Youngsters learn to be entrepreneurs at INESC Porto
Ciência Viva Chooses INESC Porto TO launch “Science in the Holidays, 2011” Programme
With close to 1000 work placements nationally, Ciência Viva chose “Discovering my entrepreneurial side” as the “flagship” to launch their new initiative, “Science in the Holidays, 2011”. On 8th June this work placement programme was presented at INESC Porto the event hosted Rosalia Vargas, the President of Ciência Viva, José Manuel Mendonça, President of INESC Porto and Paulo Ferreira dos Santos, CEO of Tomorrow Options.
Ciência Viva was established in 1997 and has given 10 thousand students first-hand experience in research in laboratories and scientific institutes all over Portugal. Rosalia Vargas has been the President of Ciência Viva – The Portuguese Agency for Scientific and Technological Culture- since it was founded, and she explained the history of the programme that has been running for 15 years.
How to become an entrepreneur?
“Discovering my entrepreneurial side” is the name of the placement offered by INESC Porto in partnership with Ciência Viva. Over the last few years this programme has brought youngsters from secondary schools together bridging the gap between school and the world of business. Over seven days six youngsters from the sixth form were given the opportunity to participate in an intensive work placement at INESC Porto, where they learned how to become entrepreneurs.
The students, who came from Vendas Novas (Évora), Barreiro and Cinfães (Viseu), accepted the challenge at INESC Porto to develop a mini business plan for a technology-based product for the national and international market and they took their first steps in the entrepreneurial world.
During the placement they visited the different Units at INESC Porto, they worked in the Optoelectronics and Robotics laboratories and they even visited two companies; FiberSensing and Flupol.
Two projects with potential for innovation
As part of the placement, the youngsters came up with two ideas for technology-based products that were developed in just one and a half days. The groups presented two ideas to a jury: an automatic robotic lawn mower and self-heating meals - “the 21st century lunchbox”. Luís Guardão from the Manufacturing Systems Engineering Unit (UESP) at INESC Porto, José Magano, the Administrator at Audolici - Sistemas Eletrónicos de Áudio, S.A., and André Sá, also from UESP, all took part in the jury.
Both ideas were developed during brainstorming sessions and they were based on inspiration from visits to the optoelectronics and robotics labs where the students were able to interact with fibre optic assembly systems and programme robots to complete tasks, avoid obstacles and map routes. The students were also introduced to the business world at FiberSensing, an INESC Porto spin-off company that specialises in fibre optics. They also visited Flupol, a reinvestment company that is collaborating with INESC Porto on project SIIARI to develop a cellular robot before 2012 in order to directly programme painting robots without needing a programmer. This contact was also a source of inspiration for the pupils.
The session presented the dissemination of the initiative promoted by Ciência Viva and included a speech from José Sarilho, who participated in the programme in 2010 and is now a student at the Faculty of Engineering, as well as Filipe Marques who participated in this year’s programme. Both students shared their experiences and explained how the programme had helped them define their future direction.
“Science in the Holidays, 2011” will take place between 31st May and 2nd September and will allow over 1000 students from secondary schools to have their first experience in the business world and the scientific research conducted in Portugal.
Tomorrow Options presents medical device, WalkinSense to INESC Porto
As part of the launch of the “Science in the Holidays, 2011” initiative Tomorrow Options presented INESC Porto and FEUP with a medical device called WalkinSense which was produced by the company. Tomorrow Options is an INESC Porto/FEUP spin-off company participating in InovCapital, it currently has a branch in Sheffield (UK) and is an excellent example of successful entrepreneurship in Portugal.
By presenting the WalkinSense device, their first product, Tomorrow options officially recognised the support offered by INESC Porto and FEUP in the creation of the company. WalkinSense is a medical device that monitors and minimises lower limb disorders with applications in podiatry, orthopaedics and rehabilitation.
The voice of the people
This placement was really relevant for my future because it enabled me to see the whole process that starts with the creation of a product and ends with that product being put on the market. It was also important because I had to adapt to working in a group with people I do not know, but without a doubt the most important part was seeing the real potential that exists in Portugal and the fact that we still have a lot to discover about ourselves.
Words simply can’t describe this week at INESC Porto. All I can say is that it was without a doubt the most intense week of my life. I would love to be able to do it again as I really enjoyed myself. The people we met were amazing and helped make this week a success. This experience will certainly help me chose my future profession.
The work placement at INESC Porto was the best so far. We were given so much information and I absorbed as much as I could. During a normal conversation after the placement I noticed that we were saying things like “hey, that would be a good idea for a product for our company”. I learned a lot and I now think in a different way when it comes to the economy, companies and principally the business opportunities that I could develop one day in my own scientific study to create something economically viable that could help me establish a company. I also learned that when this day comes, I can rely on INESC Porto for support.
What can I say about INESC Porto? Without a doubt it is one of the most important institutions that bridges the gap between scientific research and the business world. The people that work there are friendly and approachable, I loved the placement. Despite being lots of hard work, I definitely understand the whole process better now.
What is even more important is that I now understand that it is possible to apply the results of scientific research in our daily lives. On a personal level it helped me decide my course, I was choosing between engineering and economics and I realised that I can be part of the engineering team without closing the door on the business world and entrepreneurship. For any secondary school student reading this, I recommend that they take part in this placement. Is it hard? Yes, but it certainly is worth it.
Over the seven days we had various different experiences, we met people that opened our eyes to the future and we improved our knowledge in diverse areas, and we realised what entrepreneurship is, in just one week. The placement was really fulfilling and I’m sure it will be useful when we enter the world of work.
I sincerely enjoyed this placement; I learned a lot more than I had expected to learn. I had already taken part in other summer activities and this was by far the best. I admit that it was tiring and we had to push ourselves as we had little time to develop our mini business plans. But in the end it was truly rewarding to hear the jury evaluating our project.
I would also like to highlight the work of our supervisor Raquel Pestana who worked with us and really encouraged us (which was good) and at the same time she was able to make the week into a series of activities, visiting Porto, visiting faculties, streets and experimenting new things!
Overall it was really positive and I think that it’s a shame that only a small number of students have access to this incentive. Entrepreneurship is really important in today’s society where we are facing a highly competitive world.