By Aja Hood
Fixing an economy must start at the heart of the issue. Having an educated workforce that
can help harvest the recently discovered deep water oil reserves and develop lucrative
businesses is what will turn Brazil’s economy around.
Brazil’s government recognizes the need for education, innovation and manpower in the
engineering field. The marriage of Petrobras and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro is
a mutually beneficial relationship that is shaping the economy.
Filipe Martins is the project manager for Cubano, a university cultural center that helps
welcome visiting research companies to the campus.
“The biggest challenge is talent in Brazil,” said Martins. “We are suffering a lot because we
don’t have enough engineers.”
The university’s partnership with Petrobras has increased the demand for engineers.
However, there remains a large gap between the demand for engineers and those with the
skills to fill those positions.
Petrobras and the university are trying to meet that need by shortening the time it takes to
earn an engineering degree, to 3 ½ years instead of four or five years.
Government policies have also been put in place that will boost the development of
technology. Outsiders wishing to harvest Brazil’s resources are required to develop their
technology in Brazil. This prevents foreign countries from reaping the benefits of Brazil’s
The Federal University holds both a business incubator and a science park. Large
companies wishing to use the university’s resources in the science park, such as office
space, equipment, the world’s third-largest ocean tank and more, must submit an
interaction plan that illustrates how they will connect with the professors and students
while using the facility.
“The university started to think beyond their boundaries and asked how can I connect with
companies and how can we innovate and create new business,” said Martins.
The research completed on campus is beneficial to the students for experience and growth,
while the company receives advancement in innovation from fresh young minds.
Companies being housed at the university also save on the costs of building a research
“We’re not here just to rent the land,” said Martins. “If the company is not able to find a
connection to the research that the university is developing, we don’t want that company
The business incubator on campus houses small startups. Entrepreneurs that have a great
idea but not much revenue or know-how are supported by the university. They are given
office space, marketing training and supplies.
Cintia Soares is the marketing manager for the startup business named Oil Finder that is
housed in the university business incubator.
“This is a process that is very rich and it makes a difference in creating a business,” said
Soares is paired with a PhD student who created oil-finding technology. Use of this
technology would significantly cut the cost of searching for oil reserves under water.
“This is really tough,” said Soares “You have to be resilient when developing a product.”
The incubation period is three years for each company that is accepted into the program.
Scientists who create innovative products often do not understand the business strategies
needed to get their invention sold. Getting into the incubator not only validates the
usefulness of their idea but helps them understand the practicality of marketing versus the
perfectionism of science, Soares said.
The Petrobras research partnership was created 10 years ago and is just now starting to
soar. Petrobras projects that it will have more than 3,600 research employees in 2014, up
from 1,029 in 2011.
The university has also made plans to construct a hotel, parking structure and shopping
center on campus to accommodate the visiting professors and staff connected with the
science park and business incubator.
Many of the programs in the science park are oil, gas and engineering related. Though this
has helped boost employment and attracted business from overseas, University staff
recognizes that this is not the solution to all of Brazil’s economic problems.
“If you don’t diversify, the engineering bubble will burst,” said Martins.
The park has also welcomed L’Oreal cosmetics on campus to help build relationships
between big business and students in other fields of study.