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  Edition nº 26

Cover Story

Create, innovate, grow

To bet on great ideas that can actually become concrete benefits for business and consumers has been the strategy of Canadian and Brazilian companies to overcome crises and survive in the market
Paula Monteiro

There was a time when to have a great idea was a craze or a privilege of artists, inventors and scientists. Nowadays, the ability to think of something nobody else even imagined and to transform such thought into a concrete benefit has almost become an obligation of employees, entrepreneurs and companies' management. According to a survey of the human resources management consultancy Korn/Ferry, conducted with 365 corporate leaders in Latin America, more than half the executives (56%) already deem creativity an essential qualification of a leader and see it as even more important than the ability to make difficult decisions or motivate staff to achieve results.

In Brazil, the increase in funds destined to science and technology shows that innovation has been adopted as a business strategy. In 2010, Brazil will invest R$ 50 million in science and technology. According to Maximiliano Carlomagno, a partner in the consultancy Innoscience specialized in innovation management, innovative companies assure competitive advantages in comparison with competitors. "Some actually perform better by 50% in a period of up to ten years", explains Carlomagno.

However, Guilherme Marco de Lima, vice-president of ANPEI – The National Association for Research and Development of Innovative Companies, states that the country still produces little innovation when one considers its economic potential, geography and diversity. One of the explanations for poor performance may be the lack of experience regarding measures to be taken following the moment when an idea arises and the long path until it is transformed into concrete and viable solutions.

Carlomagno teaches how a company with a creative potential must go through five phases until it can achieve actual advantages.

The first two phases involve bringing about sensitivity for a given subject matter and setting the direction for efforts to be made to innovate. "Then, one must create an HR policy that encourages staff and leaders", says Carlomagno. The fourth phase is to invest in the idea evaluation process. "Finally, one must manage innovation as a process inherent to a company's culture and strategy", explains the consultant.

There is a long way between the arising of a good Idea and it becoming reality

The person responsible for a novelty must also define the target public that will benefit from the Idea, to then seek support from investors that share the same interests. This is what chemical engineer from Rio Grande do Sul, Leonard Simon, age 38, did. In 2002, after specializing in the production of plastic, he travelled to Canada to study at the University of Waterloo, in the province of Ontario, and was soon invited to work as a professor. Nowadays, as a Canadian citizen and with 15 research projects under his command, Simon ranks on the list published every year by the Globe and Mail newspaper, of the 40 Canadians under 40 years of age who did something relevant for the country.

The feat that brought him recognition was to develop a renewable plastic, made from wheat straw that attracted the interest of Ford of Canada, which has already started using his product in its cars. "It is not easy to make ideas viable, but the secret in this case was the strategy of connecting the province's two largest economic sectors, agriculture and the automobile industry, to offer an ecologically favorable solution that nevertheless is also technically and economically viable", he goes on to say.

Gustavo Zevallos, the partner responsible for innovation practice in Latin America for the Monitor Group, a global company with focus on strategic consulting, believes that, to innovate in the global market, a country must bet on research and development (R&D). "Companies must perform in partnership with science and technology institutions, suppliers and clients, to make feasible or accelerate projects and studies", argues Zevallos.

STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP – An agreement between FAPESP – Research Support Foundation of the State of São Paulo and ISTP - International Science and Technology Partnerships of Canada is expected to make sure that large projects will materialize. In August, a joint investment of US$ 3.7 million was announced, which is to finance six research projects involving 60 Brazilian and Canadian institutions and universities in the fields of fiber optics, biodegradable plastic, satellite technologies, geomatics, wireless telecommunications and nanotechnology. "This is the opportunity for small companies to invest in R&D", says Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, FAPESP's scientific director.

The approximation of the two countries has also benefitted the realization of events designed for the exchange of technological know how. In March, a delegation of EMBRAPA – The Brazilian Agro and Cattle Breeding Research Company travelled to Ottawa to participate in the Canada-Brazil Workshop on the Efficient Production of Cellulosic Ethanol. For Esdras Sundfeld, deputy head of R&D at Embrapa Agroenergia, this opportunity may favor a bilateral cooperation that will result in many advantages for companies of both countries concerned with the sustainable production of energy from agricultural produce. "The visit to several pilot installations in Canada allowed us to notice that there are technological routes for the production of ethanol that may be applied in Brazil in the short and medium terms", states Sundfeld.
In practice, Brazilian companies that in one way or another have access to the Canadian scientific and technological expertise have offered several benefits for domestic business and the Brazilian consumer market. With the intent of becoming the world's largest mining company by 2014, Vale, for instance, last year created in Brazil the ITV - Instituto Tecnológico Vale (Vale Technological Institute). According to the director of the ITV, Luiz Mello, and supported by R$ 120 million, the objective is to explore new opportunities in the mining, energy, eco-efficiency and steel industries, through studies to be conducted together with research support foundations in the states of São Paulo, Minas Gerais and Pará.

Among the results of a business culture focused on innovation and development – expected to involve funds in the magnitude of US$ 1.2 billion this year alone -, there are innovations such as the dry processing of iron ore – that hence will be sieved using humidity in the mine itself. This technology may allow for annual savings of 19.7 million cubic meters of water and the reduction of power consumption by more than 18,000 MW per year.

In terms of logistics, the ITV director emphasizes projects such as the biofuel train with electro pneumatic brakes and fueled with a mixture of natural gas and diesel, and the dynamic helper, a locomotive that hooks up to the moving train. 

To develop its complex systems and products in the field of communications, the company Research in Motion (RIM) always sought support in engineering schools in Waterloo, where its headquarters are located. "In exchange, we contribute to these institutions' research output, in what is a virtuous circle that benefits all parties", states Alex Zago, market intelligence manager for RIM in Latin America. In the months of March and May of this year alone, the company, which has R&D centers in Canada, the United States and Germany, invested US$ 287 million, almost 7% of its revenues, to research new technologies. Actually, some solutions result from supporting other innovative RIM creations, such as BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express, a free server software that allows companies to synchronize information on its e-mail servers with BlackBerry smart phones. "It allows managing smart phones, applying 35 different safety policies", explains Zago.

Support for centers specialized in science and technology accelerates projects

Mitel, on the other hand, a solution convergence and TIC (Information Technology and Communications) company, has also invested in innovation through its research centers in North America, Europe and Asia, and partnerships with Canadian universities. The brand is well known in the Brazilian market for its solutions that allow processing voice, data and image applications in a virtual environment. "The program makes existing equipment, such as storage devices, more efficient with a reduction of approximately 30% of the telecommunication cost and 25% of hardware acquisition costs. In addition, it requires no terminal maintenance", states Paulo Ricardo Pinto, Mitel's director-general in Brazil. The next step will be to inaugurate a Brazilian R&D center within two years, to produce customized applications for the Brazilian and Mercosur markets.

All these investments in TIC have put Brazil in a distinct position. According to the president of the BRASSCOM – The Brazilian Association of Information Technology and Communications, Antônio Gil, the Brazilian market represented US$ 140 billion in 2009.

UNPRECEDENTED SOLUTIONS – With a lab set up in Montreal and available funds of up to US$ 200 million, CAE South America, known around the world for flight simulators for the aeronautics industry, decided to explore new business opportunities. In partnership with the medical sector and Canadian universities, the company developed specific simulation technology for the medical area capable of reenacting techniques and possible errors in medical procedures requiring precision.

"The difference is the degree of simulation, very close to reality", says Alessandro Pinho, the company's general manager in Brazil.

Acting in Brazil since 1994 as the exclusive distributor of hearing devices for the Canadian company Unitron Connect, the Microsom group has also surprised the Brazilian market with unprecedented solutions, such as the device called SpeechEasy, the only one in the country for use by stutterers so that by using the device they can hear their own voice. The technology simulates a treatment method called "chorus effect" that is scientifically acknowledged. Another launch is the "Fuse", used for hearing corrections, that due to its minimal size design (2.2 cm X 1.3 cm) and flexible articulations makes its use almost unnoticeable. "The model has a flexible part that adapts to the ear's contours and dismisses pre-molding for individual customization of each set, in a process that used to last about a week. It also has technologies with the best characteristics in terms of physical and audio comfort in comparison with different traditional models", explains speech therapist Maria do Carmo Alves Branco, the Microsom group's product manager.

In the cattle breeding industry, partnerships between Brazil and Canada have also generated innovative solutions. The result of a strategic partnership between SRC Genética and Canadian multinational company Semex Alliance – specialized in selling bovine semen –, Semex do Brasil, headquartered in Blumenau (State of Santa Catarina), brought technology to the country to accelerate the assisted reproduction of beef and dairy cattle. "The Repromix technology warrants the  fertilization of cows, reducing the intervals between births", says Nelson Eduardo Ziehlsdorff, president of Semex do Brasil.
This innovation also makes it possible for a cow, even in the gestation period, to continue producing milk until when the breeder decides to start the pre-birth rest period. "In the case of beef cattle, all cows can be inseminated at the same time", emphasizes Ziehlsdorff.

In 2010, Brazil will invest R$ 50 million in science and technology

This technology and others for bovine genetic improvement, such as gender selection of embryos, are developed in a laboratory in Saint-Hyacinthe, in the province of Quebec. "The amount invested in research and projects is 10 to 15% of annual revenues", points out the executive.  

Translation to English: BeKom Comunicação Internacional

Evaluation method

In the graph below, the six most used parameters by national companies to evaluate required investments to transform an idea into a worthwhile project:
Company profitability 79%
Client satisfaction – 75%
Increase in revenues – 73%
Selling time 59%
Generation of ideas 55%
Efficient R&D 49%

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