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Partnership in business classes

FGV and Poli-USP offer joint undergraduate course for future engineers and administrators

Daniel BuenoThe finding that many undergraduate students want to open their own business led Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV) and the Polytechnic School (Poli) of the University of São Paulo to establish a course on entrepreneurship. After one experimental semester, an agreement between the two institutions officially established the elective entitled “Creating Technology Businesses.” The one semester course is offered jointly at the two schools. Professors and students from both institutions attend the classes, given at FGV as well as at Poli.

“There were 20 engineering students and 20 business students in the pilot course, and this breakdown is expected to continue. The objective in a single course is to inculcate a comprehensive vision of creating technology and a business model,” says Eduardo Zancul, from the Poli Production Engineering Department, who together with André Leme Fleury, also from Poli, Tales Andreassi, deputy director of the FGV São Paulo School of Business Administration (EAESP) and Adriana Ventura, also from FGV-EAESP, developed the project and teach the classes. The program consists of strategies, marketing, prototyping and a management tool known as the Canvas method (used to validate the business concept). The purpose is to think about startups, find potential clients and suppliers, and establish cash flows.

“I have been teaching since 1990, and back then students aspired to working for a large organization and gradually climbing the corporate ladder,” Andreassi recalls. According to him, attitudes have changed, and a growing number of students are thinking twice about building a career in a large company. “They are looking for a career path that is satisfying to them, and now they are trying other options in startups and sustainable undertakings or in the non-profit sector.” In these new times, it is perfectly natural for schools to create courses in entrepreneurship.

“In the classes, students work on a physical product, for example, an innovative irrigation system, and they design the business model for a startup,” Zancul says. By working together, engineering students can think about the product as a business and the business students have the opportunity to analyze a patent database, for example, and to transform a given technology into a commercial product. “This experience is fundamental for entrepreneurship, and it also affords students an opportunity to spend time with different cultures before they leave school,” Andreassi says. At Poli, students can use the InovaLab@Poli, a laboratory that serves as infrastructure for the course. It has mechanics and electronics shops, in addition to project rooms that have meeting equipment and 3D printers.

At FGV, business students also have the option to take a similar course with engineering colleagues at the Technological Institute of Aeronautics (ITA). “These are one-week intensive courses. The business students live at the ITA in São José dos Campos and attend classes together. We held one class in 2014 and the next one will be in July 2015. Next time we will try to bring ITA students to FGV,” Andreassi says. The GV-Poli course (one semester) as well as the GV-ITA course (one week) are offered once a year.