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Multidisciplinary Innovation

The career path of Carlos Calmanovici, from IPT to technological strategies at large companies

Calmanovici: academy, market and "parallel life"

ODEBRECHT AGROINDUSTRIALCalmanovici: academy, market and “parallel life”ODEBRECHT AGROINDUSTRIAL

In January 2014, chemical engineer and social scientist Carlos Eduardo Calmanovici accepted the challenge of establishing the Board of Process Improvement and Development at Odebrecht Agroindustrial, a company that in 2007 had begun to produce ethanol, sugar, and bioelectricity using advanced technological processes. Before that, he had held the position of technology director where, since 2010, he had been coordinating the mapping and strategy of innovation activities pursued by that company in Piracicaba, a city in inland São Paulo state.

This recent change is just one of several that Calmanovici has experienced during the course of his career. After graduating in chemical engineering and social sciences from the University of São Paulo (USP) in the state capital, he opted to pursue engineering. During his undergraduate studies, he was an intern and then, after getting his degree, a researcher at the São Paulo Institute for Technological Research (IPT). In his almost ten years at the institute, he earned a master’s degree from the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar) and a PhD from the National Polytechnical Institute in Toulouse, France. “My experience at IPT was very important, because I had the opportunity to work on various projects and interact with people from different fields, from chemistry to economics and systems. That enabled me to acquire knowledge on topics such as technological prospecting and concepts involved in planning and strategies,” says Calmanovici.

Having earned a doctorate in France and returned to Brazil, he accepted an offer to work at Rhodia, in Paulínia, a city in inland São Paulo State. He recalls that at the time, in the early 1990s, there were very few PhDs working at companies—they were almost non-existent. “I joined Rhodia with an idea that was considered quite daring at the time but was beginning to be accepted more widely in Brazil, i.e., that knowledge could be transferred from academia to companies,” he says. He held several positions in innovation and technology at Rhodia. “We were working with the concept of applicability in all areas of that company’s business.” Calmanovici rose to the position of the company’s principal scientist in Brazil.

At the end of 2001, while still at Rhodia, he accepted an invitation to teach at the Methodist University of Piracicaba. But the experience was short-lived because in 2002 the company offered him the opportunity to take over the innovation platform at Rhodia Íberia, in Spain. “But by the end of 2004, I was already thinking about going back to Brazil, which was showing signs of consistent growth and becoming increasingly important on the world stage,” says Calmanovici. When he got back, he went directly to Oxiteno. “That company was undergoing both consolidation and growth at the same time, while becoming internationalized. I went to work on the strategy for renewing and reorganizing the innovation area. The dynamic atmosphere at Oxiteno changed my way of thinking about the potential impact of innovation on business.” More changes for Calmanovici would come in 2007, when he faced the challenge of managing research and development at Braskem, a company in the Odebrecht group. He was given several different responsibilities in the technological innovation department of Braskem and had become responsible for polymer technology development when, in 2010, he transferred to Odebrecht Agroindustrial.

In recent years he has had, as he himself puts it, a “parallel life” at the National Association of Research and Development by Innovative Companies (Anpei) where in April 2014 he ended his second term as president. “During my years at Oxiteno I started taking part in Anpei’s working and study groups, and then assumed the vice presidency in 2007. I served two terms as president, from 2010 to 2014. It’s a voluntary position that demands a lot of dedication and commitment. Meanwhile, I had to keep up my responsibilities at the company. I had the happy coincidence of being head of Anpei during a period when innovation was becoming much more important and was placed on Brazil’s economic agenda,” he says. After so many changes and challenges, he confesses that he never had traced out a career plan. “Things just happened, but I was always very willing to seek out new challenges and turn convert them into actual opportunities,” says Calmanovici.