The beginning of everything
University prepares the grounds to welcome Tecnopuc
The vision of PUCRS' managers, in addition to the events happening in Brazil and in Rio Grande do Sul directed toward establishing an environment for technology parks, was determinant in the creation of Tecnopuc. However, internally, the University had already been paying close attention for some time to the growing importance of being close to the market. And so it began to prepare for this.
The University had the conviction that it had to come up with a unit capable of enhancing and improving interaction with society, a role that was already played by São Lucas Hospital, the Science and Technology Museum, the Sports Park and the Main Library. In this case, however, the relationship should be with the business world.
From the 1990s, there was a considerable rise in the number of projects of Research and Development (R&D) carried out by the University under agreements or in partnership with companies. However, there were still no institutionalized procedures regulating this interaction. Because of this, projects ended up being managed by researchers themselves, who took on responsibilities without legal and administrative support from the institution. Even the inventions designed at the University would generate incomplete requests in filing for patents, because they would not always follow adequate procedures.
Conceived in December 1999, the agency was given the task of managing the university-company interaction and promoting research and development projects, combining the needs of the market and society with the teaching and research offered by PUCRS. Some time later, now known as AGT (Technology Management Agency), it became essential to attracting companies and entities to Tecnopuc.
The establishment of AGT was a concrete indication of the rise of a new dimension, aligned with the most modern visions on the third mission of the University, adding innovation to teaching and research as a key aspect for the success of a modern institution that is attentive to the expectations of the society where it is inserted.
After this, several structures that today compose Inovapucrs Network were created. Tecnopuc, as well as Raiar Incubator and the Technology Transfer Office (ETT) stand out. By the time Inovapucrs came about, in 2006, a new dimension for the University was already consolidated and established harmoniously within the institution.
Several people were crucial in this transition process. Among them are Brother Norberto Rauch, former president; Professors Paulo Franco, Antonio Bianchi and Monsignor Urbano Zilles, respectively, Vice Presidents for Research and Graduate Studies, Administration and Finance and Extension; Professor Roque Bregalda, legal consultant; and Henrique Rocha, architect and manager of PUCRS Maintenance and Renovation Division. Waneska Rathunde, Marcos Barros and Renato Ritter, part of the original staff of AGT, also contributed.
From left to right, the team that participated in the inception of Tecnopuc and their respective posts at the time: Cristiane Alves Dombrowski (AGT), Waneska Danuza Rathunde (AGT), Paulo Roberto Franco (Vice President for Extension), Renato Jose Ritter Junior (Legal Consultant of AGT), Jorge Audy (Director of AGT and Tecnopuc), Urbano Zilles (Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies), Roberto Moschetta (Coordinator of AGT and Tecnopuc), Elenira Bitencourt Soares (AGT), Marcos Barros (Manager of Raiar) and Ana Line Soares (AGT)
With the construction of buildings and renovation works,the Park began to take shape
The actors that followed the process leading up to the creation of Tecnopuc know that the timeline that tells the story of the Park is full of rich detail. Each of them is an indispensable part of the whole. However, all these parts might have never come together if not for a particular component: timing.
Those who were a part of this story get the feeling that everything happened at just the right time. Everything was made possible because of the will of the University, along with the will of the government and the private sector”, says Professor Roque Bregalda, from the School of Law at PUCRS.
Thus, with external and internal factors converging, the institution selected a team of managers to conceive the project of the Science and Technology Park. The initiative was coordinated by Professor Jorge Audy, manager of AGT at the time, in partnership with Paulo Franco, Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies; Antonio Bianchi, Vice President for Administration; Roque Bregalda, director of the Legal Counsel of the Office of the President; and Henrique Rocha, architect and manager of PUCRS Maintenance and Renovation Division. At the end of 2001, the project was presented and approved by the Office of the President, still under its original name, PUCTEC. Later, it was renamed Tecnopuc.
After being given the green light, AGT began negotiating with companies and associations that had shown interest in coming to the site of the former Army headquarters. The Center for Research and Development in Physics was the first University unit to occupy a space there, in 2001. Managers soon learned that Dell and HP, companies that already worked on projects in partnership with the University, were looking for spaces for its research and development operations in the country.
Simultaneously, through its Maintenance and Renovation Division, PUCRS started works. Initially, the strategy was to make use of the existing buildings of the former Army headquarters, at the request of then President Norberto Rauch. The buildings were built in the 1950s. They were mostly pavilions where soldiers used to sleep, as well as areas that served as sick bays, warehouses, garages and the command building.
“We were planning to build a concrete construction in one of the buildings, because all that was left was a roof with clay tiles. But he really wanted us to stick to the original project”, says Henrique Rocha, the architect that coordinated the works then.
Surely there was some apprehension, as some Dell managers showed in some meetings.
“The grease-smelling environment with large pots of food would be turned into a global benchmark laboratory for the company. Surely I am not the one who convinced them”, says Rocha.
On the other hand, HP had chosen the former battalion command building, approximately ten meters away from the Dell laboratory.
The architect highlights that two people were extremely important for this "urban miracle" to take place: Professors Jorge Audy and Paulo Franco. One convinced Dell; and the other convinced HP that coming to Tecnopuc would be a promising venture. And it worked out.
“It was a sort of reurbanization; we took advantage of spaces that were already built, and erected others. In a few years, the abandoned Army headquarters turned into a first-rate Science and Technology Park”, he says.
Establishing Tecnopuc was in effect an initiative from PUCRS to establish a communication channel with private institutions and society. The main goal was to enable the participation of the University in research that interested business organizations and establish a connection based on reciprocity; that is, in the exchange of experience and knowledge, leading to beneficial results for all parties involved.
Antonio Bianchi, Vice President of Administration at the time and currently a professor at the University, recalls that there was no previous experience in relation to this type of venture.
We started from scratch. We began to establish basic principles and create standards from them, in order to determine all matters relating to the administrative aspects that an initiative like this involved”, he says.
It was necessary to establish new models of relationship between the University, companies and the Park's infrastructure, as well as defining the role and autonomy of AGT as the manager of this venture.
Many companies had a relationship with the institution, but because of the development of this new model, some matters were redefined. As a guideline for companies that wanted to enter the park, three essential conditions needed to be met. The first one was that the premises needed to be destined for developing research projects. In addition, such projects should have the participation of at least one professor/researcher as well as students from one of the graduate programs at PUCRS. Finally, the company needed to grant a determined number of scholarships in one or more master's or doctoral programs offered by the University.
“Tecnopuc progressed very quickly, and we had to race in order to adapt administrative regulations, adjusting them according to existing basic principles and the diversity of demands generated by the new companies that were arriving”, says Bianchi.
Another emerging challenge was creating a legal support system for this emerging venture.
The legal counsel department of the University, coordinated by Roque Bregalda, began to establish regulations and norms, starting with the purchase of the grounds of the former Army headquarters, a federal public property with specific rules for acquisition. Soon, issues involving intellectual property began to arise.
It was complicated, because we did not have any parameters to copy”, he says.
After all, new products were being designed in the Park's environment. Thus, it was necessary to become familiar with issues that involved patenting these innovations and to define exploration rights, such as the rights of investors, developers, and the University, where all the process would take place.
One of the priorities became defending PUCRS' interests in the venture; after all, the location was its patrimony. Moreover, this would become increasingly crucial also for the purposes of research and funding, as funding agencies would need to verify the results produced by each institution.
Bregalda considers the defining of legal standards an important task, that generated a model that would later be followed by other similar initiatives.
It was never easy for PUCRS, because we were pioneers, having to create all these standards from scratch. But we knew what we wanted, and we worked together to get there”,
he says, proud of the job accomplished.
The process of introducing intellectual property to Brazilian universities started to take place more actively in the end of the 1990s, when the Brazilian Law of Innovation began to be created.
In the United States, this was a common concept since 1980, when laws established that the results of government-funded research would be property of universities. The logic behind this decision was that these institutions would be more capable of transferring the results of research to society than the state itself.
In the 1990s, she was responsible for setting up this area at UFRGS. In 2005, she accepted the invitation from Jorge Audy, who had just taken the position of Vice President for Research, Innovation and Development, to carry out similar work at PUCRS.
Since ETTs were new to Brazil, there were not enough professionals with adequate training to meet the demand of teaching institutions. CNPq and Finep then started to create funding calls for training. And the University was always a candidate, successfully capturing funds.
It was around then that staff training and the professionalization of this activity started at PUCRS”,
she says. On two occasions, she was the president of the National Forum for Managers of Innovation and Technology Transfer (Fortec).
Results of this work are significant. PUCRS' portfolio includes 109 patents registered in Brazil, with 50 also protected abroad. In addition, four of them were licensed, like a cardioverter defibrillator and a digital TV modulator. There are patents registered in co-ownership between companies at Tecnopuc, a result of the collaborative work of researchers with players such as HP, Samsung, RBS Group and 4G.
The staff at PUCRS' ETT works to increase the number of licensed products; that is, making the results of research conducted in Academia become increasingly available to the market. This, however, requires that all the productive ecosystem is geared in the same direction.
“Licensing does not depend solely on the work of transfer offices at teaching institutions, but also on the capability of local companies to absorb this technology”, says Elizabeth.
PUCRS thus continued to advance in the set up of its Science and Technology Park, as well as seeking partners to support this initiative.
In 2002, Tecnopuc was chosen by a Finep public call to receive non-refundable funds of approximately BRL 1 million. These funds were added to the complementary funds provided by the University, the City Hall of Porto Alegre (through Procempa), and business partners coordinated by Assespro and Softsul.
O destino destaca verba foi a recuperação de dois prédios do antigo quartel, para receber as empresas.
This would be only the first time that the Park would receive funds from Finep, with more funds coming thereafter, proof of a solid partnership established throughout the years.
“There is a very advanced entrepreneurial culture at PUCRS. We have monitored the results of the well-spent investments made with immense pleasure. It is one of the best Science and Technology Parks in the country, and it has a very serious approach to management and its strategies for growth”, says Lúcia Radler dos Guaranys, project analyst of Finep.
In addition to Finep, the partnership with other public organizations has been constant. These include the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI), the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES), the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), among other federal and regional organizations such as Sebrae, the Department of Economic Development, Science and Technology of Rio Grande do Sul – formerly known as Department of Science, Technology and Innovation (SCTI) – and the City Hall of Porto Alegre.