The beginning of everything
The first companies arrive
HP: Local R&D, global reach
Rio Grande do Sul has always been a priority for the research operations of Hewlett-Packard (HP) in Brazil. Since the end of the 1980s, when the manufacturer established partnerships with Edisa, from the city of Gravataí, the state started to become the locus of these initiatives. When HP decided to reinstate its own Research and Development (R&D) operations in Brazil, Porto Alegre was a natural choice.
One of the strategic partners in this intitiative was PUCRS. Cooperation began in 1999 and was based on an external cooperation model between the Brazilian office and the research facilities of several Brazilian teaching institutions. The distinctive infrastructure of the University, with large auditoriums, enabled the organization of national and international events gathering the scientific community of HP and other teaching institutions.
We created a strong synergy that became very important for HP”, says Darlei Abreu, R&D Manager of HP Brazil at the time.
The relationship progressed quickly. Mr. Abreu says that PUCRS' president at the time, Norberto Francisco Rauch, and later the current president, Joaquim Clotet, in addition to professors Paulo Franco and Jorge Audy were the main persons responsible for providing support to dialog and collaborative projects.
Synergy between the multinational company and PUCRS was immediate
Little by little, more daring steps would be taken. Tecnopuc's design project was presented to the company, and soon the negotiation evolved into the possibility of having HP as a participant in the project.
“There were wonderful meetings, in a very rich process of exchange of ideas. We soon noticed that there was a convergence of opinions”, says Abreu, a Professor Emeritus of PUCRS.
The goal of the manufacturer was having a greater interaction between its professionals and the faculty of PUCRS, one that could even lead to customizations of the curricular programs. Thus, students could participate of HP research projects at the teaching institution, and once they were familiar with operations, they could be taken on by the company after graduation.
The company aimed at more than simply contributing to the curriculum, but also to the projection of the image of Brazil, with the participation of students and professors in collaborative initiatives.
Neither Brazil nor the R&D area
of HP itself had enough trained
manpower. So, our expectation was
to train new professionals to add
to the job market”, says Abreu.
In 2003, HP made a permanent move from its headquarters, located thus far at Carlos Gomes Avenue, in Porto Alegre, to Tecnopuc.
One of the reasons Abreu remembers fondly of one specific project that dealt with problem-solving in personal computers for average-sized and large customers, among the first projects developed by HP in Rio Grande do Sul, was international recognition.
The challenge was adding value to this commodity, so that it would be seen as an option of a higher value by corporative users. The local team dedicated itself to understanding frequent problems customers faced and seeking solutions in a way that marveled the company's managers.
The Brazilian flag started
to be present in slides used all
over the world in the product
presentation”, says Abreu.
Positive results of the national R&D operations, that were already produced in the old headquarters, were definitely boosted with the arrival at Tecnopuc. And the work was extended to other products, such as embedded intelligent printers and components for high availability servers.
Projects were aligned with the global strategy of each office; that is, everything that was produced at Tecnopuc was aimed at global usage.
“Our goal was to be internationally recognized as an active contributor in the technology development at HP. And we succeded”, says Abreu.
Dell: the talents of Tecnopuc
In October 2004, Michael Dell landed in Brazil, forming his first impressions regarding the professional staff of the first multinational research and development center outside of the United States. The area had been set up one year before at what would become the location of Tecnopuc, and Dell was the first established company.
“These are educated and talented people, who can participate in the world economy through the Internet and information technology”, the company founder said in an interview to Revista Exame.
One decade later, in 2014, the information technology unit, one of the five existing units around the world, gathers 700 people, confirming that the perception of the technology giant was right.
We began very small, with eight people between analysts and developers, and in the same year, we were already counting 20 people. It was an accelerated growth”, says Geraldo Gomes, Senior Development Manager, who lead the establishment of the company.
“It was a pioneering center for Dell, and today it is responsible for carrying out several strategic projects for the company”, says Alberto Chemale, member of Dell's IT coordinating board for Latin America.
The company was established at Tecnopuc in 2002, even before the park was formally inaugurated. In the implementation period, human resources were scarce. The market in Porto Alegre, a professional training cluster, had been emptied – an effect caused by the transferral of IT operations of large corporations to other states –, and the Dell unit spawned an actual process of repatriation of talents, from other Brazilian regions and even foreign countries.
For Dell executives located in different regions abroad, what makes the experience of being in the Park stand out is precisely the interaction with the University.
“We see our relationship with PUCRS as a strategic advantage in our search for excellence and innovation. We rely on collaborative research programs to reinforce the disruptive aspect in our working techniques, always boosting improvements and efficiency”, says Chemale.
In this exchange, IT representatives highlight that the triple helix concept (university, companies and government) becomes a reality. Additionally, since the beginning of Tecnopuc, the hardware, software and services technology producer provides students with supplementary training programs.
Internships provide students with the opportunity to interact with global teams, and also reinforce their learning process with hundreds of hours in additional study courses on cutting-edge technology.
We are very proud of the model and partnership we built at Tecnopuc”,says Chemale.
Several interns come to the job market even more prepared.
“Besides, students bring in new ideas to the company, enriching and renewing the thinking process of teams and encouraging the continuous improvement aspect”, says Giovana Mueller, member of Dell's IT coordinating board for Latin America.
Before its establishment at Tecnopuc, Dell established a production base in the city of Eldorado do Sul, close to the BR-290 highway, 10 kilometers from Porto Alegre. This happened in 1999. The venture, a milestone in the attraction of foreign investment to the country and to Rio Grande do Sul, met the company strategy to establish its position and fight for consumers in Mercosur (Southern Common Market).
Because of the distance, Porto Alegre could offer a quicker access to the region, as opposed to São Paulo, the biggest city and economy in the bloc. Factoring logistics was necessary, and at a time when the demand for personal computers and the Informatics Law were rising, the metropolitan area was an interesting place for Dell to be, in the southern region of the Americas.
In 2000, the servers unit was established, and in the following year, the laptops unit. The seeds for the establishment of a development area were planted at this time.
The center was a milestone for Dell. The branch in Porto Alegre opened before any other place in the world, with the exception of the headquarters office in the United States, of course”, says Gomes, development manager.
“There were renovation works, there was nothing around us. Everything was under construction, the floor was earthen. We were beginning our history”, he says enthusiastically.
“We started to grow, paving the way for other companies. We caused a stir in the IT market”, says Gomes. He associates the mobilization to Michael Dell's perception in the growing stage and the promising response from the team at Tecnopuc.
“We were the first company to obtain the CMMI level 2 certification, at a time nobody was investing. This established the credentials for the company, and showed that the team in the Park had the capacity to head projects at Dell”, he says.
The certification is the result of a collaborative project with the University, which brought together research and the company's need for the development of the software testing career, carried out pioneeringly between 2007 and 2008. In the interaction with PUCRS' training and research fields, another front is quality and project management.
In the future, there will be more challenges, such as generating intellectual property, which will require a learning process connected to the University and its researchers.
“The potential to generate intellectual property is currently not explored extensively in our partnership, but it is among our priorities, and we believe that good results will be achieved”, says Giovana.
DBServer: the first company from Rio Grande do Sul in the Park
“It was a paradigm shift, since the strategy thus far was very focused on great players. Today, the Park is complete, with operation of all sizes and profiles”, says Peres.
With ten years of existance, DBServer was established in one of the two-floored horizontal pavilions, with enough space to support the operations that were just emerging at Tecnopuc. The IT company develops software projects and system acceptance tests, providing also advice and training on methodologies and outsourcing services.
The first rule adopted by the managers of DBServer when they stepped into the new environment nowadays sounds more like an advice given by the experienced executive.
We always try to make use of everything that is available here”.
The package includes from a support network for new companies to the constant flow of students and professionals, going through the coexistence with entrepreneurs of different areas. Besides, there is the power that comes from being part of an ecosystem such as Tecnopuc. This was noted early on, when, in the first years of operation, the company participated of a selection process to develop a software for Visanet cards. Among the competitors of the local player were large companies of the field. Visa representatives were in the Park and were impressed, particularly with the working model and the engagement with the whole environment.
“We were hired. Being here helped us prove our capacity to deliver a major project, and it also strengthened our innovation capacity and the sustainability of our operations”, says the entrepreneur.
In 2004, DBServer was one of the ten winners of Prêmio Finep Inovar (Finep Innovation Award), and the directors believe that a decisive factor for this was their presence in the Park. The chosen companies received advice to fine-tune their business, and thus, become eligible to occasionally apply for funds with private investors. The capital never came through, but the image projected with the help of the institution generated a new service to be added to their portfolio: Test Center.
Like Tecnopuc, DBServer also grew. At one point in 2008-2009, the company had up to 200 staff members, but international turbulence shook up the structure a little. However, it did not take long for the company found by Eduardo Peres, Mário Rodrigues Bastos and Verner Heidrich to recover. Today, it has approximately 300 staff members.
The manpower trained by the company has always been desired by the companies located on site, especially the multinational ones.
“We have professionals who are ready and end up being recruited by giant players”, says Peres.
In one of the strategies to try to minimize this, DBServer called its neighbor companies and proposed the creation of joint training activities and courses.
It was no use fighting for the same professionals, we had to increase the number of qualified people”, he says.
One of the partners was Dell, also a user of the Test Center services of DBServer for its projects.
“These are examples of how we can look around and see partners, even among possible competitors, in order to maximize profits for everyone. The other option is to sit and cry”, he says playfully.