Small entrepreneurs search innovation atmosphere away from house
Ecosystems that aggregate various business support agents are not widespread in the country
Mature ecosystems for business innovation —environments that bring together startups, technology parks, universities, government agencies and large companies — are concentrated in the South, Southeast and, to a lesser extent, in the Northeast.
Thus, small entrepreneurs from the North and Midwest resort to regions far from their cities to develop their companies.
The idea of these ecosystems is for agents to support small and medium-sized entrepreneurs in the growth of their businesses. This is what happens, for example, in Silicon Valley, in California, and in Israel, technology hubs.
Chemist Sandra Zanotto, 48, is one of the small businesswomen who did not find adequate support in Manaus to evolve her project. In 2016, she created Amazon Doors, a company that connects multinationals with small communities to develop production chains in the Legal Amazon. “We operate in regions without roads, communication and even electricity”, she says.
The company has already provided services to Natura, Vale, Pierre Fabre and Ecolab. Sandra was a researcher and professor at UEA (State University of Amazonas) and UFAM (Federal University of Amazonas) for 20 years.
Until 2020, however, she was unable to increase the earnings of Amazon Doors, for lack of guidance. She then returned to Santa Catarina (where she was born) and sought help from the local ecosystem. “I found clear and objective guidelines that led to the restructuring of our business model”, she says.
Today, with the support of the Certi Foundation, a non-profit organization that operates innovation mechanisms in Florianópolis, she is studying, in the south of the country, new ways to monetize the business aimed at the north of Brazil. The same discrepancy occurs, for example, in the Midwest, a region marked by agribusiness.
According to the Agro Hub Brasil platform, administered by the federal government, the Midwest region has nine innovation agents recognized by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply. In comparison, the state of São Paulo has 20.
According to research by Anprotec (National Association of Entities Promoting Innovative Enterprises), only 3.7% of technology parks in Brazil are located in the North. The Midwest has the same percentage. The data is from 2020.
The study also pointed to a lack of incubators and accelerators in both regions, compared to other areas of the country. On another front, the ranking of the National School of Public Administration shows that the best city in the North in terms of innovation, Porto Velho, is only the 26th in the country. From the Midwest, excluding Brasília, the best is Cuiabá, 51st in the ranking.
Sebrae, in turn, develops ecosystems in 113 municipalities in 21 states. Of these, 85% are still operational and only the one in Florianópolis is considered mature — the survey excludes São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
For Danilo Picucci, ecosystem director at Abstartups (Brazilian Association of Startups), the initial phases of these environments are the most difficult. “There is no lack of direct financing for the entrepreneur. There is a lack of funding for the support structure, such as incubators, accelerators and spaces for startups to interact.”
One of the examples of financing defended by Piucci takes place in Manaus. There, Certi developed, in 2019, the Jornada da Amazônia. The initiative aims to expand ties between innovation agents in Amazonian cities, considering bioeconomic businesses.
Certi’s goal is to create 400 ventures and attract 40,000 new researchers and entrepreneurs in the region by 2026. “We have detected almost 2,000 lines of research on the bioeconomy in the Amazon, but this is not generating new business. There is a lack of talents who want to undertake and reflect this in income and development”, points out André Noronha, the initiative’s communication coordinator.
The Northeast, in turn, is the third region with the best ecosystems, according to experts. The Natal environment, for example, was a finalist in the CNI (National Confederation of Industry) award for the best innovation ecosystems in Brazil in 2022 – all winners are from the South.
Recife is home to Porto Digital, one of the largest Brazilian innovation environments. For Rosana Jamal, director of companies at Anprotec, the city knew how to exploit the excellence in computing at UFPE (Federal University of Pernambuco). “It’s difficult to create an ecosystem without focusing on the area or the competence of that place”, she says.