University of the Philippines Los Baños

“What happens at UP should not stay at UP.” With these words, Dr. Jose L. Cuello, University of Arizona (UA) professor and UPLB alumni, set the tone for his seminar “Acting Locally and Partnering Globally: Remaking UPLB’s Excellence in the Knowledge-Based Global Economy of the 21st Century” hosted by the University on Aug. 7 at the College of Arts and Sciences lecture hall.

According to Cuello, it is UP’s mission to help “illuminate the way” for a nation facing significant economic challenges in a globalized world – “a world without walls.” UP and its role in its next 100 years is crucial in the development of a self-governing nation he said.

Cuello, a Professor of Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering and the Director of the Global Institute for Strategic Agriculture in Dry Lands (GISAD) in the UA, was in town to grace Chancellor Rex Victor Cruz’s invitation to give a lecture in UPLB. Chancellor Cruz is an alumnus of the UA, having obtained his PhD in Watershed Management there in 1990.

He began his lecture by discussing globalization and the emergence of 21st century globally integrated enterprises as two transformational forces that are changing the world and society as we know it.

The globally integrated enterprise is a term used to denote a company that fashions its strategy, its management, and its operations in pursuit of a new goal: the integration of production and value delivery worldwide.

What this means, Cuello said, is that unlike traditional businesses whose operations are based in their home country, globally integrated enterprise can locate functions anywhere in the world, based on the right cost, skills and environment.

This approach, he stressed, is made possible due to the rise of globalization, and the breaking down of many of the barriers that haltered cross-border commerce.

“The Philippines stands to benefit from the globally integrated enterprises. We have the necessary R and D talents and technology talents. UPLB is a constant source of such talents,” Cuello affirmed.

He also argued that the University needs to acknowledge the distinction between “knowledge experts” and “value creators.” While acknowledging the capacities and expertise of UPLB faculty, researchers, and students, he encouraged them to never stop at becoming just knowledge experts but rather strive to become knowledge and value creators.

This is very important since we are now in a society where economy is dominated and defined by knowledge. Universities, notably research universities, are the starting points in the line in the modern production system, Cuello said.

Cuello explained that UPLB should help develop an “innovation ecosystem,” a system which stresses that the flow of technology and information among people, enterprises and institutions is key to an innovative process. This is exemplified by Silicon Valley in the United States, he said.

“Partnership among the academia, private sectors and government must be pursued and strengthened. We should look into establishing partnerships with the Municipality of Cabuyao and the cities of Calamba and Santa Rosa. UPLB should be the lead institution in the academic sector,” he said.

Dr. Cuelo graduated from UPLB in 1984 with a BS in Agricultural Engineering, cum laude. After teaching in the University from 1984 to 1988, he went on to earn two MS degrees, one in Agricultural and Biological Engineering and another in Plant Physiology from the Pennsylvania State University. He earned his PhD in Agricultural and Biological Engineering with Minor in Chemical Engineering from the same university in 1994. He soon conducted his postdoctoral research at NASA John F. Kennedy Space Center as a US National Research Council postdoctoral Research Associate. In 1995, he started teaching at the University of Arizona as an assistant professor and rose from the ranks to become a full professor in 2009.

An acknowledged expert in both engineering and biology, he has designed, constructed, and operated varied types of engineered agricultural or biological systems including innovative and patented products. In the past 10 years, Dr. Cuello has focused on economical scale up and system integration of algae production for nutraceuticals, biofuels, animal feeds and other bioproducts.

Dr. Cuello has consulted for numerous companies globally, and recently co-authored the report Sustainability of Algal Biofuels in the United States published by the US National Academies.

He has been inducted as member of three US professional societies, including the US Honor Society of Agriculture, the US Honor Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, and the US National Honor Society of Engineering.