The beginning of everything
The beginning of everything
Tecnopuc is a reality and a reason for Brazilians to be proud. There, global and start-up enterprises act jointly, and the park expands every year, with existing operations growing bigger and the arrival of new companies. Tecnopuc was chosen the best technology park in Brazil twice, achieving great prestige with national and foreign institutions.
With all these goals and results achieved, with the maturity reached in over a decade and the consolidated strategies for the coming years, it is easy to see that we area dealing with an enterprise capable of contributing significantly by leading Rio Grande do Sul and Brazil to a new stage of development. All this is grounded on research and innovation, aligned with the most contemporary visions for the knowledge society we live in.
However, in the beginning, nothing was certain; there were only doubts, risks, and dreams. It was nothing but a conviction of University managers, these visionary pioneers who saw the opportunity of turning the area, which thus far had belonged to the 18th Motorized Infantry Battalion, in Porto Alegre, into an unparalleled environment for innovation and entrepreneurship.
Since the beginning, the president
knew that this space could be
a great addition to the city”,
The Marist vision
Tecnopuc was built little by little, gathering facts, people and expectations around one main goal: turning PUCRS into an innovation environment, by renewing the mission of the teaching institution, bringing it closer to the society it operates in and contributing as a vector in the process of social and economic development. This purpose is directly linked to the entrepreneurial vision of the Marist brothers.
The last three Presidents, Brother José Otão (1954-1978), Brother Norberto Francisco Rauch (1979-2004) e Brother Joaquim Clotet (since 2004) have demonstrated an important support for this project. “Their entrepreneurship was crucial. Without it, nothing would have ever happened”, says Paulo Franco, PUCRS' Vice President for Administration and Finance.
In the vision of the Marist brothers, the University had the potential to progress, both in size and in the quality of teaching and research. When they purchased the old Army headquarters area, they began to think how they could develop that space in a way that would be aligned to the purposes of the institution.
Even if the number of students was growing, President Norberto Francisco Rauch did not make the most obvious decision at the time, which would be to create more classrooms. He asked professors and his closest advisors to brainstorm together to come up with a different way to use that space.
Together, they realized, for instance, that PUCRS was very strong in research and graduation studies in the Humanities field. However, training researchers in new areas of knowledge, as well as in areas more directly linked to technology, was a necessity.
At the end of the 1980s, one of the most important strategic programs of the University established the goal of making the jump from 50 to 1,000 masters and doctors by the year 2000, strongly encouraging qualified academic training overseas. The initiative was successfully led by the Vice Presidency for Research and Graduate Studies, with the vice president Urbano Zilles in charge. As researchers returned to PUCRS, they brought along the expectation of continuing scientific state-of-the-art research in several areas of knowledge, broadening the areas of expertise of the University.
Little by little, we started to make way for research, especially in the technology field, and change the academic mindset entirely”, says Zilles.
Franco adds that everything started from three guidelines: “the physical space, the entrepreneurship of the Marist brothers, and the masters and doctors training program”, he says.
The future of this project, which would lead to the establishment of a Technology Park, was still unknown. However, it was encouraged by a series of internal and external factors that contributed to show that they were on the right path. Among these factors was the support that the Federal government was beginning to provide in order to encourage greater interaction between Academia and public and private initiatives in Brazil.
An important step toward consolidating this vision was the creation of Sector Funds. Starting with the privatization of public enterprises, these instruments were created to determine that players in several areas, such as information technology, energy, health, oil and biotechnology, would be required to invest in Research & Development (R&D) projects at universities.
From the mid-90s onward, this initiative started to encourage the business sector, governmental agencies and teaching and research institutions to set up collaborating research projects.
Funding agencies from the federal government in innovation (in particular, FINEP and CNPq), combined with the increase in resources provided by Sector Funds, were crucial to enable these collaborative projects and programs such as Technology Transfer Offices, Business Incubators and Technology Parks.
Through these incentives and an established base for research, PUCRS was able to increase its R&D projects, with the participation of enterprises, in particular in the fields of health and biological sciences, IT, and engineering and hard sciences. The projects involving the use of public and private funding have always had the support and coordination of public managers linked to the fields of Education and Science, Technology and Innovation, with a special mention to politicians Adão Villaverde, Cezar Busatto, Beto Albuquerque, Nelson Proença, Cristiano Tatsch and Paulo Roberto Ponte. In the context of Non-Profit Higher Education Institutions, the support of federal deputies Maria do Rosário and Mendes Ribeiro Filho has always been key to the relevant actions of these institutions in the fields of science, technology and innovation.
Porto Alegre Tecnópole
In the regional level, the state of Rio Grande do Sul has also adopted technological innovation as a goal to be pursued. In 1993, the City Hall of the capital of Rio Grande do Sul organized a commission to go see the famous French technopolises, clusters promoting regional development by stimulating higher education, science and technology.
This trip included representatives of universities from the state (including the president of PUCRS), representatives of companies, the state and the city's administration offices, as well as the former mayor, Tarso Genro.
They came back convinced that, regardless of political-party views, they had to join forces to promote regional technological development”, says Ghissia Hauser, supervisor of technological development of the City Hall of Porto Alegre at the time.
In 1995, this project was made official with the celebration of a Framework Agreement, gathering the public and private sectors, as well as teaching and research institutions in the metropolitan area of Porto Alegre. This was later reinforced in 2000, with the French-Brazilian Cooperation Agreement on Technopolises.
This was the necessary incentive for structuring what would become a cross-party group, comprised by representatives of the triple helix, such as the government of Rio Grande do Sul, the City Hall, the Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service (Sebrae-RS), the Federation of Industries of the State of Rio Grande do Sul (FIERGS), the Federation of Trade Associations and Services of Rio Grande do Sul (Federasul), the Unified Workers' Center (CUT) and the universities PUCRS, UFRGS and Unisinos.
The group that was a part of Porto Alegre Tecnópole (Porto Alegre Technopolis) started to design collective actions that could contribute to strategic projects in the metropolitan area of Porto Alegre. An important communication channel was built between those participating in the initiative. Topics relating to technological development were considered a priority. Ghissia recalls when Tecnopuc started to take shape and she received a phone call from Professor Jorge Audy, saying that optical fiber was still not available in the Park area.
“We made a few phone calls and everything was sorted. There was a consensus that this was everyone's project, and people really tried to collaborate”, she says.
From 2000 to 2004, she was the manager of Programa Porto Alegre Tecnópole, one of the public initiatives to support local technological development. Rogério Santana and Carlson Aquistapasse, respectively, president and director of the Data Processing Company of the City of Porto Alegre (Procempa) at the time, had a determining role in the arrival of the optical fiber technology at Tecnopuc and Raiar Incubator, enabling the emerging project. This was an important step toward building the technology environment present today in the metropolitan area of Porto Alegre. The initiatives that appeared at the same time strengthened this orientation in the most favorable way possible, relying on their link to Academia.
“A park without a relationship with the University is not even a park, it is an industrial district. And, unless it has a good relationship with public and political administrators, it will face many difficulties”, says Ghissia, highlighting that these factors were extremely balanced in formatting local projects.
PUCRS' Science and Technology Park, she notes, gathers qualities similar to several successful project initiatives in the world; for instance, having an excellent infrastructure managed strategically to attract technology-based companies focused on coordination between university and companies and encouraging innovation.
Tecnopuc is an intramural construction; at the same time, it is integrated with the University. Thus, it serves to facilitate relations between companies and the teaching institution by creating a space to offer opportunities to students and training to corporate professionals”, she says.
The Porto Alegre Tecnópole project was created in 1994 and was carried out for 12 years. During this time, it contributed to create the conditions for the creation of new technology-based enterprises, technology parks, technology transfer offices at universities and an environment favorable to innovation. In 2015, over 20 years later, the metropolitan area of Porto Alegre is one of the leading innovation clusters in Brazil.
Deborah Pilla Villella, Coordinator of the Office of Innovation and Technology of Porto Alegre (Inovapoa) until the beginning of 2015, notes that Tecnopuc's success not only followed the evolution of the most modern research environments in the world, but it also became an environment of entrepreneurship, management and business.
The Park has taken important steps toward the education of our citizens, through boosting and encouraging the creation and formation of emerging companies in their incubators and business spaces”, she says.
Ms. Villella, currently Vice President of the Data Processing Company of the State of Rio Grande do Sul (Procergs), says that this is also the result of an important coordination that was developed by the park with the federal, state and city governments.
“Tecnopuc has always been a strong partner of the city of Porto Alegre. With this understanding and coordination in mind, it is capable of gathering the necessary players so that the innovation environment we need is constantly evolving”, says Deborah.
Cesar Busatto, municipal secretary for Local Governance, conceived and created Inovapoa in 2009. He believes that Tecnopuc serves as an agent of economic and technological development. “Through Tecnopuc, the entrepreneurship of PUCRS contributed to imprint the entrepreneurial spirit in several initiatives spread throughout Porto Alegre. By means of establishing partnerships with universities, we are permanently creating and brewing actions that will turn into benefits for society”, he says. Alderman Newton Braga Rosa also participated in this process in coordination with Mr. Busatto.
State Law for Innovation
The State Law for Innovation (Law no. 13,169/09), that from 2010 onward established tax exemption for companies investing in research and development, was essential for the ecosystem of technology parks in the state of Rio Grande do Sul.
Stemming from a project created in 2006 by state deputy Adão Villaverde (PT), the law helped to consolidate the importance of technological development starting with aggregated initiatives that were able to demonstrate the power of interaction between universities, companies and the government.
Leading this movement, PUCRS stood out for working from the beginning toward building bridges between society and University. The first bridge created was the Science and Technology Museum. Shortly thereafter, Tecnopuc.
We would not have this law without the development and the environment that was being created by the local teaching institutions – not only PUCRS, but also UFRGS and Unisinos –, that created a positive atmosphere for innovation revolving around science and technology in the metropolitan area”, says Villaverde.
PUCRS' participation in the Ibero-American Science and Technology Education Consortium (ISTEC) was decisive to help establish at the University a modern model of partnership with the private sector.
The consortium is a non-profit agreement developed by the University of New Mexico (USA), aiming at promoting the scientific and technological progress of the countries involved. It is comprised of teaching institutions, industrial operations and research centers throughout the Americas and the Iberian Peninsula.