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Incubated companies grow in Brazil and now seek a new level of economic development and business success

EDUARDO CESARAn environment with a lot of rooms, some bigger, others smaller, side by side within small buildings or sheds, highlights the vision of incubated companies. Within them, the creation of something new that is meant to grow strong and healthy, as with egg incubators. They are technology-based businesses based on one or more ideas that turn into innovations when they come true. Technology largely created in the country’s universities and research institutes. Some 87% of the incubator companies, which now total 393 in Brazil, are formally or informally connected with academia, from where many of the aspiring entrepreneurs emerge. Almost eight years ago, when Pesquisa Fapesp published its first article on these undertakings in its 56th issue, the incubators totaled 135 and were growing at the rate of 37 per year. The number of incubated companies reached 2,775 at the end of last year and their annual sales amounted to R$ 400 million. Not bad for a group of small and very small companies half of which are yet to make a penny for the simple reason that they have not completed their R&D, or, in other words, are yet to sell any products.

Among those that have already left the incubator ready for the market, referred to as graduates, invoicing reached R$ 1.8 billion 2007, according to Anprotec (the National Association of Promoters of Innovative Technology Enterprises). They total some 1,980 companies and, coupled with the firms already incubated, already account for over 30 thousand jobs, a high percentage of employees having  master’s degrees and doctorates. These are impressive figures, but still insignificant relative to Brazil’s economy. If we take the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), such companies’ share is minute. Only one of them has become large and significant from the economic standpoint: Bematech, a developer and producer of legal invoice printers in Curitiba, state of Paraná (see box on page 73), now a symbol of the high level an incubated company can attain, given that it has exceeded the R$ 100 million mark in sales (in 2007, it invoiced R$240 million). Many strive to attain the R$ 1 million mark, such as Pam, a Rio de Janeiro firm that produces water filtering membranes; it expects to reach this level this year (see box on table 70). Some have already exceeded the R$ 10 million mark, such as Audaces, from Santa Catarina, which produces software for the textile industry.

To rise to new levels of financial and business success, the country’s incubator movement is preparing to take a quantum leap in terms of quality. “They have trained a new generation of entrepreneurs in businesses for which technological innovation is the cornerstone. This may further a cultural and economic change among Brazilian businessmen. But it is still hard to measure all this,” says Guilherme Ary Plonski, Anprotec president and a professor at the School of Economics and Business Administration of the University of São Paulo (FEA-USP). To reach these higher levels of success, besides analyzing the performance of companies and incubators in greater depth, the entity, which brings together these companies as well as the technological business parks, is betting on speeding up the growth process of at least one hundred companies and also on a new evaluation system. “We’re going to bring in partners such as Sebrae (the Brazilian Aid Service for Very Small and Small Companies), the research aid foundations, Finep (the Studies and Projects Financing Agency) and other entities, in order to choose one hundred companies and bet on them, by providing them with funding and consulting, like vitamins for marathon runners, so that they can grow tall and fast,” says Plonski. The selection should take place this year. “Our ideal is to find out how much one can speed up the incubation process to be able to place the products in the market,” says Luis Afonso Bermudez, former Anprotec president and director of CDT, the Center for Technological Development Aid of the University of Brasilia. “We want new companies to become new Bematechs,” says Plonski. He hopes to also be able to count on associated companies, the third type of company in the incubators, even though they are not established within the incubators. Anprotec already has 1,493 firms that take advantage of the administrative and legal consulting, as well as of the interaction and experience exchange among the incubated entrepreneurs.

Two other initiatives may also help the incubated firms to take off. One is a nationwide Sebrae project designed to increase incubated companies’ business through early support, to be extended this year to some 40 or 50 companies with sales from R$ 100 thousand to R$ 1 million a year, with a commitment to double their invoicing over three years. “It’s an ambitious project, worth R$ 4 to 5 million a year at first, and designed to speed up business. All in all, we’ll provide aid  to about 400 to 500 firms,” says Paulo Alvim, Sebrae’s nationwide innovation manager. He explains that more than R$ 20 million will be earmarked for nine incubators, enabling them to invest in consulting and training for their companies. In Brazil, Sebrae has helped the implementation of 250 incubators since 1998. “Now we’re strengthening the existing incubators, enabling them to commit to jobs, income generation and local development,” says Alvim. Finep is about to release its Prime – First Company Program, which expects to inject R$ 150 million directly into the incubated companies, with no refunding required, under the 2007/2010 Action Plan for Science, Technology and Innovation for National Development.

Anprotec is also finalizing a single evaluation or monitoring system, which the incubated companies and the graduate companies are to fill in via the Internet, covering everything that concerns the enterprise and the incubator, from financing to invoicing. “At the end, we’ll get a picture of the number of firms, their personnel, investment and taxes, how much of their resources went into incubation and how much was generated,” says Tony Chierighini, executive director of Celta, the Business Center for working on Advanced Technologies, from Florianópolis in the state of Santa Catarina. “This will be of use mainly to partners such as Sebrae; CNPq (the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development), which funds grants; the aid foundations, which invest mainly in companies; and Finep, that has a range of financing schemes for incubators and companies. We’ll measure the local impact of the incubator and its companies, besides showing results and regional inclinations toward bioenergy, for example, or Digital TV,” says Bermudez. “The incubators must be a center of knowledge and also provide support for companies that are not set up within them. They are not an island and must join up with each region’s development schemes,” says Plonski.

One way of lending the incubators more muscle is to invest in specific niches. “We must identify the areas in which we have competitive advantages and invest in them more heavily. I see fields such as biofuel and agribusiness. The incubators are an effective way of organizing technological innovation. But it’s not enough to set up the incubator. It’s crucial to have a tracking policy and the will to get things done,” says João Steiner, director of IEA (USP’s Institute of Advanced Studies) and coordinator of the newly-designed project for a Technological Park System in the State of São Paulo. He insists that incubator strength will be crucial for the future of the park system. “At first, we were concerned with drawing large anchor-companies, such as Embraer and Vale, in the São José dos Campos complex. But in the long run, the incubation route is the key element to lend the business parks sustainability and ensure their renewal,” he states. For Steiner, one of the incubator system’s weaknesses is the fact that initiatives are scattered.

Only a very few people have no faith in the future potential of company incubators. One of them is Renato Peixoto Dagnino, a professor at the Department of Scientific and Technological Policy of the Geosciences Institute at the State University of Campinas (Unicamp). “A country with a dependent and mimetic economic and production pattern and a very high concentration of income doesn’t tend to generate market stimuli for business innovation. It’s no accident that 81% of the Brazilian firms that engaged in some form of innovation did so by importing machinery and equipment. I don’t believe that initiatives such as the incubators have the power to turn this pattern around. It makes it look like we’re supermen who’ll manage to force the production sector’s to swallow something it doesn’t believe in,” states Dagnino.

For Luiz Gonzaga de Mello Belluzzo, a professor at Unicamp’s Economics Institute, incubators’ performance was heavily influenced by the country’s economic problems. “I see no mistakes in the incubator project. They were created to fight a problem: Brazilian industry’s low inclination to innovation,” he says. “The issue was that they had to develop in a hostile environment, in which the economy wasn’t very dynamic and industry was atrophying,” states the economist, who championed incubators and technological parks when he was the São Paulo State Science and Technology Secretary, from 1988 to 1990. Belluzzo suggests improvements. “When the economy grows, there is a tendency to reduce barriers. But you have to know how to choose the sectors on which one is going to spend. Instead of doing something horizontal, it’s best to choose areas that are of greater interest to the country, such  as electrical and electronic goods, for which Brazil has a substantial market,” says Belluzzo.

pamPAM’s ray of fibers: glued side by side form a membrane (electronic microscopic image, to the side) to filter waterpam

Incubators work largely as a result of the demand by companies that want to establish themselves in incubator facilities. After responding to a public call, the entrepreneurial profile or future entrepreneurs’ business ideas and plans are analyzed. If accepted, the company joins the incubator. “It is fundamental for the company to have some relationship with the knowledge generated in universities and from doctoral theses, dissertations or graduation monographs,” says José Eduardo Fiates, former president of Anprotec and now the innovation director of the Certi Foundation, the technological business park in Florianopolis that houses Celta. According to him, Brazil’s incubators are crucial within a historical process. “The country has no innovation history; it grows in the scientific field, but has bottlenecks when it comes to transferring knowledge to the market.” Fiates believes that the incubator movement fueled the creation of technology-based firms linked to universities. Previously these connections were rare. Now, some 50% of the firms encompassed by the incubators (6,300) were created or are in some way linked to universities and research institutes, including the federal technological education centers (Cefets).

Fiates also believes that with a single evaluation system it will become possible to measure incubators’ performance better and advance further. “In the United States, where there are 1,500 incubators, people involved with the area are currently trying to quantify the impact of innovations upon other firms. For instance, an incubated company develops an enzyme to improve a given industrial food and sells this for US$ 10 million to a larger company, which will make US$ 300 million out of the enzyme. One can’t say that the incubators’ impact was only US$ 10 million. It is necessary to quantify this indirect impact better, concerning both the sector and GDP. It’s a challenge for economists.”

It is also a challenge to keep the incubators working. The maintenance and management of most of them depends on those who run them and other partners. “30 to 50% of the actual cost is institutional, and concerns those who run them, such as universities, city councils and research institutes, where incubators are normally set up,” says Fiates. The other half is funded by companies, which pay a condominium charge, and by other entities, such as Sebrae, Finep and city councils. At Cietec (the Technological Companies Incubating Center), which will celebrate its 10th anniversary in April, the cost for companies ranges from R$380 for the startups to R$2,600.00 in the third year of incubated life, regardless of the size of the facilities the company uses. Brazil’s largest incubator is in a building that belongs to Ipen (the Nuclear and Power Research Institute) in São Paulo, in the USP campus, along with IPT (the Technological Research Institute).

“Currently, we have here about a hundred doctors (including entrepreneurs and staff) that have strong interaction with academic knowledge (via the professors and researchers of partnering and neighboring institutions) and with other companies,” says Sergio Risola, manager of Cietec, which houses 122 firms, of which 85 are incubated and 37 associated. “The payment of the condominium charge entitles the firm to the Internet, secretarial office, post office, photocopier and courses, plus legal, administrative and design consultancy,” he says. At Celta, in a 10 thousand sq m building, where there are 38 firms, the condominium payments range from R$12 a square meter for startups to R$ 20 a square meter for those that are on their way out. There, the incubators’ total annual cost is R$ 800 thousand. “We have been totally self-supporting since 1994, thanks to condominium payments and leases to restaurants, three bank branches, a post office and accounting firms,” says Chierighini.

At Cietec, the cost is R$1.74 million a year, in a building that is constantly being expanded to house new firms and with no room to lease any space at all. As in the case of many incubators in the state, besides condominium payments, the funding comes mainly from the São Paulo State chapter of Sebrae, which provided R$ 945 thousand last year. Besides the incubators’ operating costs, there is direct investment in the companies’ research. In 2007, FAPESP financed R$ 4.1 million for projects, via the Pipe Program. “All in all, we already have at Cietec 89 projects supported by Pipe, the Program for Innovative Research in Small and Very Small Companies,” says Risola. In 2007, Sebrae-SP aided 79 incubators in the state of São Paulo, to a total of R$ 7.7 million distributed to 1,356 firms. “Sebrae’s participation in São Paulo is part of a strategic alignment to bring together academic knowledge, and small and very small enterprises,” says Marcelo Dini, the Sebrae-SP innovation and access to technology manager.

The close relations between incubators and Sebrae also give rise to fears regarding the future. “The incubators depend heavily on the institutions that support them and this generates subservience to the strategy of those that provide support,” says professor Sergio Azevedo Fonseca, from the Public Administration Department of the School of Sciences and Letters at Paulista State University (Unesp), in Araraquara. “What if tomorrow Sebrae decides (under different government administration or different management) to change its position and stops the aid that it grants today?” asks Fonseca. He advocates that the “graduates” pay royalties on their invoicing for a certain amount of time, or some other kind of remuneration to partially fund incubators. “After they take off, companies often turn their backs on the incubator that aided them,” he tells us.

Fonseca has been studying company incubator projects since his doctorate in the 1990s. He even developed an evaluation system that is still being worked on. In two of his projects supported by FAPESP’s Regular Aid to Research Projects program (of which the latest, now in its final stages, is entitled “Aperfeiçoamento de indicadores de desempenho de incubadoras mistas (empresas de tecnologia e tradicionais): desafio para a construção de um modelo,” i.e., “Improvement of the performance indicators of mixed incubators (technology and traditional companies): challenges to building a model”), he outlines eight indicators for evaluation, such as occupation strategy, which involves studying the implementation project and the profile of the companies. He also considers several others, such as environmental sustainability, the mortality ratio of companies and its causes, business and incubator performance ratios, job generation, the capacity to foster graduation and, finally, an indicator of the incorporation of innovation into products, even among traditional incubators, i.e., those that house businesses that do not involve much innovative activity.

However, the lack of major business successes and doubts as to incubators’ evaluation and future paths exist, perhaps, because they are still very young. The first company incubators appeared in Brazil after Resolution 084/84 was passed by what was then CNPq (the National Science and Technology Council). This was signed in 1984 by the entity’s president, professor Lynaldo Cavalcanti and it created the Brazilian Program of Technological Parks, though what prevailed at first were incubators with no park. “We had information on the setting up of technological business parks in France and mainly in the United States, where Boston and the Silicon Valley were successful, besides England. At first, the idea was not to lag behind them,” says Cavalcanti, now the executive secretary of ABPTI, the Brazilian Association of Technological Research Institutes. This resolution cleared the path for five technological foundations: what would later become Parqtec, in São Carlos, which was the first one, because it began operating in December of that year; the Florianópolis one, that would become Celta; and others in Campina Grande, state of Paraíba, in Manaus, state of Amazonas, and in Porto Alegre, state of Rio Grande do Sul.

From 1988 to 1999, the incubators expanded from two to one hundred. All of them, even the newest, are trying to reorganize and find new paths for advancement. This is the case of Incamp, Unicamp’s Technology-based Business Incubator. Created in 2002, it wants to improve its future selection processes. Incamp manager Davi Sales believes it is necessary to combine proposals from academia (the case of a substantial proportion of the firms that went through the incubator) with initiatives born out of the business milieu. “It would be interesting to have spin-offs (companies that break away from others or that originated in universities) of consolidated enterprises, as they would bring along a strong entrepreneurial background and help to disseminate this culture among the other incubated companies,” states Sales. Still, Incamp’s experience over its six years of activity was not bad. 21 out of the 25 firms that graduated or that are still incubated have launched products. Sales does not regard the other four cases as failures. “Three gave up. The people in charge decided the idea had no future and closed shop before things went wrong. And the other one had to do with the entrepreneur falling ill.”

Eduardo CesarPreparing adhesive at the Adespec plantEduardo Cesar

What worries Incamp leaders is many incubated firms’ inability to overcome market difficulties. “We work strongly to encourage entrepreneurship, but many of the people in charge of incubated firms avoid running risks, as they come from an academic milieu. For instance, we tell them to launch their product quickly and fix the problems along the way, but they often try to postpone the launch  as long as they don’t feel things are perfect,” says Sales. Therefore, companies take a long while to write their first invoice and almost all have modest sales. The Incamp manager stresses that a more aggressive entrepreneurial profile is crucial to overcome the obstacles along a company’s growth path. “Nothing is easy for them. The incubation time span, just three years, is short for a technology company. At crucial points in time, they are often unable to get money to develop or launch their product, which affects their prospects. Hence the need to improve the entrepreneurial spirit of the firms we select,” states Sales.

Incamp’s concerns are well grounded, as the successful example of Bematech illustrates. An automation company established in 1990 in a technological incubator at Tecpar, the Paraná Technology Institute in Curitiba, Bematech’s net revenues reached R$ 240 million in 2007. With a staff of 1,050, it has subsidiaries in Argentina, Taiwan and Germany. According to engineer Wolney Betiol, one of its founders, the business took off thanks to his efforts to attract investors, back in its incubator days. “We got lucky. One of our professors, by sheer chance, met an investor sitting next to him on a plane. This man headed a group of investors in agribusiness and construction firms and he asked the professor to suggest a budding technological company to invest in, because he wanted to diversify. That was how we got our US$ 150 thousand seed capital, which made all the difference,” recalls Betiol.

However, he clarifies, luck alone does not explain the firm’s success. “Actually, we were already looking for investors, as we knew they were crucial for growth. We’d end up getting some one way or another. Other companies that joined the incubator at the same time didn’t focus as strongly on this and seemed to fear investors. They were headed by people trained within an academic environment, who had an overly passionate connection with the object of their research. This substantially limited their ability to open up and change,” he argues. The ability to change continuously and to align the firm with market needs was important for Bematech’s survival after it left the incubator. In its first years, the firm betted heavily on the development of banking automation equipment. When this market showed signs of becoming exhausted, the company changed its course and began developing automation equipment for small and medium-sized retailers.

For Thomás Tosta de Sá, the former president of the Securities Commission (CVM- Comissão de Valores Mobiliários) and head of ABVCAP, the Brazilian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, it is unfair to ascribe to incubators or their companies the responsibility for limited results. “The problem is that Brazil’s venture capital sector is new. But it’s growing and we expect to see progress among seed capital funds, which help technology-based firms to take their first leap,” he says. He sees some similarity between Brazil’s current situation and that of the USA in the eighties and nineties, when a growth cycle driven by the capital market and risk investments allowed more than 30 thousand firms to obtain capital. Sá tells us that in 1981 he helped to organize in Brazil an international seminar on venture capital. “We’ve  developed a lot. At that time, there wasn’t a single university with an incubator or offering courses on entrepreneurship in the country,” he states.

Still, the truth is that availability for investment of so-called venture capital is still small. Venture capital refers to investors who, through a company already set up, join the capital or the corporate structure of another company, with the objective of divesting  of this whenever their investment in it has become profitable and is turning a profit greater than that offered by  financial markets. At Cietec, taking into account companies currently being incubated and graduates, there have been 195 firms, of which only one, Adespec, managed to get venture capital. “What we have are 25 angels, meaning individual investors that put their savings into Cietec firms. The capital provided ranges from R$ 300 thousand to R$ 1 million,” says Risola.

With so many possibilities and dynamics to be explored, incubators also give rise to models for future academic education. Professor Ary Plonski believes that they may be among the crucial upcoming university environments, besides what is already going on within many Brazilian universities, which create this type of institution within the campus itself. “When universities were first established, back in the 12th century, classrooms appeared to reproduce knowledge; later, in the 19th century, laboratories appeared and incorporated research. Now, I believe that incubators will enrich the university model, by transforming knowledge into products and services. I imagine that incubators may join the laboratories and classrooms as part of  basic education.”

Selective membranes
In 2007 the winner of the Anprotec-sponsored Brazilian Innovative Entrepreneurial Award for the Incubated Company category was a company that took no less than15 years to be established. Micro-filtering membrane technology for effluent and water treatment was practically fully developed, but the market was simply non-existent. “Water was very cheap and there was no such thing as saving water, especially industrial water,” states Professor Ronaldo Nóbrega, who worked at the Membrane Separation Process Laboratory of the Post-graduate and Engineering Research Department of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (Coppe/UFRJ) until he retired, and founded PAM Membranas Seletivas (PAM Selective Membranes) in 2002, set up in Coppe’s own incubator. “Nowadays people are extremely concerned about the environment, about saving water and its reuse, and our polymer filtering system, which can remove bacteria and other microorganisms, is being well-accepted in the industrial sector.” Filtered water is later used to wash floors or in boilers, for example. Mr. Nóbrega believes that working at the incubator was a learning experience. “The incubator gave us support; we attended courses and had contact with many other entrepreneurs.” Last year the company’s revenues totaled R$ 300,000. This year we expect to surpass R$ 1 million in income.

Odorless glue
A series of glues and adhesives which may be used for home, industrial and civil construction applications is gaining market share for a small São Paulo-based company developed with the help of the Technology Incubator Center (Cietec) in 2001 when it received financing from Pipe, the Innovative Research Program for Small and Very Small Companies and completed the program in 2005. Adespec developed hybrid polymer-based adhesives that are free of solvents, volatile organic compounds and isocyanates, which are bad for one’s health and the environment. “Additionally, water doesn’t impair the effectiveness of our adhesives, as occurs with polyurethane-based adhesives. Moisture makes our product stick even better,” states Adespec director Flávio Teixeira Lacerda. Given these features, the adhesive is quickly gaining market share, especially in the civil construction sector, being used on expansion joints and to install glass. In the consumer market it is competing with companies such as Super Bonder and others of the sort, and in 2006 revenues totaled R$ 3 million. He believes the incubator was essential in order to allow it to  focus solely on development, leaving security, cleaning, reception and IT issues to Cietec. In March 2007, after two years  negotiation, the company received a capital injection from the Investech II Investment Fund, managed by Rio Bravo Venture Partners, an investment firm founded by a  former director of the Brazilian Central Bank, Gustavo Franco, among other partners. “Our contract does not allow us to disclose values, but we continue to be the major shareholders in the company,” observes Mr. Lacerda. “Our challenge is to increase our income to R$ 50 million and begin exporting by 2013.”

Business Health
Set up within the Recife-based Pernambuco Technology Institute’s IT incubator (Incubatep), Biologicus is a company specifically focused on the production of cosmetics made out of vegetable extract and kefir, a milk-based drink with lactobacillus and yeasts, originally from the border of Europe with Asia. The company is managed by Djalma Marques, a physician who previously taught at the Federal University of Paraíba, and his wife, chemical engineer Fátima Fonseca. “My academic experience in Brazil and doctorate from the University of Barcelona in Spain, as well as Fátima’s studies at the University of Cádiz, where we also worked as researchers, enabled us to found our company in 2004; it researches and develops skin products and probiotic foods, composed of compounds of microorganisms that are good for your health,” maintains Mr. Marques. “Kefir is very important for longevity and reducing the incidence of degenerative diseases. Thus we began to analyze microorganisms found in drinks and we identified over 78, including bacteria and yeasts that are important for human consumption.” After ten years of research, they developed a fruit kefir with grapes, pineapple and plums. The extract of this drink is also used in the creams. “The incubator was fundamental in lending credibility to our work and providing us with Itep know-how, through courses and labs.” In the meantime, the R$ 30,000 monthly revenue is specifically used for maintenance and reinvesting in the company itself.

An exemplary case
Curitiba-based Bematech is a rare example of an incubator startup that surpassed the R$ 100 million revenue mark. In 2007 its income totaled R$ 240 million. The company was founded in 1990 by the engineers Marcel Malczewski and Wolney Betiol within an incubator associated with the Paraná Institute of Technology (Tecpar). “The incubator allowed us to use the electronics laboratory; their equipment was worth at least US$ 1 million. No small startup company has access to such technology,” recollects Betiol. “The incubator was established by a number of institutions and each one helped the company with something. The Euvaldo Lodi Institute gave grants to researchers. We also got technological and management support,” states Betiol. Once it left the comfort zone of the incubator, Bematech faced the same difficulties as most other firms do. Banking automation expansion, which the company betted on and that accounted for its development in its early years, came to a halt in the mid 90s. This led the company to diversify and invest in the small and medium retail automation market. The development of a printer that saves the second copy of fiscal documents (the copy that goes to Brazilian tax authorities) on a memory card created a new market.

Well cut clothes
Many clothes manufacturers in Brazil, and in other South American, European and Asian countries, including China, use automated systems developed by Audaces, based in Florianópolis, state of Santa Catarina, for apparel design, cutting and pattern-making. With the software, companies increase productivity and enhance their product quality by digitizing the patterns produced by digital cameras. “Companies are able to produce more clothes with  better finishing with the same staff,” comments Claudio Grando, the company’s business development director. Claudio, along with the technology director, Ricardo Cunha, got his degree in Computer Sciences in 1991 from the Federal University of Santa Catarina. In 1992 they founded Audaces at a virtual office to work with cutting and making patterns for furniture. It was only 1997 that the company entered the incubation program sponsored by the Advance Technologies Business Center (Celta) in which it remained until 2005. During this time it specialized in the textile industry. The company has 97 employees and was awarded the Anprotec graduation certificate in 2007, when its revenues totaled R$ 10 million, of which exports accounted for 40%.

Input for labs
The difficulty companies had in importing or purchasing monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies, used in laboratories and for the production of diagnostic tests, is what led to the founding of Imuny Biotechnology in 2004, a company associated with Unicamp’s Technology Base Incubator (Incamp), specialized in the production of these processing materials. The company was not set up within the incubator’s facilities, but in the space provided by the University’s School of Medical Sciences, where it set up a laboratory. It is currently preparing to move the unit to another site once it completes the incubation program. According to biologist Fernanda Alvarez Rojas, Imuny’s founder, incubation is a key factor that allows one to transform an academic concept into a business. “At the end of three years, with the incubator’s support, we came into contact with a holding company to assist us with market initiatives, which were very useful in determining our business model,” confirms Fernanda. At first, the investments made by Pipe, FAPESP’s Innovative Research Program for Small and Very Small Companies, dictated Imuny’s R&D agenda. In 2006, with 12 fixed clients, the company needed more capital. The R$ 200,000 used to systematize production management, injected by third party company and an independent investor, was essential for Imuny. The company now has a national antibody distributor and aims, specifically, at competing with importers. The issue now is to increase stock, which will guarantee sales and income growth. Unicamp orders alone helped Imuny achieve US$ 15,000 in sales per month.