Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program Symposium Kicks Off Phase II
More than 150 government members, rectors, deans, researchers, students, company executives, entrepreneurs and alumni attended the Inaugural Symposium “Carnegie Mellon Portugal: An Entrepreneurial University–Industry Ecosystem in ICT.” The goal of the initiative was to present the achievements of the program in Phase I, and to kick off its Phase II, which for the next five years will have a heightened focus on entrepreneurship and innovation.
The Symposium of the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program, funded by the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, took place at the Instituto Superior Técnico of the Universidade Técnica de Lisboa (IST/UTL), in Portugal, on January 21, 2013. The rector of the Universidade Técnica de Lisboa (UTL), António Cruz Serra, greeted the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program leadership and stated that the university was proud to host such an event, which served as a reinforcement of its commitment with the partnership. José Marques dos Santos, rector of the Universidade do Porto and chair of the board of the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program moderated the opening session. José Marques dos Santos made a brief comment about the achievements of the program during Phase I. In his speech, José Marques dos Santos praised José Moura, director of the partnership at Carnegie Mellon University, and João Barros, national director until the end of December 2012, for the “remarkable work” that made a renewal of the program possible. José Marques dos Santos gave a special note of appreciation to João Barros, whose “dedication, know-how and competence were fundamental for the strong Portuguese participation in this program.” The Chair of the Board also welcomed João Claro to his new position as national director of the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program since January 1, 2013. João Claro followed the remarks of José Marques dos Santos and provided an overview of the program’s roadmap for the next five years.
João Claro focused the first part of his presentation on the results of Phase I and then outlined the agenda for the next five years, promising an “even more ambitious program.” The new national director recalled that the roadmap had been discussed and approved among the Carnegie Mellon Portugal community, and stated that he fully supports it. “We must change mindsets,” he stressed just before saying that the program leadership will continue to pursue the program’s goal of “putting Portugal at the forefront of technology innovation.”
“Building on the achievements of Phase I,” João Claro stated, the next phase will competitively promote Entrepreneurial Research Initiatives (ERI), projects that link discovery to technological innovation through an explicit focus on important real world problems to be addressed by overcoming significant scientific challenges. These projects closely integrate activities in research, advanced education, and industry collaboration, strategically aligned towards commercialization and real world impact.
Another change in the program for the next five years is a refocus of its strategic areas. The Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program will now direct its efforts to the key areas of future Internet architectures and business models, secure and dependable software-intensive systems, intelligent electric power and smart transportation systems for sustainable mobility, technology policy and entrepreneurship, large data analysis for network science, network engineering and consumer analytics, human computer interaction and applied mathematics. “I am sure that we will go beyond our goals,” stated João Claro at the end of his presentation.
Researchers and Entrepreneurs Discuss Innovation and Entrepreneurship
One of the aspects highlighted during the morning session was that, to succeed in innovation, the Portuguese academia, industry and Carnegie Mellon University must continue to work together. That is precisely the main purpose of the program since its foundation. “The asset of this program is that it combines different views,” stated Sir John O’Reilly, chairman of the External Review Committee of the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program and vice-chancellor of Cranfield University, during his keynote speech. “Shared vision is about bringing together collective partial views and getting something that is much stronger, much richer, than any one alone,” said Sir John O’Reilly adding “and I think that this is one of the powers of this program that I observed for the last four years.” “Together we developed very powerful capabilities that didn’t exist before,” he said.
Sir John O’Reilly believes that most of the times the creation of knowledge and skills starts in the Universities and flows into companies, and this is why “Universities are the basis of everything.” In his opinion, trying to achieve goals regardless of the obstacles is very important, so Sir John O’Reilly stressed that it is natural that “a successful entrepreneur fails several times before succeeding.” Another idea left by the chair of the External Review Committee was that “new horizons are not discovered by following old roads,” so it is important to be “adventurous in what we do.”
Despite the economic context in the country, investing in science is a priority because “science and technology are the foundation of economic growth,” stressed Leonor Parreira, the Portuguese Secretary of State for Science, also a speaker at the symposium.
Miguel Seabra, the president of the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), assured that FCT will be a committed partner and that the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program is open to everyone in Portugal who wants to join it. Furthermore, he stressed the need to continue to open new paths. “The challenge for Phase II will be to find new paths and to go from an education based to a project oriented program, which is crucial in this economic crisis,” said Miguel Seabra.
Towards an Environment for Creative Science and High-Growth Ventures
Moderated by João Barros, former national director of the partnership, this session was chaired by Luigia Aiello, member of the External Review Committee of the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program and faculty member at the University of Rome. This panel included some “entrepreneurs who have very successfully crossed the aisle from university to industry, and that were able to build businesses out of knowledge created at the university, in a way that it is not only scalable but also very international, addressing global markets while creating jobs in Portugal and in the United States,” said João Barros.
The Vice-Rector of the Universidade de Coimbra, Henrique Madeira, presented Coimbra’s innovation ecosystem, which was formally created in 2008 with a core of 10 partners, including the Universidade de Coimbra, Instituto Politécnico de Leiria, Instituto Politécnico de Coimbra, Instituto Pedro Nunes (IPN), IPN Incubator, Biocant Incubator, Coimbra Innovation Park, and three more institutions. Later on, more institutions became members of this ecosystem. Three funded projects helped to support the innovation ecosystem: management and monitoring of the innovation ecosystem; promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship; promotion of innovation to support local and regional development. This initiative contributed to place the Central region of Portugal in the top 100 of the European Regional Innovation Scoreboard 2012. Henrique Madeira feels that “if we apply the classical instruments to the right places of the innovation pipeline, we will get a response,” stressing that it is necessary to continue to strengthen the innovation push.
Francisco Veloso, dean of the Católica Lisbon School of Business and Economics, pointed out that in technology areas there are industry births which follow similar development patterns, namely the Semiconductor Industry in the US, the Laser and Hard Drive Industries in the US, the Mobile Operators in Africa, the Mould Making Industry in Portugal, and many others. According with the studies carried out by the Technological Change and Entrepreneurship group “the seed firms seem to be the distinguishing factor of some knowledge and capabilities that are superior,” said Francisco Veloso adding, “they are coming either from leading firms or from universities.” The dean of the Católica Lisbon emphasized “in Portugal we do not have a lot of leading firms,” so “that is why universities become very important here.”
In his opinion, there are several ideas that can be put into place, such as “encourage excellence; support the entrepreneurs with both projects and a global vision that can make a difference; help to develop and replicate the initial success; learn to live with failure; and recognize that it is not the cluster that makes the difference, but the origin and the quality of the project.” Another idea left by Francisco Veloso was that “top firms make the regions and not the other way around.” Francisco Veloso stated that in Portugal an entrepreneur that fails faces many difficulties in launching a new business, and the reason is that “the legal system in Portugal is very restrictive for the entrepreneurs that fail on the first try,” he explained.
Rogério Carapuça, chairman of Novabase, started by explaining that Novabase’s DNA is to be a professional services firm: “we sell hours of people to solve clients’ problems.” The company is divided in three sectors: telecommunications, banking/finance, and government. Throughout the initial five years, the collaborations between Novabase and the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program were twofold: people training and involvement in research projects. “This kind of programs help us to train people in the masters and in the Ph.D. levels, and actually we have a person doing a doctoral program,” he said. For Rogério Carapuça “one of the challenges when we train people in these programs, is on how do we keep these people inside the company when they finish their degree.” This is one of the reasons why Novabase created the Software Engineering Group within the company. Novabase’s goal is to “try to address the prime problem that we have to solve in our company, which is how do we package Intellectual Property in order to replicate it on other products,” in other words how can Novabase package the knowledge and make it fruitful in other services, countries or clients. "In the telecommunications area we [are] already replicating technology, and in fact in this case we are winning competitiveness with our knowledge,” he said. For Rogério Carapuça “both Portuguese universities and companies know what they want to sell, but they need to know how to cooperate better.”
Priya Narasimhan directs the Intel Lab at Carnegie Mellon University and she is the founder of Yinzcam, a spinoff of the university. Priya Narasimhan spoke about her journey as an entrepreneur, and about a 15-week course in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Carnegie Mellon University, in which students carry out capstone projects consisting of building a prototype with a tight budget. The founder of Yinzcam explained that students and researchers “almost act like they are in a commercial environment,” adding that “they can fail, but they have to learn something in the process.”
“My dream is that in the next ten years we could produce 100 technology based startups, employing on average 100 engineers and scientists, selling on average 10 million euros world wide in global markets, which by the way represents 1 billion euros of turnover,” stated José Epifânio da Franca, chairman of Portugal Ventures. As chairman of the public venture capital firm in Portugal, José Epifânio da Franca believes that it is possible to “produce national champions.” His optimism comes from being “a strong believer in our talent.” José Epifânio da Franca is a solid supporter of the role that venture capital can play to help the country evolve. During his intervention he described the components of the Ignition Program carried out by Portugal Ventures, one of which is setting up hubs in Portugal and around the world. “The first hub was opened at Silicon Valley,” he said.
Paulo Marques, CTO of Feedzai, presented this startup from the Universidade de Coimbra, which provides real time information processing solutions. Six months after launching its first product, Feedzai was processing data from around 90 countries. Currently, it has three offices: Coimbra, Lisbon and Silicon Valley. The secret ingredients were “deep technical knowledge, funding, and a little bit of luck,” said Paulo Marques, adding, “we had to put our own money and to appear on different conferences, to meet and be presented to the key stakeholders.” This faculty member of the Universidade de Coimbra, who has become a successful entrepreneur revealed, “money and results are important, but one of the reasons that took us to launch the company was the challenge of building something out of nothing.” Paulo Marques talked about the other founders, Nuno Sebastião and Pedro Bizarro, and said that “giving back and bringing jobs, projects and money for our country” is what motivates the founding team.
Case Studies of Entrepreneurial Research Initiatives
Moderated by Ed Schlesinger, head of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Carnegie Mellon, this session had its focus placed on the various perspectives involved in Entrepreneurial Research Initiatives (ERI). João Paulo Cunha, researcher at the Faculdade de Engenharia of the Universidade do Porto, spoke about his multiple research projects, David Garlan, director of the Professional Software Engineering Programs at CMU, presented the strong relationship between these programs and industry, João Paulo Costeira, researcher at the Instituto Superior Técnico of the Universidade Técnica de Lisboa, and Frank Pfenning, head of the Computer Science department at CMU, provided a more educational perspective.
João Paulo Costeira raised the question “Should the Ph.D. be really close to the companies and market?” His experience as a professor in Portugal has taught him that the work carried out with Carnegie Mellon is leveraging the collaboration between researchers and companies in Portugal.. João Paulo Costeira gave the example of a dual degree doctoral student at IST/UTL and CMU, João Mota, who was doing very theoretical work in Portugal, and with his advisor at CMU and the courses he took there, got much closer to companies and to apply his algorithms.
Another idea left by the speakers of this panel was the importance for the students to go through internships in companies during the doctoral programs. Until now, several dual degree Ph.D. students in the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program have carried out summer internships in companies such as Google and Bosch.
Creativity and entrepreneurship are two critical topics for anyone who wants to succeed. But not all people possess these two characteristics. As stated by Frank Pfenning, head of the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University, “We can’t force someone to be entrepreneur.”
At the end of the session, Ed Schlesinger emphasized, “One characteristic of entrepreneurship is business and understanding business.” Therefore, “one of the things that is going to be important on an ERI setting is understanding how we partner with our colleagues in the business schools to make this happen.” This panel of speakers left two questions for the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program leadership: What will be viewed as entrepreneurial success? What are the metrics of success?
Engaging Sessions Debate
The afternoon was almost entirely dedicated to the engaging sessions. The speakers and the audience addressed three key areas: bridging science and market, building and exploiting test beds and fostering inter-disciplinary research.
In the session “Bridging Science and Market,” the speakers concluded that it is important to create an ecosystem to promote entrepreneurship that is adapted to the different stages of the process. For spin-offs to succeed it is imperative to have resilience to failure as this is a natural part of the process. The idea of going beyond one’s limits was also highlighted. “Portugal is too small, so think in global terms,” said Mário Zenha-Rela from the Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia of the Universidade de Coimbra, rapporteur and moderator of this session that joined Pedro Oliveira, from Católica Lisbon School of Business and Economics, Hugo Vieira, from Faculdade de Ciências of the Universidade de Lisboa, Bernardo Mota, from ObservIT, Pedro Ferreira, from CMU, and José Manuel Mendonça, president of INESC Porto and former director of UTEN Portugal.
The key conclusion from the debate in the session “Building and Exploiting Testbeds” was that there is no such thing as a universal testbed and that these experimentation platforms must evolve. According to the speakers in this session, the benefits of using testbeds are undeniable. Besides providing students with real world skills, they allow systems to be debugged. Thus, “using testbeds helps us to learn a lot,” stressed the rapporteur from Carnegie Mellon, Peter Steenkiste. This session gathered Manuela Veloso, from Carnegie Mellon University, Rui Avelãs Nunes, from Critical Software, Rui Meireles, a dual degree doctoral student from Universidade do Porto and Carnegie Mellon, Michel Ferreira, from Faculdade de Ciências of the Universidade do Porto, and Paulo Ferrão, national director of the MIT Portugal Program.
In the session “Fostering Inter-disciplinary Research,” the panel discussed the difficulties of promoting interdisciplinary research and working with professionals from different areas, as well as the role of this kind of partnerships in helping to promote research. One of the main conclusions was that design thinking should be more innovative, and that it is important to enable sustainable behaviors through art, according to Nuno Nunes, scientific director of the CMU Portugal Program and researcher at the Universidade da Madeira, speaking during the wrap-up of the engaging sessions. This session’s panel was composed by Marija Ilic, from Carnegie Mellon University, Paulo Luz, from CGI, Ana Venâncio, alumna of Technological Change and Entrepreneurship, Maria Gil, from Novabase Capital, Valentina Nisi, from Universidade da Madeira, and Nuno Correia, from Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia of the Universidade Técnica de Lisboa and national director of the UT Austin Portugal Program.
Closing Session Reinforced Value of Technology to Economic Development
The closing session of the Inaugural Symposium reinforced the importance of science and technology to economic development. The panel concluded that it is important to create value from science and to pursue a symbiotic approach that involves industry, universities and businesses.
“The first phase of the program was successful and Carnegie Mellon is very happy and proud of how this collaboration has evolved,” stated James H. Garrett Jr., dean of the College of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, adding “we are very excited about this second phase."
The Secretary of State for Entrepreneurship, Competitiveness and Innovation, Carlos Oliveira, spoke about the importance that this partnership is having in Portugal in terms of bridging science and market. Carlos Oliveira stressed the need to convert even more knowledge created in the universities into products and services, something that he feels should be done “using a symbiotic approach, and not in a technology transfer way.”
Arlindo Oliveira, president of the Instituto Superior Técnico of the Universidade Técnica de Lisboa highlighted the benefits of the program and its economic impact, saying that CMU Portugal has brought research to higher standards.
Sir John O’Reilly addressed the positive connection between academia and companies, and stressed that “the challenge will be to maintain the momentum,” adding that “aspirations are even higher, and it will be necessary to do more with less.”
José Moura closed the symposium presenting another goal: “our ambition is that by 2020 Portugal will be one of the most innovative countries in the world.”
The program of the symposium also included a demo and poster session. Dual Degree doctoral students and several researchers that are carrying out research projects with the support of the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program, funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology, presented their most recent research in Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Technological Change and Entrepreneurship, and Engineering and Public Policy, among other areas related to ICT.