GFDD’s Participation in Dominican Week Concludes with Collaborative Innovation Panel at the New Jersey Institute of Technology

May 9, 2014

GFDD and FUNGLODE joined the American Chamber of Commerce DR (AMCHAMDR) at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) on Friday, May 9, 2014 to conclude Dominican Week 2014 (Semana Dominicana) in the United States with an event entitled “Collaborative Innovation and Its Impact on Business.”

The event signaled a continuation of the relationship between the Dominican Republic and NJIT, which has been collaborating with GFDD and
FUNGLODE as well as the Ministry of Education and other institutions in the country, to develop STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education criteria. It brought together high-level businesspeople from both international and Dominican companies and higher education professionals to discuss ways to build upon this relationship and collaborate to generate ideas for innovative products and services which could have an impact on development and growth of business in the
Dominican Republic and Latin America.

InteRDom and Fellows Program Manager Mandy Sciacchitano opened the event on behalf of GFDD/FUNGLODE, expressing the interest of the organization to continue facilitating dialogue and exchange of ideas around these and other topics.  The audience, composed of both NJIT faculty and staff members as well as Dominican higher education and business representatives, was then able to see the Foundation’s institutional video to learn about the many ways that
GFDD can serve as a bridge to facilitate these collaborative efforts.

Following the video presentation, Roberto Herrera, President of the Dominican Week Organizing Committee of AMCHAMDR, made some remarks introducing AMCHAMDR and the aims of Dominican Week to the NJIT participants.  He then passed the microphone to William Cassidy, independent consultant and one of the spearhead organizers of the relationship between NJIT and the Dominican Republic, to introduce the
main speakers of the morning, NJIT President Dr. Joel Bloom and New Jersey Innovation Institute (NJII) President, Dr. Donald Sebastian.

Dr. Bloom began his presentation with a brief history of the Institute, outlining its mission to serve as a bridge between academia and business, particularly to spearhead economic development.  He highlighted the institute’s emphasis on research, with over $110 million annual expenditures, and the more than 3,000 graduate
students conducting high-level field work.

Dr. Sebastian then took the stage to discuss the incorporation, objectives and work of the NJII, a separately incorporated private division of NJIT as a focal point for industry-university partnerships as the preferred model to do business.  The NJII is organized around individual industrial sectors, and it brings resources to businesses, helping to develop individual companies and bring together sectors and university
departments to chart the path forward.

“There are entrepreneurs the world over with bright ideas… we help to turn those into companies,” Dr. Sebastian said.  “You cannot have an invention if you don’t know how to use it and convert it into a finished product—this is a critical element of the innovation process.  You need the business systems, product testing and characterization and product design to make it a

Following Dr. Sebastian’s presentation, Dr. Bloom identified the areas of collaboration that he saw feasible between NJIT/NJII and the Dominican Republic, which included opportunities to involve companies, entrepreneurs, students and government in the process.  He then opened the floor for participants to introduce themselves and to put forth their own particular opportunities and challenges.

William Malamud, Executive
Vice President of AMCHAMDR cited the Dominican Republic’s attractiveness as near-shore candidate for industries looking to move their production factories from Asia, due to a combination of rising labor costs and higher cost of transport.  Both Malamud and Osvaldo Larancuent, TIC Committee Member at AMCHAM, purported that one of the Dominican Republic’s major challenges is the lack of STEM education in K-12 education, and the subsequent lack of interest in those
fields at the university level.  Also affecting the development of this sector is the widening gap between the preparedness of university graduates and the needs of the labor market, a gap which Cassidy said was being addressed through NJIT and Montclair State University’s collaboration with the Dominican Ministry of Education to pilot STEM programs in elementary and middle schools and implement a specialized teacher training workshop.

To continue this
point, Dr. Bloom claimed “You have to dedicate yourself to the pipeline,” referring to the fortification of K-12 STEM education as a first step toward stimulating innovation in the engineering and technology sectors.

Each of the more than twenty participants then introduced themselves and identified areas of collaboration in their particular industry, before Larancuent closed the three-hour presentation with some comments to tie together the many
different threads touched upon during the discussion.

Following the activity, student ambassadors from NJIT gave a tour of the campus to the Dominican business leaders, offering them their personal insights into the formative opportunities that the Institute provides.

About the American Chamber of Commerce DR (AMCHAMDR)
AmChamDR is a not-for-profit organization made up of around 2,500 companies, both
Dominican and American, that seeks to empower its members to develop their potential to the maximum based on three pillars – economic, professional, and social – through the facilitation of access to knowledge, opportunities, a culture of best practices, respect for the rule of law, and corporate social responsibility.

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