Puebla Declaration on the role of universities in the socioeconomic development of their territories

«Towards the promotion of research and innovation with regional impact»

May 18, 2023

Throughout history, universities have played diverse roles that have evolved according to
the needs of humanity. For years, the university was a place for the transmission of
knowledge from masters to disciples. At a later stage, universities began to function as
centers for the generation of knowledge, this knowledge being an end in itself. Today, the
university is called to play a preponderant role in society beyond educating people and
generating knowledge. In the era of Industry 4.0 and the great global challenges, universities
are beginning to think of themselves as actors within an ecosystem that demands their
specialized knowledge, not only for training and research, but also for the development of
shared value initiatives that allow them to overcome current challenges and solve the needs
of their population. In short, universities are called to have a social impact, starting with
their territories.

However, in order to develop shared value initiatives that contribute to the socioeconomic
development of their territories, a profound reflection is required on the priorities that
currently guide the research and innovation policies and processes of universities, since
there is an evident tension between the demands of the sector and those of society at large.
On the one hand, government agencies and accreditation bodies measure universities
mainly on the basis of their scientific production capacity, without taking into account the
connection of such production with societal needs. On the other hand, other sectors of
society speak of the lack of relevance of the current university model. They do not wish to
know about the areas of excellence of universities (what they are good at), but about their
capacity to contribute to the solution of the challenges faced by society (what they are good

In this context, the Erasmus+ I2LATAM project aimed to generate transformations in Latin
American higher education institutions to develop research and innovation processes that
facilitate and promote collaboration with stakeholders for the development of shared value
initiatives. The project lasted three and a half years and was developed by a group of 14
institutions from Europe and Latin America that shared best practices and developed
different actions in this area.

Based on the results of the project and the reflection processes that took place throughout
it, a shared vision is proposed to achieve institutional transformations, as well as in the
higher education systems in Latin America regarding the role of the university in territorial
development. We consider that this statement is of particular interest to those individuals
or institutions of higher education that consider the relationship with their territory as part
of their mission.

Objective of the declaration:
The purpose of this statement is to invite individuals and institutions of higher education to
reflect on their role in the development of territories, with an emphasis on the potential of
research and innovation for this purpose.

In this statement, regional or territorial development refers to the improvement of social,
economic and environmental conditions in the areas of influence of a university.
We, the signatories of this declaration, provide the following recommendations to promote
research and innovation with regional impact:

1. Latin American higher education institutions may develop research and innovation
agendas in conjunction with external actors, thus managing to connect local
problems with the global perspective provided by research.

2. Universities shall review their structures and periodically self-evaluate themselves in
order to better respond to the challenges of society.

3. The third mission of the university shall go beyond the transfer of technology or the
creation of new enterprises; it shall aim at the social, economic and environmental
development of society.

4. Concrete spaces for interaction may be enabled with external actors around
problems of shared interest, to foster open innovation.

5. Universities can promote spaces for socialization of research or projects with
regional impact, in order to promote the active participation of the academic
community in these initiatives.

6. Local actors shall have a prominent place in the university, as they connect the
challenges of society with local realities.

7. Efforts shall be made to ensure the sustainability and comprehensive character of
the university’s initiatives and their relation with external stakeholders.

8. Researchers shall try to grasp the connection between the local and the global, in
order to leverage local, national and international resources for the solution of
societal problems.

9. Researchers shall have constant access to information on the main indicators of
socio-economic development and competitiveness of their territories to enable
them to integrate this information into their research and find key partners.

10. Metrics and incentives for research can enable this alignment and shall recognize
the socio-economic and environmental impact of research results.

11. Research education can integrate the fundamentals of territorial development and
build capacity to develop research with external stakeholders.
Likewise, the signatories recommend that:

12. Subnational governments generate policies and instruments that tangibly promote
the collaboration for the creation of impact initiatives between the university and
external actors for the solution of local and global problems.

Who signs the declaration?
The individuals signing this declaration do so on their own behalf. The declaration may also
be signed on behalf of an institution by its legal representative when the institution deems
it appropriate.

This statement is intended to be international in scope. If you wish to sign it, you may
complete this brief form indicating your name, affiliation (optional) and your motivation for
signing it.

European Commission’s Disclaimer:
The Erasmus+ I2LATAM project is co-funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are
however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the
European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor EACEA can be
held responsible for them.