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Opinion

A victory for the enterprising spirit

It was not all easy, but the risk was worthwhile

One of the fronts for reaching technology with high added value, which draw the academic sector closer to the productive sector in the developed countries, are the programs for technological innovation. In Brazil, they are beginning to show their strength, such as the Small Business Innovation Research Program (PIPE), conceived by FAPESP. A company called Clorovale took part in this program, concluded its research, developed and manufactured devices in synthetic diamonds (CVD diamonds), and became the first industrial concern in the world to make and to sell bits for dentistry made of this material, fitted to ultrasound apparatuses, to replace the traditional rotating ones.

This made it the first company to pay royalties to FAPESP (see note on page 66), which funded the research and the patent. For the researchers, this means a victory for the enterprising spirit of the team that took on the risk of going wrong, with an immense will to get it right. It was not all easy, though. The difficulties that a researcher-entrepreneur faces are immense, not only to guarantee the project financially, but also to overcome the red tape that hinders the path of entrepreneurism coupled with high technology.

Like the team that founded Clorovale, in great measure originating from the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe), the entrepreneurial activity needs to go beyond academic activities. Today, this practice does not have any facility that guarantee the continuity of the business project without losing the bond with precursor research institution. To do so, there has to be an improvement in or the creation of new manners of assessing the cost-benefit ratio of scientific and technological production, including the important connecting medium of this process which the industry with innovation.

To minimize difficulties like these, a good start has now been made with the implantation of the project for the Law on Innovation, conceived by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MCT), which has been presented to the scientific and technological community and discussed with it. It will bring to the country the practice of creating qualified jobs in sectors where the import of manufactured high technology products predominates. It is also going to make it possible for a researcher to be an entrepreneur, without losing his bond with the institution.Creating this culture in the country, is, we know, a difficult task, but perfectly possible.

To give an example, we can cite the stages through which the CVD-diamond project passed through until it reached the market, after starting at Inpe. Drawn up to find applications in space, the project also showed the possibility of going ahead, in parallel, with other applications with a high added value that could reach the market, provided that the cost-benefit ratio were duly justifiable.

It was then that CVD-diamond tipped dental drills were envisioned, where the direct consumer would be the dentist, a class that was already used to innovation, although in good measure imported. Once the technical feasibility had been shown, several companies from the dentistry area were contacted, so as to seek manufacturers for them. There was, however, no success. Accordingly, the way out was to create an enterprise that, with the help of PIPE, studied the technical and economic feasibility and carried out the transfer of the technology from Inpe.

Afterwards, the production process was developed, and, finally, with the help of finance from the Financier of Studies and Projects (Finep), under the Inovar (Innovate) Program, it proved possible to develop suitable marketing and the start of the sales of a product without precedent in the world. he company’s management needed to become more dynamic, calling for a knowledge of business management, and this led those running the firm to seek assistance in a Master of Business Administration (MBA) course, providing a managerial apprenticeship of different ways of approaching industrial concerns using innovation.

Vladimir Jesus Trava Airoldi is a researcher from Inpe and Clorovale’s founder

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