ESCP Europe and Uniandes to research connections between Latin American and European SMEs

December 4, 2015

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Published in General News

During a visit to Uniandes, 35 students from ESCP Europe, one of the top management schools in the world, received classes in Bogotá as part of their international program. We spoke to Florence Pinot de Villechenon, Associate Professor at the Department of Economics, Law and Social Sciences and director of CERALE, (Centre d’Etudes et de RechercheAmériqueLatine – Europe), a center that fosters joint research between European and Latin American Experts on a broad range of issues, including management topics.

Professor, in Europe, is Colombia becoming more interesting to do business?

Today, Colombia occupies an important place in European radars. In the early years of this millennium, attention was placed mostly on Asia, particularly China, neglecting slightly Latin America. But looking now at the strategies of ministries of foreign affairs and business circles, many people are looking with special interest towards this continent integrate it into their strategies. From the European point of view, one can first note Brazil by the size of its market. Then there's Mexico, overshadowed a bit by the issue of the drug trafficking. Then Chile, which has had no major changes and maintains its market of 17 million. And in that order remains Colombia, a bigger market than Chile’s and which has been looked upon with great interest, especially in the context of the Pacific Alliance.

Notice that the French Development Agency (AFD), which is developing infrastructure and energy efficiency projects, has headquarters only in Brazil, Mexico and Colombia. This speaks of a thought out strategy, which in this case deals with topics such as urban living and responsible management of natural resources, among others.

Why did you choose to come to Colombia?

I found Colombia to be an excellent choice because it is a country that the European business community is paying close attention to. Both large companies and Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) are talking about relations between Europe and Latin America. We also had an excellent academic option, which was to make the program with the UniandesSchool of Management, which is well known. This is another important point because these seminars make ties between institutions and to make academic cooperation.

Does ESCP Europe have plans with Universidad de los Andes?

We are working on an ambitious agreement that will allow us to combine a series of academic initiatives with high added value. Student exchange programs are essential, but what leaves us more revenue as an institution is faculty mobility, collaborating between graduate programs, double degrees and joint investigations. If all goes well, the issue of joint research is something that will be able to boost in the near future.

Any specific projects you can mention?

Yes. I came here with a project that I want to propose. The European Commission, with its European, Latin America and Caribbean Foundation, EULAC, which is responsible for regional relations, has entrusted to our research center (Cerale) a project for qualitative work on Latin American SMEs to study 9 countries, including Colombia, to determine barriers and facilitators of better connections with European SMEs. We plan on undertaking this research project with the Universidad de los Andes School of Management.

How will this research be done?

We will do mainly interviews. Then we will draft a report with all the data gathered in the 9 countries and offer different universities the possibility to use that information to serve their own publications or also as teaching material.

What is your goal with this research project?

A thorough and insightful report, and a more precise picture of what can be done working together. EULAC is aspiring for a second phase which would be a training or education program for SMEs. In that case we will be interested in working with several of our partners, and Uniandes would surely be one of them.

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