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Letter from the Editor | 239

Startups in the limelight

The report featured on the cover of this month’s issue was a natural choice.  In 2015, the emergence of startup companies became more visible through numerous events held all over Brazil during the course of the year.  The  phenomenon of these small new enterprises, nearly all technology-based, is nothing new here.  The difference now is the increase in the number of incentive programs put in place by governments or large corporations targeting startups as well as competitions in which entrepreneurs present innovative product ideas in an effort to convince an audience of investors to put money into their new business.

One of the reasons for all the attention directed towards these small innovative enterprises is the discovery, by state and federal governments as well as private groups, that they could very well provide creative solutions to the problems of public agencies and business establishments.  Most startups work with information technology and software whose nearly immediate applications are capable, for example, of facilitating management of and access to data of interest to the public.  In many cases, it is faster, more effective and more economical to invest, or become a partner, in a company that already has an answer to a particular bottleneck than to reinvent the wheel.  Knowledge creation, a great deal of which begins in academia, is constant. Especially when we know that these technological undertakings have an increased chance for success when associated with universities, research centers and large companies they can interact with.  The trending ascension of startups is described beginning on page 16.

In 2015, one topic came to the fore that was less obvious but more heavily discussed than recognition of the potential benefits small companies can offer the economy: the Zika virus and its damage to human health.  Spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the virus is suspected of causing the outbreak of microcephaly that began in Brazil’s Northeast and is now threatening the rest of the country.  This infectious agent has also been associated with a growing number of cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, an inflammatory disease that affects the nervous system. In São Paulo, extraordinary efforts are being made to learn more about the virus.  As of the last week of December, 32 laboratories and hundreds of researchers had organized into a network to study Zika.  The goal is to understand how the virus acts and what its actual relationship to microcephaly is, besides looking for an effective way to combat its effects.  The urgency is justified:  early summer in the Southeast brought heavy rains that could facilitate proliferation of Aedes in a region that is home to 82 million people.

After the terrorist attacks of November 2015, the end of the year brought some good news out of Paris, site of the 21st Climate Conference.  Representatives from 195 countries agreed to adopt measures to fight climate change in an historic agreement. The specifics of this story are definitely worth learning, as is reading the interview with physicist Paulo Artaxo, a researcher specializing in aerosols – particles suspended in the atmosphere – who knows, like few others, the Amazon’s importance to Earth’s climate.

Good reading.