, on 5th September, which was attended by a group of scientists and researchers from CIF. Dr. Posada, the Director of the Institute, introduced to the delegates the multidisciplinary research work being undertaken by CIF in diverse fields that include: biophysics, applied physics, material sciences, optics and environmental biotechnology. It was proposed that CIF may conduct short courses on different topics in developing countries. Discussions regarding operationalization of COMSATS’ Regional Office in Bogota were also a feature of the meeting. Once functional, such a Regional Office could serve the Latin American and Caribbean countries as well as Western Africa. Subsequent to the meeting, the delegates were shown around various facilities and laboratories of the Institute including: Chip design laboratory, Cellular Bio Laboratory, Microbiology and Biochemistry Laboratories, Spectroscopy and Ranging (LIDAR) system, and Genetic Research Institute of National University.
During their visit, the delegation visited Tec Laser, an industrial unit, which is an example of spinoff of the scientific work and linkage between engineers, scientists and industry. The possibility of utilizing Colombian expertise for setting-up a science museum in Pakistan on the lines of Maluka Museum was also explored during the visit to the said museum.
The visit was successful in reinforcing relationship between COMSATS and Colombia that would lead to Colombia’s greater participation in COMSATS’ programmes and activities, as well as in the upcoming Commission meeting.