Por Mauro Rebelo

Selection in FINEP's PRIME program


In a 2008 lecture at UFRJ, the then minister Sérgio Rezende spoke about how Brazil would join the select group of countries that produced more than 1% of the world’s science, but had failed to transform this science into solutions for our society’s problems. Even if there wasn’t a correct metric, whatever metric we chose, Brazil didn’t innovate.

To change this, the minister announced that from then on the MCTI would mainly financially support innovation projects. Brazil had just regulated the innovation law and the rules for interaction between companies and universities were well defined. Not perfectly, but well defined. And in 2009, FINEP launched the PRIME program: first innovative company, which aimed to encourage Brazilian academics to set up companies that could transform research in university lab drawers into innovation.

To take part in PRIME, we had to innovate. But what was that? None of the academics knew any better and confused innovation (a product on the market that meets the demand of a consumer audience) with something new, unpublished, which is a characteristic of original academic work with which professors were more familiar. Transforming a doctoral thesis (monitoring heavy metal contamination in Sepetiba Bay using the metallothionein protein from the oyster Crassostrea rhizophorae) into a product proposal (a genetically modified bacteria with the oyster metallothionein gene for removing heavy metals from industrial effluents) was a paradigm shift for the team at the environmental molecular biology laboratory, but it wasn’t the hardest part. As everything is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, setting up a company, creating a business plan and writing a project for FINEP were new and stressful activities for this team, which would not have succeeded without the help of consultant Paola Miranda.

On April 22, 2009, Bio Bureau Biotecnologia was born. The name was suggested by journalist Juliana Oliveira. We were selected by FINEP and so began our adventure in innovation.