UF’s Engineering Innovation Institute goes global

Students at Centro Paula Souza (CPS) in Sao Paulo, Brazil will soon study curriculum developed jointly by the University of Florida’s Engineering Innovation Institute and Inova Paula Souza, the CPS innovation agency. An initial course will focus on technology-based entrepreneurship using a combination of the Engineering Innovation Institute’s coursework and the Business Model Canvas approach to entrepreneurship education.

Institute director Erik Sander has been working closely with several Brazilian institutions over the last year, including CPS and the University of Sao Paulo – the top ranked university in Latin America. On his last visit, he trained 73 CPS faculty on the specifics of the curriculum during a weeklong workshop. Participants built twelve companies and went through investment rounds, as they will do with their students.

“I’m a firm believer that the things we do should really impact students wherever they are,” Sander said. “A part of this is the notion of accepting and adopting best practices from others and in some cases providing best practices to others.”

The Institute reached out to Sao Paulo because of Brazil’s relationship with Florida. The State of Florida is known as the “gateway to Latin America” for good reasons. Florida and Latin America are economically and culturally linked in the strongest manner, providing incentive for the University of Florida, the state’s flagship university, to create new connections to Latin American universities and industry. Brazil is Florida’s largest trading partner and top export market in the world. It’s the state’s largest investor from South America. Brazil is a large developing country, with an increasing number of engineering companies investing in it.

The institute is focused on globalizing the student experience. By using a shared curriculum, students of both UF and CPS will be prepared for international collaboration because they will share the same innovative and entrepreneurial leadership principles.

“As our students go out into the world, they’re going to be working in international teams,” said Sander, “because industry is international. This is an attempt to prepare them for not only understanding the regulatory environments of different countries, but the cultures of different countries as well.”

CPS will offer the new curriculum in fall 2014. Sander is currently negotiating collaborations with additional South American institutions, including those in Santiago, Chile.

The Engineering Innovation Institute serves as a nexus of engineering innovation education and experiential programs extending across the spectrum of creative discovery and invention. Founded in 2011, its primary pillars are creativity and entrepreneurship built on the foundation of the college’s research programs. Seminar series, workshops and courses are available to all engineering undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff.