November 1, 2017

Purdue, Peruvian university enter into research and innovation alliance

Purdue UNSA Representatives from Purdue, UNSA and Core Foundation met at the Universidad Nacional San Agustín in Arequipa, Peru. From left are Ricardo Torreblanca, Core Foundation president; Rohel Sánchez Sánchez, UNSA rector; Tomás Díaz de la Rubia, chief scientist and executive director of Discovery Park; Horacio Barreda Tamayo, UNSA vice rector for investigation; and Tim Filley, Purdue professor of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences and agronomy. (Photo courtesy of Paola Torreblanca-Fischer, Core Foundation, vice president) Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University and the Purdue Research Foundation signed a strategic research and commercialization alliance on Tuesday (Oct. 31) with the Universidad Nacional de San Agustin (UNSA) in the Arequipa region of Peru to accelerate the development of sustainable solutions to the linked socioeconomic and environmental challenges impacting use and supply systems for the region’s food, water and energy.

“In acting globally, Purdue looks for opportunities to make lasting impact on a large scale,” Purdue President Mitch Daniels said. “Purdue works to create a happier, healthier and more prosperous Indiana. I hope that this will help UNSA create a happier, healthier and more prosperous Arequipa, Peru and Latin America.”

The UNSA alliance is the latest example of Purdue’s growing international impact with programs already in place in Africa, Colombia, India, China and Ireland. The goal of the partnership is to make UNSA the premier location in Latin America for cutting-edge environmental sustainability research and innovation, and technology transfer.

“We are thrilled to have found a strategic partner in Purdue and Discovery Park, whose mission and themes dovetail seamlessly with the vision of UNSA,” said Rohel Sánchez Sánchez, UNSA’s rector (president). “The new alliance will draw on Purdue’s unique expertise, which will foster innovation, solutions and economic prosperity locally and regionally.”

The partnership, which represents one of the largest collaborative international projects in Purdue’s history, comprises four key elements, including the establishment of the Arequipa Nexus Institute for Food, Energy, Water and the Environment, the UNSA-Foundry and Tech park, a curriculum development program, and an English language program. Initially, the focus will be on the development of the Nexus institute, which will facilitate collaboration through targeted interdisciplinary projects addressing challenges and needs in the social sciences, food security and safety, water source and quality, and soil health.

“We are confident this alliance will create a new era of knowledge, discovery and innovation for UNSA and help solve some of the grand challenges facing Peru, Latin America and the world,” said Tomás Díaz de la Rubia, chief scientist and executive director of Discovery Park. “The alliance will work to bring a convergence of transdisciplinary ideas to find transformative solutions to the challenges facing the region.”

Purdue’s Center for the Environment (C4E) in Discovery Park will be the administrative and collaborative link to UNSA in establishing the Nexus Institute in Arequipa. Timothy Filley, professor of geochemistry and soil science at Purdue University and interim director of C4E, will co-direct the Nexus Institute’s scientific programs and partnerships together with his counterpart at UNSA, Henry Gustavo Cornejo Polanco, professor and dean of the School of Process Engineering at UNSA.

“The institute’s long-term goal is to serve as the reference point for Latin American research on sustainable watershed management, agricultural innovation and development, soil and water quality assessment, science-based decision-making, and agro-economic development through interdisciplinary research,” Filley said. “Purdue’s broad scientific and engineering expertise cuts across these areas which has allowed us to develop a strong, collaborative research network with UNSA colleagues.”

More than 70 faculty and staff representing 23 departments and eight colleges at Purdue are already involved in the development of several initial research projects designed to partner with UNSA faculty and students to address the challenges facing Peru. In addition, Purdue’s Polytechnic Institute is helping UNSA plan the Nexus Institute building. Located in the Majes agricultural valley of Arequipa, it will be equipped with state-of-the-art instrumentation, conference facilities and residential quarters for visiting scientists.

Discovery Park will also help UNSA create a technology park and commercialization hub similar to Purdue’s Foundry, where students, faculty and others work together to move entrepreneurial ideas to the marketplace. Plans to set up a technology transfer program similar to Purdue Research Foundation’s Office of Technology Commercialization are also in discussion.

“Purdue is a world leader in creating new ideas, and the Purdue Research Foundation is a world leader in how you translate those ideas to impact,” said Greg Deason, senior vice president of the Purdue Research Foundation and director of innovation and entrepreneurship at Purdue’s Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship in Discovery Park. “We look forward to working with UNSA officials on ways to take their ideas and have a greater impact.”

Purdue became involved with UNSA after signing an agreement with the Core Foundation in 2016 agreeing to explore opportunities to provide solutions and economic innovations to help developing communities, especially those in Latin America. Core Foundation represents 15 universities in Peru with the mission to promote economic development through strategic partnerships between universities, government and private companies in North and South America.

“Core Foundation is an organization that helps reach 15 of the 17 global goals made by the United Nations for sustainable development,” said Core Foundation President and CEO Ricardo Torreblanca. “The impact of Core Foundation has been bigger than I have ever imagined, and I can see that we are on the right track.”

Purdue’s engagement in Peru also includes opportunities for Purdue students offered by the University of Technology and Engineering in Lima, Peru through the Purdue Polytechnic Institute. 

About Discovery Park

Discovery Park is a place where Purdue researchers move beyond traditional boundaries, collaborating across disciplines and with policymakers and business leaders to create solutions for a better world. Grand challenges of global health, global conflict and security, and those that lie at the nexus of sustainable energy, world food supply, water and the environment are the focus of researchers in Discovery Park. The translation of discovery to impact is integrated into the fabric of Discovery Park through entrepreneurship programs and partnerships.

About the Center for the Environment

The mission of the Center for the Environment (C4E) in Discovery park is to promote proactive, interdisciplinary research, learning, and engagement at Purdue addressing important environmental challenges. C4E works with global partners to conduct use-inspired science to address humanity’s most pressing environmental and sustainability challenges.

About Purdue Foundry

The Purdue Foundry is an entrepreneurship and commercialization accelerator in Discovery Park's Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship whose professionals help Purdue innovators create startups. Managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, the Purdue Foundry was named a top recipient at the 2016 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Designation and Awards Program by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities for its work in entrepreneurship. For more information about funding and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at

About Universidad Nacional de San Agustin

The National University of San Agustín de Arequipa (UNSA) was founded on Nov. 11, 1828, as a public university. Its mission is to train high-quality professionals to be competitive, capable of being agents of change and development in society, and excellent researchers. Additionally, its mission is to solve problems that impact the environment of the region and the country of Peru, where UNSA is located. 

Writer: Tom Coyne, 765-588-1044, 

Sources: Mitch Daniels,

Tomás Díaz de la Rubia, 765-496-6625,

Tim Filley, 765-494-6581,

Greg Deason, 765-588-5254,

Ricardo Torreblanca, 765-418-6988,

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