L o a d i n g . . .

02/05/2024

Interview with Gaston Kremer, new CEO of WTT

Gaston Kremer, the new CEO of WTT, brings with him a diverse journey rich in experiences that now lead him to leadership of the organization in its next phase of development. Graduating in International Relations and holding a postgraduate degree in Innovation Management, Kremer has always been committed to bridging different realities. His journey at WTT began as part of a transitional moment for the organization, where his experience in technologies in territories and in mediating relationships proved crucial. Throughout his 8 years in the organization, he has witnessed significant changes, including the evolution towards a co-production approach to innovation and an increasing focus on influencing public policies. In the interview, the new CEO of the organization shares his insights into WTT’s trajectory, landscape, and challenges, as well as the organization’s major bets on its path towards an even more significant socio-environmental impact.

Learn more about WTT team transitions here.

Did you participate in other projects and social ventures before WTT? How was that journey before WTT?

I graduated in International Relations and always knew that the work I would do would involve creating bridges between different realities. I had several professional experiences during and after college that, in some way, intersect with what we do today at WTT – from working with contemporary art in an exhibition discussing identity, borders, territories, to working at the Federation of Industries with international standards and certifications. I understand that these experiences prepared me to join WTT.

 

And how was your journey within WTT?

I worked with an Ashoka fellow in a social business for access to energy and rural development, and at that time, WTT was going through a change: the organization was beginning to work with impact challenges as well, beyond disruptive technologies, which had been the organization’s beginning. So they identified that my experience with technologies in territories and mediating relationships would be important to bring these contexts closer to innovation ecosystems, academia, funders. So I joined WTT at that new moment to specifically work on the Water + Access project, an open call that selected and piloted innovative solutions for community water management challenges in the Amazon and Brazilian Semiarid. From then on, I expanded my scope of responsibility. I went from Project Manager to Project Coordinator and then to Program Manager. And now to CEO.

 


Sustainable Cotton: Impact challenge project on agroecological cotton in the Sertão Central and Sertão dos Crateús (Brazilian semi-arid) carried out by WTT between 2018 – 2021.

In these 8 years at WTT, you saw the organization change several times. What stages do you highlight from this institutional trajectory and at what point is the organization today?

WTT’s trajectory is focused on identifying opportunities from the relationship of innovation ecosystems with socio-environmental challenges, commonly found in territories, peoples, and traditional communities, in urban settings with peripheral communities. Transitioning between these sectors of society allows us to identify opportunities for action and understand where we can unlock solutions and paths for socio-environmental impact, which is our great mission. WTT began with the strategy of investing in disruptive technologies. We then expanded – and that’s where I came in – to impact challenges. Then, I would say we have two major leaps: the first from the Center for Innovation Orchestration with a methodology of scientific collaborations. Here, we start from socio-environmental challenges but seek to build scientific collaborations to develop a new solution. There is still the incremental element of context, as in impact challenges, but in the COI, there is the element of scientific-technological collaboration. Thus, WTT positions itself not only as an orchestrator of ecosystems but also as an orchestrator of research, development, and innovation. The second major leap we took is understanding that these innovation management methodologies also need backing in public policies to achieve systemic change. Therefore, from the COI and bringing learnings from all the other methodologies we use, WTT understands that, beyond influencing markets or disseminating technologies, it is necessary to influence public policies. I would say that this is the last great learning of WTT and what we have been pursuing in recent years.

 


Forum organized by WTT in October 2023 to debate the methodology of mission-oriented innovation within science, technology and innovation policies. Photo: Sofia Colucci.

 

What are the main themes currently addressed by the organization?

We work with themes that are important to territories but from the perspective of the major global challenges. In this sense, we work from, for example, digital inclusion and appropriate digital solutions for indigenous communities in the Gran Chaco Americano, to water reuse systems in the Brazilian semiarid region. We look at the development of biomaterials from the socio-biodiversity of the Amazon and the industry-university-community relationship. All these themes revolve around a climate-focused WTT, which has a global vision but is rooted in territorial challenges. We recently coordinated laboratories of innovative climate solutions with participants from African countries and countries in Central America. This type of initiative directly engages with what we have been doing: working on the current major challenges of humanity, which concern the climate crisis but also persistent inequalities. We must have a challenging outlook, of opportunity in the axis that connects territory, socio-biodiversity, food systems, and climate policy.

 

When do you take over the organization? What is the scenario for WTT?

WTT is currently focused on taking these learnings from innovation co-production processes to the realm of public policies at the country level, but also to climate agreements and multilateral processes, such as the G20, the Paris Agreement, among others. Here, it will be crucial to capitalize on the position of Fundación Avina, the founding organization of WTT and of which we are part of its ecosystem, regarding influence in international movements for democratic innovation, philanthropy, and climate action. We want to take this logic of debating innovation co-production beyond the cases in which we operate. I would say that WTT now has this bias of being an organization that, in addition to positioning itself in scientific collaboration, in the development of solutions, also positions itself as a political, climate, and global WTT. Within our model of action, the goal is to expand this political influence, while we continue to generate cases to feed these constructions. The scenario for WTT is positive; the last years have been a consolidation of a team with very solid communication work, knowledge in topics such as social participation, and co-production of innovation. We have expanded the team, and now we have the challenge of continuing this growth movement while seeking funding to support us on this complex and long-term path.

 


Kremer (first right) on a panel at COP 28 in Dubai (2023). Photo: Danila Bustamante

How do you envision the future of WTT?

I see the future of WTT as a deepening of our trajectory so far. Creating, at the same time, a space within innovation ecosystems, where traditional actors of science, technology, and innovation are already present, but also understanding and highlighting the value of innovation co-production with social actors and peoples and communities within scientific-technological processes. Especially given our context in the Global South and what is demanded of other countries in the region: working from the socio-biodiversity of local realities, looking at bioeconomics, the regeneration of biomes with social justice, and neo-industrialization. We envision WTT as a reference in conducting these participatory processes focusing on science, technology, and innovation. On the other hand, we also want to support social movements, social organizations in understanding the field of science, technology, and innovation policy as a field of struggle, political action, to expand these demands from these movements to the field of science, technology, and innovation policies. In this sense, I believe that WTT’s major bet is that social participation and the co-production of innovations appropriate to contexts are the major contributions to solutions for the climate crisis and the persistent inequalities that affect these territories of the Global South. If we generate more innovations with these people and from these perspectives, we will be on the right path.