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Along the road to innovation

IMEmpreende at USP’s Institute of Mathematics and Statistics wants to transform ideas into real products

Personal archive Since December 2014, current and former students and professors at the University of São Paulo’s Institute of Mathematics and Statistics (IME-USP) have a new tool to support their work to transform innovative ideas and projects into commercial endeavors. IMEmpreende was created to bring together people interested in entrepreneurship who have the same academic background and help them with their projects. “This university has a lot of high-quality, applied research that does not end up being transformed into any kind of product,” says Paulo Salem, a former student in the IME’s computer science program and executive director of IMEmpreende. “A large part of the knowledge that could generate some economic return, like software created with the use of sophisticated artificial intelligence theories, is lost because there isn’t enough incentive to make it into a commercial product.” Salem found an outlet for his entrepreneurial side at the age of 17, when he created SmartNote, in response to a challenge by a magazine at the time, Informática Exame, now called Info Exame, to create the best application for sticky notes (small pads of paper with an adhesive strip on one side used as a reminder for to-do’s and commitments).

The goal of IMEmpreende is to promote a knowledge-into- technology-and-products transformation process through the organization of meetings and other ways for members to exchange ideas among themselves and with investors, for example. For the time being, the members communicate with each other through a group e-mail list already consisting of 51 names. Of the 51 subscribers, 35 participated in the first meeting of the group in late 2014. “The IME has the idea of the “Junior Company,” but it’s not really focused on this entrepreneurial mission of promoting startups,” says Salem, who after completing his degree in 2005, entered directly into USP’s doctoral program in computer science, with a dual degree from Université Paris-Sud (France). “When I completed my doctorate in 2012, I decided to dedicate my time to promoting entrepreneurship,” says Salem. It is also when he had the idea to create the portal called Liberalis, targeted at independent and self-employed professionals like doctors, psychologists, attorneys, furniture makers and architects who want to circulate their CV’s or portfolios. “The software is completely automated. If the professional enters a small amount of information, for example, a page will be generated that is appropriate to the amount of data available.”

The site was launched in July 2012 with basic features, and in time, some modifications have been made. “In the beginning, only people who paid a fee could upload their CV but I changed the business model midstream,” says Salem. About 2500 professionals have registered with the system, but there are still very few paid registrants.