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Brazil Week at SkySong focuses on partnerships to foster innovation, growth

February 08, 2011

Capping a week’s worth of startup development efforts and cultural exchanges, the Council on Competitiveness, the Brazilian Agency for Industrial Development, and other distinguished guests from Brazil and the United States came to ASU SkySong on Friday for an “Innovation Learning Lab” focused on building bilateral partnerships between those countries to foster innovation and entrepreneurship.

ASU Senior Vice President for Knowledge Enterprise Development, R.F. “Rick” Shangraw Jr., welcomed participants to the morning sessions.

“What you see here today is a perfect example of what we should be doing globally: Bringing two countries together to promote competitiveness, advance economic development and create jobs in both countries,” said Shangraw. “At Arizona State University, we can’t be more excited about helping to build this relationship between these two countries.”

Council on Competitiveness senior vice president Chad Evans moderated one panel discussion that highlighted the ways universities can help entrepreneurs create innovation hotspots and new jobs.

“These Innovation Learning Labs are meant to be a catalyst to drive not only policy development that is supportive of innovative ecosystems, but also the development of concrete partnerships,” said Evans. “There is very interesting work going on here at ASU and SkySong has been a key driver in terms of developing some of these important partnerships.”

Arizona Commerce Authority representative Fernando C. Jimenez appeared on behalf of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to officially declare “Brazil Week” in Arizona.

“It is an honor and pleasure for me to be here on behalf of Governor Brewer,” said Jimenez. “Brazil is one of Arizona’s biggest and most important trading partners. We have especially strong links in semiconductors, aerospace and defense, and optics and medical instruments.”

The roots of Brazil Week stretch back to the Inovatec conference held last October in Belo Horizonte, the capital city for the state of Minas Gerais in Brazil. Members of the Venture Catalyst at ASU team were there to pitch SkySong as a North American market entry point for Brazilian companies. They also helped judge a business competition involving Brazilian graduate student engineers.

Members of the winning team from the Federal University of Minas Gerais have developed a nanotube technology that disperses oil from water and could lead to significantly lower oil spill clean-up costs worldwide. The students were part of the Brazilian delegation and spent the week meeting with different ASU groups, including Arizona Technology Enterprises (AzTE), to discuss the possible commercialization of their technology.

Julia Rosen, associate vice president for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, described the ways ASU assists global companies looking to enter the U.S. market.

“SkySong’s global soft landing services attract innovative, technology-based companies to Arizona,” said Rosen. “We help companies or entrepreneurs assess their intellectual property position in the U.S. market, connect them with resources to study the competitive landscape, facilitate introductions to investors, and provide office space and workforce connections to ASU students and faculty. Through this work, we are building bridges to create new innovation, jobs and wealth for both our countries.”

Rodrigo Mamao, CEO of Ilusis, a gaming and interactive graphics company based in Brazil, was another member of the delegation. Illusis has established a U.S. foothold, but is looking for new opportunities to expand.

“We are here because we believe that we can – and must – think globally,” said Mamao. “What we are doing in Brazil can be sold or developed here, or we can create an arrangement that will bring people from the United States to Brazil.”

Roberto Alvarez of the Brazilian Agency for Industrial Development (ABDI) likewise discussed the opportunities for investment and collaboration in Brazil.

“Brazil is a country that is growing,” said Alvarez. “The key issue for us now is promoting innovation. At ABDI, we build bridges, working with agencies and private organizations in Brazil and abroad to develop businesses there, here and in other places.”

President Obama will head to Brazil next month to discuss ways to deepen ties between the Western Hemisphere’s two largest economies.