As the pairing progressed, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the Americas Competitiveness Exchange may have found common ground.
University leaders, researchers and administrators from UL Lafayette led by President E. Joseph Savoie and Ramesh Kolluru, Vice President for Research, Innovation and Economic Development met on Wednesday with more than 60 “thought leaders touring 21 countries on Wednesday, part of a larger effort to find common cause and potential partnerships between Louisiana and ACE members.
The ACE website said Louisiana is “a pioneer of technology growth in advanced manufacturing, power generation, port logistics, biosciences, healthcare, water management and various fast-growing sectors”.
Most of the countries represented were located from Canada to Argentina as well as Caribbean island nations. Those on tour spend six days in Louisiana. The visitors met with potential partners in New Orleans and Baton Rouge on Monday and Tuesday, met with representatives from Acadiana on Wednesday and will travel as far north as Alexandria on Thursday. On Friday, their trip will end in New Orleans.
A spokesperson said visitors stopped by Tulane University and LSU earlier this week.
The Americas Competitiveness Exchange, which focuses on economic development, innovation and networking of entrepreneurs in the Americas, is linked to the Organization of American States, the oldest regional organization in the world.
“We hope this translates into economic opportunities, faculty exchanges and more,” Kolluru said before the tour group arrived from their morning stop at CGI in Lafayette. UL Lafayette IT and Security Representatives; energy and sustainability; advanced materials; climate change and coastal and water research; and Human, Community and Economic Development presented exhibits and discussed possible joint projects with members of the group.
Kolluru said Wednesday would mark the start of conversations between potential partners, including partners who may invest in Louisiana or who may partner with UL in their home countries. At least one deal involving IT seemed possible.
The ACE group visited the Water Campus in Baton Rouge; the Port of New Orleans, which showcases the state’s logistical superiority and demonstrates the revolutionary SmartPort initiative; the New Orleans BioInnovation Center and BioDistrict, which will host a discussion on the dramatic expansion of the life sciences sector throughout Louisiana; LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge; and Avondale Marine in Jefferson Parish.
In a prepared statement, Governor John Bel Edwards, who met with the visitors, said hosting ACE “is both an extraordinary honor and a unique opportunity for business owners, entrepreneurs, Louisiana innovators and decision makers.
“It’s proof that Louisiana’s diverse culture and economy are capturing the attention of decision-makers around the world who are looking to learn from our example.” And it raises awareness of the natural resources, infrastructure advantages and business climate that have made Louisiana a national leader in foreign direct investment per capita for the past 10 years,” Edwards said.
Maryse Robert, spokesperson for ACE, said those making the trip were “decision makers” – people authorized to discuss possible partnerships and projects. They include “high-level” representatives from the public sector, deputy ministers, principal directors from the private sector and representatives from academia.
Robert said the tour groups – this is ACE’s 14th such group – “are looking for collaborations and partnerships and trying to foster connections and develop business investment”.
Tour groups visit major cities and outlying regions “to learn about outstanding best practices”, she said. “We see innovation happening everywhere.”
Kolluru told visitors that UL Lafayette was recently granted R1 research status; only Tulane and LSU have achieved this status in Louisiana. Robert said the level of achievement was “one of the reasons we are here”.
She said the group was “particularly impressed” by the warm reception they received in Louisiana.
Josh Caffery, director of the Center for Louisiana Studies, displayed books published by UL Press and noted that its display testified that UL Lafayette takes its “mission as a cultural steward” seriously. A steady stream of visitors stopped in front of his display to visit.
Geoffrey Stewart, director of the LEED Center, said he expected discussions with visitors about rural and minority entrepreneurship programs and promoting diversity and inclusion in economic development – issues that visitors could have in their country of origin.