ara.cat: WHO DON’T CRY, NO MAMACHUSSETS.
By Ramon-Jordi Moles
Published in Catalan: June 25, 2012
President Mas, among others, visited Boston to discuss and project the aspirations of Catalonia, looking to the successes of Massachusetts as a role model. In this sense, the objective has been achieved. A task such as this has to be worked on daily, as this is the basis for success. We are not starting from scratch, and initiatives have been taken for years, including the development of several ICREA Catalan research centers (all under the auspices of Minister Mas Colell), showing that this path is possible. Now, following in those footsteps, we must work to achieve this set goal. Despite the similarities between Catalonia and Massachusetts, we are aware of some serious obstacles and limitations that are not only the responsibility of others, but also a main priority of ours.
The civil society in Massachusetts is very committed, and the Bostonian do not expect public funding to undertake initiatives. There is a strong civil sphere comprised of the public and private sector working as a “collective,” which includes; foundations, “endowment fund”, sponsorship, covering the fields of knowledge “applied” or business and social sciences and humanities. We see this every day in our participation at WCCP (World Class Cities Partnership), a network of research centers developed one year ago with the private support of, until now, only Bostonian companies. Barcelona and GRISC, along with Boston and other cities and research centers, are all participating members of WCCP.
Unfortunately, the situation is not the same in Catalonia. The demeanor of our society and of Catalan companies towards an understanding of society is not comparable to that of Massachusetts. There are but a few exceptions that maintain the pulse for a commitment to support research. The financing of knowledge in Catalonia has been and continues to be both public (now with serious limitations) and private (to a lesser extent), and is focused directly on performance and possible immediate benefit , with a strong reverential fear of entrepreneurship. Without a firm commitment from the private sector, which must understand that putting money towards research is an investment rather than spending, and a civil society that identifies the necessity to support research development, it is impossible to replicate the American system.
The Greater Boston area, unlike the Great Barcelona, has the powerful tool of private investment and an understanding of the language of venture capital and entrepreneurship. In the case of Catalan, and Spain in general, the capital has clearly objected to these activities and has focused on speculative activities ( construction and financial economics), maintaining the idea that it cannot be said that it has not done anything. As an example, we can think of the investments flowing into the public sector research for “bio.” Would it not have been better if we were able to match one private euro for every public euro? Shouldn’t we be willing to double the resources and the distance we are willing to go? In the end, the private sector would also benefit from publicly funded research: a model of public-private partnership could be an appropriate and necessary contribution to the Catalan system.
The American model has other efficiently-run knowledge structures, including universities and research centers. Unlike the academic bureaucracy that immobilizes us in Catalonia, Bostonians hold themselves accountable to society and are free to set goals, offer contracts to researchers, practitioners and teachers, and attract private financing. Confidence comes from seeing results, as solid links between the companies and the research centers are established, giving merit to the creation of spin-offs for the universities. Our model is based on distrust and a lack of freedom based on “acquired rights,” where the bureaucracy reigns and the results are not measurable, creating companies that are not only a complication, but are also frowned upon and not “academic,” as if the university had prohibited the creation of wealth. With this scenario, you can only imagine the results of the 2011-2012 WCCP research project entitled ”How universities can help cities attract and retain talent.”
“ Because who does not cry, no mama, maybe it’s time we put the batteries.”
Ramon-Jordi Moles is the Former Secretary General of Universities of the Generalitat de Catalunya.