Leader Profile: Juan Carlos Navarro, Team Leader and Principal Specialist in Science and Technology, Inter-American Development Bank

In this fast-paced, highly competitive world, technological advancement has given countries the upper hand in accelerating their progress and development. Uruguay is one of these nations investing in technology to achieve its growth targets. Acquiring a US$ 34 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the South American nation hopes to encourage more technological innovation to further its development efforts.

“Uruguay’s government has placed innovation policy as a cornerstone of the growth strategy of the country in the years to come,” said Juan Carlos Navarro, IDB Principal Specialist in Science and Technology, who leads the bank’s US$ 34 million technological innovation program in the country.

“It is worth pointing out that this particular loan to Uruguay is highly innovative in its format, since it is oriented to results,” Navarro explained, citing that Uruguay can only avail of a loan upon achieving “a previously defined development goal.”

The IDB specialist discussed that the funding will support projects aimed at encouraging private firms to conduct innovative activities, establishing and maintaining technological services by investing in equipment and personnel, providing scholarships abroad for Uruguayan students in the fields of engineering and sciences, and utilizing technological solutions to address social dilemmas such as environmental protection and public health.

As team leader, Navarro is responsible for ensuring the “quality and timeliness of the project.” To do this, he conducts “an active dialogue with national authorities” to address concerns in the lending program, in addition to creating and leading a multidisciplinary team of professionals, who deal with issues on project design ranging “anywhere from technological policy options, costing of activities, gathering of lessons learned from previous projects, institutional assessment, provisions for monitoring and evaluation of the project, to legal issues.”

The intricacies of his work have brought about tremendous challenges such as delivering the desired objectives of projects to fill in developmental gaps within a country, synchronizing various aspects of project preparation to meet tight deadlines and ensuring that a project can be fully implemented. “It will be of no practical consequence if it looks well on paper but no realistic execution strategy has been planned in advance,” Navarro added.

As an international development professional, Navarro said he gets to work with “many highly capable, committed and interesting people” from academe, the business, government and academic sectors. He finds fulfillment in contributing to a country’s development and “solving so many concrete challenges in terms of the design of the project” such as evaluating policy options and resolving contradictory advice, among others.

Navarro, a Venezuelan, has held his current post for a year. He was previously involved in the bank’s work in the educational sector.

He holds a degree in sociology from the Catholic University Andres Bello, in Caracas, Venezuela, a master’s in public policy from Georgetown University, in Washington DC, and doctoral studies in Political Science from the Central University Venezuela.

A researcher and author on topics related to science and technology and education, Navarro supports lending and technical assistance activities in these fields. He looks forward to contributing more for the development of these two sectors, “hopefully in a diverse and renewed set of national contexts, since … learning from exposure to new realities is one of the main sources of professional satisfaction.”

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