From the Editor: This is a guest blog written by Dr. José Clecildo Barreto “Barret” Bezerra, a visiting professor from the Federal University of Goias (UFG) in Brazil. He won a 6-month fellowship from a Brazilian government agency, Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES), to study how CSUPERB works with our regional and university partners to offer biotechnology entrepreneurship education across California. Barret arrived at CSUPERB right before the annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium and jumped right in, serving as a behind-the-scenes photographer during CSU I-Corps activities that week in January. As a result – I had a hard time finding a photo of him in our archives (below!). He hopes to improve his english speaking and writing skills while he is here, so he’s taking classes and immersing himself in the entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem here in San Diego. I was delighted he agreed to my challenge to write a blog post! We’ve only lightly edited this blog post since we know our readers will understand the very steep learning curve Dr. Barret’s on here at CSUPERB. The similarities and contrasts between the US and Brazilian biotechnology ecosystems fascinate us. It’s been very interesting to all of us in the office having him here – we hope you’ll learn something about how other countries encourage a “greater proximity between knowledge and market” as well.
The California State University (CSU) Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology (CSUPERB) has a mission to support and improve the biotechnology workforce into California. The program reinforces interdisciplinary characteristics that are fundamental and indispensable to university biotechnology discovery. But CSUPERB also balances the demand for professionals with the skills needed in today’s workforce whether graduates enter the life science industry or stay in universities.
The fellowship proposal I wrote was inspired by Creative Innovation and Education Overseas. I submitted it to the Brazilian agency, Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES). I proposed studying how CSUPERB works across the State of California since it is organized to serve the CSU’s biotechnology students and faculty researchers at all 23 campuses. By bringing together researchers from a variety of disciplines, CSUPERB promotes interdisciplinary learning, as well as research-based discoveries and innovation. I was fortunate enough to win this fellowship and as a result, since December 2015, I have been based in the CSUPERB program office to study research-based innovation with the purpose to add high education, technology transfer system and a management of interaction with innovation environments to Brazil’s models.
Brazil’s universities are growing their international reputation in terms of world-class research and innovation as investments in our universities from federal funding agencies, such as National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), Brazilian Innovation Agency (FINEP) & CAPES. In addition, supports from the Brazilian States’ Foundations for Research Support have also increased. Brazil is building a policy framework to make efficient investments in strategically-important business sectors (sectoral funds), especially high technology sectors for which the government would like to see greater proximity between knowledge and market.
In January 2016 Brazil took another step forward with the adoption of a new legal framework for Science, Technology and Innovation. A new law was adopted by National Congress (n. 13.243) to stimulate scientific and technological development. Among the various topics of this law, it includes provisions for monetary incentives (royalties) to universities and researchers engaging in innovation activities. Among various guidelines and goals, the law supports the development of human resources (students, administrative staff and faculties). The new law asks higher education institutions to establish technology transfer and innovation policy processes.
Since my arrival in San Diego, I have learned that CSUPERB is already running programs and following strategies that are aligned with our new Brazilian legal decision. I think that well-structured and institutionally supported educational programs in strategically-important research sectors (for example, biotechnology) can boost the achievement of goals that the new Brazilian law aims to reach. What I have observed so far is that CSUPERB has decided to put students at the center of its programs, and I think the program is highly effective because students are included in research and development (R&D).
Countries have biotechnology, in large part, organized in the form of innovation habitats. Biotechnology “integrators”, like regional initiatives, research centers and industry associations, help build bridges between knowledge and practice leading to technological transfer. These bridging initiatives are considered to be one of the key elements for sustainable scientific infrastructure, for example: the United Kingdom’s One Nucleus (onenucleus.com), Singapore’s Biopolis (Fischer & Mellon, 2013), Germany’s Biotecnological Cluster in Germany (http://www.clib2021.de), and California Life Sciences Institute’s FAST program. Governments and industry are making large investments in biological resources, but a number of institutional and interdisciplinary research programs also integrate career planning and student professional development, which should be intensified.
An example in the United States is the ongoing National Science Foundation program called Innovation Corps (I-Corps™). It is a nation-wide program that encourages research-based innovation and entrepreneurship. I-Corps provides a experiential learning opportunity for students and faculty and involves industry mentors, redrawing the usual university- or faculty-based mode of mentoring. We all know that mentoring is important in developing research and laboratory skills, in classroom-based learning, but I-Corps extends mentoring into innovation. I-Corps mentoring also fosters the professional development of faculty researchers and principal investigators by teaching them about product markets (scientific or technological). As a result, they understand better how technology transfer happens and even how they might contribute to workforce development.
CSUPERB runs one of the NSF’s I-Corps Site programs, CSU I-Corps. Altogether, what I have observed so far is an evolution of new educational practices. CSU I-Corps is awakening in faculty mentors and participating students the desire for off-campus activities. Quite often, teams are motivated to address social or public health problems that might be solved by some kind of research-based solution. CSU I-Corps encourages researchers to find “problem-solution fits” (Osterwalder et al. 2014, page 49). I-Corps activities teach researchers that there is not only a commercial point of view, or to solely expand skills, but that there also is an objective to search for viable solutions to improve the quality of life and build a qualified workforce. CSU I-Corps does not directly prioritize the opening of a new businesses or increased income, goals that incubators and technological parks often target, but instead I-Corps encourages teams to learn about knowledge transfer and commercialization strategies.
I have also seen that CSUPERB encourages interdisciplinary collaboration (engineering, biomedical, applied social sciences and even business administration) to involve the 23 CSU campuses and encourage students and professors to conduct biotechnology research. Along with over 650 others, I attended the 28th Annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium in Orange County on January 5-7, 2016. This annual event highlights the role of the university as a producer of new knowledge and graduates in strategic business sectors, such as biotechnology. The symposium also emphasizes that the tight association of teaching practice, research and application should be highly valued. CSUPERB operates through a network of key faculty members. After the symposium, dozens of faculty members on CSUPERB’s Faculty Consenses Group (FCG) participated in a meeting that made plans and designed the best practices for the program based on CSUPERB’s strategic plan and input from faculty at 22 of the 23 CSU campuses. I think that program transparency and clear objectives can provide a trusted framework for innovation.
We should encourage curiosity and creativity in all our students, and for that reason, some faculty mentors attending the symposium learned how to be more skillful and strategic in the development of students. I attended the “Culturally Competent Mentoring” workshop at the symposium and learned about training with inclusive approaches and appropriate care. I also learned that faculty members can be strategic leaders and, at the same time, create environments in which creativity, innovation and teamwork happen around the student. This workshop showed me the close correlation between teaching and research – and the impact that a program like CSUPERB can have.
Brazil’s new approach to innovation (National Congress Law Nº 13.243/2016) aims to strengthen and integrate the links between university knowledge and the world of work. Similar to California, Brazilian biotechnology research also contributes to advances in new markets and prioritizes government investment in this strategic sector. However, our major universities and research centers have difficulty finding an introductory market strategy for their discoveries or new products, just as our American colleagues do (OECD, 2010; 2015). Programs like CSUPERB end up supporting bolder policies of technology transfer, expanding the participation of faculty researchers in new ventures and innovation, and building awareness of the commercialization process among students. Of course, our students are full of innovative ideas and – in the future – they will likely be collaborators, research partners or owners of the next generation of biotechnology businesses.
Blank, S. (2012) Innovation Corps: A Review of a New National Science Foundation Program to Leverage Research Investments. Available online: http://democrats.science.house.gov/sites/democrats.science.house.gov/files/documents/Blank%20Testimony.pdf
Brazil (2016) Science, Technology and Innovation. Law Nº 13.243, January 11th DE 2016. Available online: http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/_Ato2015-2018/2016/Lei/L13243.htm
Fischer, M.M.J. & Mellon A. W. (2013) Biopolis: Asian Science in the Global Circuitry. Science Technology Society, 18(3): 379-404. Available online: http://sts.sagepub.com/content/18/3/379.abstract
OECD (2010) Innovation to strengthen growth and address global and social challenges. Available online: http://www.oecd.org/sti/45326349.pdf
OECD Innovation Strategy (2015) An Agenda for Policy Action. Available online: http://www.oecd.org/sti/OECD-Innovation-Strategy-2015-CMIN2015-7.pdf
Osterwalder, A., Pigneur, Y., Bernarda, G., Smith, A., Papadakos, T. (2014) Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want. 320 pages. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey. (2015 Thinkers50 Strategy Award)
About the author: Dr. José Clecildo Barreto Bezerra, Professor of Federal University of Goias (UFG) in Brazil and Doctor in Natural Sciences from the University of Hamburg, Germany, is on sabbatical at SDSU/CSUPERB with Dr. Susan Baxter’s guidance. His special interests here are researching learning-teaching methodologies and the interaction between universities and enterprises. In Brazil he teaches special classes: “Innovation Management, Entrepreneurship and Opportunities” and “Management and Entrepreneurship in Biotechnology.”
Ed. Note: Dr. Barret attended all the CSU I-Corps sessions at the 28th Annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium – but this was one of very few he was in front of the camera, albeit way in the very back (blue arrow!)