Elīna Lidere: Innovations for the national defense

 

 I follow the war in Ukraine while I am in the USA. I am studying at the University at Buffalo computer science and innovation management program in the special program to help university faculty improve their digital skills coordinated and administered by Riga Business School as the structural unit of RTU and funded by ERDF*. Though I am located comparatively far from the borders of Ukraine, nevertheless politicians, entrepreneurs and representatives of the art world here are trying to stand against the aggression of Russia. Of course, Americans have different feelings about this war, not being so close to the aggressor. Still, there are several things we can learn from them.  

 

Economic supremacy 

 

Already in the first lecture after Russia invaded  Ukraine, the instructor in the technology business course (Robert Neubert) began his lecture by placing the map of the Ukrainian war on the presentation screen. He asked all students whether they are aware of what is shown there and why it is important. I would not say that there were many active answers in the audience but the message of the professor became clear to everyone. He emphasized that the USA achieved superiority over the Soviet Union, exactly thanks to economic dominance. The professor emphasized that each and every one of us present in the lecture room are responsible for how economically strong and, consequently, secure America will be in the future.  

Just like military equipment, knowledgeable and skillful people, also economic sanctions are a weapon of war. For good reason after the thrill of the opportunities of globalization, now, increasingly, more countries are seeking ways to strengthen their economic sovereignty. Even if it seems impossible and expensive; resources in crucial sectors are allocated to the economy of the future and opportunities are searched for how to develop these skills in their own country.  

 

Innovation spirit for students 

 

Today the number of entrepreneurs in the USA is bigger than ever before. Students, at least here at the University at Buffalo, receive a versatile education and are encouraged to create their own ideas and develop their own business, before searching for a job in the corporate environment. Frequently they use the business plans of their studies as the stepping stone to start their own businesses.  

It is interesting that engineers and software developers also actively study business administration here. In Latvia we see computer sciences more as a deficit workforce but here I see a great focus also on the creation of innovations. In total, the USA invests a lot in the development of digital skills to promote economic growth and security. Here they consider that everyone can learn to code. Therefore, at the University of Buffalo courses in computer science are provided in various fields – not only engineering sciences but also medicine and, for example, digital art programming in media studies.   

In order to achieve faster growth in technological knowledge, the USA is attracting a lot of foreign students and university faculty members who are later involved also in research. Similarly, as the co-creator of Riga TechGirls I cannot refrain from mentioning that here special consideration is paid to the increasing involvement of girls and women in learning digital skills. In the end it is half of the potential talents who would remain outside this field otherwise.  

 

Role of companies in research

 

Getting acquainted with the local innovation ecosystem in Buffalo, I understood how great the role of mutual cooperation is. The university works very closely with local companies and they operate together in an integrated manner. The same experience I have also observed in the Scandinavian countries. In Latvia the innovation ecosystem in this regard still has a very big development potential – both not to be afraid of the strengthening of local companies and research and being able to afford the most extensive political ambitions in innovations, as well as to develop traditions for closer contact and exchange of information between the participants of the ecosystem of innovations.  

In this context, it was also interesting to get to know the culture of the universities of the USA where the mutual connection of the existing and former university students, as well as academic staff is greatly facilitated and developed. For example, students in the innovation management subjects which I attended were asked to search for LinkedIn experts who have graduated from the University at Buffalo and therefore would be more willing to help. In this sense in Latvia every one of us is within a hands reach, and it is an opportunity to be used! 

Elīna Lidere,  

Participant of the Latvian education digitization and leadership program at the University at Buffalo, Co-creator of Riga TechGirls, Innovations Ecosystems Lead at LMT 

 

*The study program is implemented in frame of the agreement concluded between the Riga Technical University and Central Finance and Contracting Agency regarding the project “Support for RTU international cooperation projects in research and innovations” (1.1.1.5/18/I/008).