With the UF Engineering Innovation Institute as their hosts, a delegation of eleven Brazilian academics and administrators visited Gainesville, Orlando, Tampa and Tallahassee last week over a two-week period to learn more about how Florida has grown its innovation ecosystem through public and private partnerships. Particularly, they wanted to strengthen their organization’s knowledge of intellectual property, technology transfer, entrepreneurship and marketplace intelligence – all of which they hope to employ in the State of Sao Paulo.
Centro Paula Souza, or CPS, manages a network of 63 public colleges and 218 technical high schools around the State of Sao Paulo. They educate 320,000 students annually. This visit was part of their PAPI INOVA Paula Souza project, which employs 200 “innovation agents” to help connect their 281 academic institutions with large companies, entrepreneurs and small- to medium-sized businesses.
“The UF College of Engineering and CPS have been working together for several years,” said Erik Sander, director of the UF Engineering Innovation Institute, or EII. “This visit was a landmark event for Florida and Brazil. It served to strengthen our ties, and will undoubtedly have a positive impact on an already flourishing economic relationship.”
The Florida Chamber of Commerce lists Brazil as Florida’s largest trading partner and top export market in the world – with $20.5 billion in trades last year, the largest amount ever between Florida and a foreign country. The leadership at the EII has created alliances with CPS and other entities in Brazil to build unique public/private partnerships that can transcend North and Latin America.
In addition to EII, the Center for Latin American Studies and the Florida-Brazil Linkage Institute have been instrumental to establishing the relationship with CPS. Their director, Emilio Bruna, PhD, has been encouraged by the unique position UF is in to work with entrepreneurs in Brazil.
“It’s been exciting to see the mutually beneficial partnership between COE, EII, and CPS come to fruition,” said Bruna. “Here at UF we have the rare combination of advanced engineering, experts in innovation, and an understanding of the cultural context in which Brazilian entrepreneurs are working. You could sense the excitement from everyone, throughout the entire visit.”
The delegation included the director of INOVA Paula Souza, Dr. Oswaldo Massambani, and 10 of his colleagues. The assistant director of EII, David Whitney, established the delegation’s comprehensive agenda with site visits including UF Office of Technology Licensing, UF Office of Research, UF Tech Connect, UF’s Innovation Hub UF Latin American Business Environment Institute and UF College of Engineering’s Industry Programs office, as well as the Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator and the Innovation Academy. They also visited the University of Central Florida, Florida State University, and the University of South Florida.
In addition to these more academic meetings, the delegation visited with leadership from the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce, CareerSource North Central Florida, the Florida Small Business Development Center, and Gainesville-area companies InterMed, Nanotherapeutics, Prioria Robotics, Verigo, and RAPiD Genomics.
“The innovation ecosystem that we have created in Gainesville has attracted global corporations to come here, and it encourages local startups to stay here,” Sander said. “We want our trade partnerships to be healthy and collaborative, and so it is a welcome opportunity to share what is working for us, with others.”