Brazil: All systems are go
When you think of Brazil, what comes to mind? The movie “Rio”? Samba? Carnival? Caipirinha (a lovely but toxic drink that creeps up on you after a few glasses)? Or perhaps those skimpy swimsuits up and down the beaches of Copacabana? Some may recall the tourist images of the Christ the Redeemer statue on the mountaintop overlooking Rio, called Corcovado, or the iconic Sugar Loaf mountain popping out of the ocean like big gumdrop candy. Perhaps Rio doesn’t come to mind at first and instead you might recall the density of people in Sao Paulo (population 40 million), the sounds and images of the Amazon in Manaus or the futuristic images of Oscar Niemeyer’s Brasilia? Or maybe the Brazilian flag during World Cup games is an image that many of us in North America recall the most.
What most people don’t think of are the incredible business opportunities in this massive country that is nearly the size of the United States. It is surrounded by no less than 9 countries and full of entrepreneurs, multinational investors and average Brazilian citizens with the keen desire to embrace opportunity. It has become the darling of international investors and those seeking new global opportunities. It is red hot, not just on the Brazilian beaches, but also in board rooms , conferences and trade shows, like Futurecom and RioInfo. Flights are fully booked and the buzz on the streets is for more than the Girl from Ipenema. As The Economist has aptly pointed out: Brazil takes off!
Canada’s Technology Triangle recently organized its first exploratory mission, led by Kitchener Mayor Carl Zehr (representing the Region of Waterloo), to Brazil from September 7-16, 2011. Other delegates included George Dixon, VP Research at the University of Waterloo; Drew Knight, University of Waterloo’s Director of International Programs at Waterloo International; Bo Densmore, Director of Economic Development for the City of Cambridge; Zoran Veselic, VP, Visual Environments at Christie Digital; Alex Lucena, Business Development for Latin America at Desire2Learn; Ray Phillips, VP of Latin America, Sales and Service at OpenText; Jon Rohr, Editor –in –Chief, Exchange Magazine; Darryl King, President, Logikor Inc; Craig Mar, GM at Logikor Inc., as well as John Jung , CEO of Canada’s Technology Triangle.
Our business mission took us to Brasilia, Rio, Sao Paulo and Curitiba. Without going into the full itinerary, our extensive program covered everything from meetings in the Mayor of Rio’s office; to MOU’s signed by University of Waterloo with Pontifica Universidade Catolica do Rio de Janeiro, an important research-focused university in Rio with whom the University of Waterloo has had a long relationship with through its computer faculties; and an important meeting with CAPES, the education ministry in Brasilia, looking to send 100,000 students abroad. We also met with the Secretary of State of Science and Technology for Brazil, who expressed interest in bringing the Governor of Brasilia to visit the Waterloo Region to focus on our experiences in P3 partnerships in developing tech parks and best practices in R&D commercialization and innovation in the ICT sector. We were also briefed by Canada’s Ambassador, Jamal A. Khokhar, in Brasilia as well as by the Canadian Consulate officials in Sao Paulo along with our colleagues from across Canada attending Futurecom. We met with RIM’s representatives in Brazil and toured Brazil’s version of NASA at INPE’s research facilities in Sao Jose dos Campos. We also gave extensive presentations in Sao Paulo and Curitiba to industry organizations, universities and companies. In addition to learning about opportunities from organizations such as Softex, the industry association for the software industry throughout Brazil, we met with each of their local affiliates and some of their member organizations. So intrigued were Softex members about the opportunities in the Waterloo Region, we were invited to be keynote speakers at their annual national conference in Rio, called RioInfo, during the week of September 26. As a result, it is expected that Softex will also send a representative to the Waterloo Region to further explore opportunities with the Waterloo region’s companies in this sector next month.
We met with our final group in Curitiba, a collection of some 20 organizations, all of whom were in awe of our community model, as demonstrated by our delegation members. They explained to us that they aspire to break down the silos they’ve built and become more integrated among their partnerships. Clearly we can offer them something as well.
CTT is planning to return to Brazil in September 2012.