Instituto Caldeira: How Does an Innovation Hub Support Startups?
n 2019, a group of entrepreneurs who understood the importance of having an active network within the innovation ecosystem wanted to create that community in Rio Grande do Sul. They discovered the concept of an innovation hub – a place where innovators, entrepreneurs, community members and people from universities can collaborate, develop their ideas and bring them to resolution – and Instituto Caldeira was born.
Pedro Valério, CEO of Instituto Caldeira, was there at the beginning when forty-two founder companies came together to create and finance Caldeira. Along with his peers, he has worked the initiative through economic viability and project ideation as Caldeira’s community manager. However, Pedro was only one of the many actors connecting the founders: Instituto Caldeira, after all, is a community that believes in the power of collaborative execution and in building the future of the innovation ecosystem together with hundreds of other actors.
While the state had a solid academic scene, ten years ago the general feeling was that the innovation available within universities was restricted to the academic world – there wasn’t a direct connection of that knowledge production with companies or investors. “Caldeira helped to materialize the ecosystem maturity that Rio Grande do Sul had been developing,” says Pedro. “We needed to have active participation of all players and burst the bubble that innovation and technology can create.”
The motto that Instituto Caldeira lives by is the abundance policy. Caldeira’s primary purpose is to make sure the innovation and technology created in the region are reaching other parts of the country. “We are actively providing the state with startups and content to support Rio Grande do Sul to become even more competitive in the face of digital transformation.” The institute’s vision is to be the inductor of a positive and purposeful agenda. “We all have a lot of dreams about what Rio Grande do Sul can be,” he says. With programs that support startups and entrepreneurs, an innovation hub can help these actors to connect with market opportunities all over the region – if not abroad too.
Noticing many traditional companies looking to invest in startups and connecting to the open innovation trend, not to mention the incredible local talent leaving the state to look for better opportunities across Brazil, Caldeira wanted to create a portfolio of projects, products and programs to boost the scene. One of the first initiatives was called Ebulição, an acceleration program that supports twenty startups for a period of six months, offering them a series of tools and content to help them better prepare for the market’s challenges. “We took them by the hand and looked for purposeful matches, connecting them with corporates and investors that would help them grow,” Pedro says.
In other innovation ecosystems like Tel Aviv, you don’t ask where to go. When an innovation hub is in its mature stage, you are breathing innovation everywhere in the city.
And while Ebulição was the first materialization of the goals of Caldeira’s sponsors and founders, the institute realized other gaps in the ecosystem needed immediate action. This led to other programs and projects, including the Campus Caldeira, a talent-training project for the public school network. “We realized that it doesn’t make sense to talk about an innovation hub if we don’t have the talent prepared for an innovation ecosystem,” says Pedro. “How do we connect and enhance the tech vocations in the state? We need to prepare the region for an upcoming mature stage.” Instituto Caldeira organized over 290 activities in 2022, mostly to help demystify what happens in the innovation ecosystem, and to bring potential professionals, talents and companies closer to hot topics such as graphene, NFTs or AI. “These tools are already available. But the innovation is: What do I do with it? What are the questions? Is there a link or opportunity that exists within this context? That’s where an innovation hub can really support the ecosystem’s growth.”
Today, Instituto Caldeira’s work has resulted in over 100 companies with innovation labs, over 450 connections between companies and institutions, over 700 startups in the ecosystem and countless partnerships between companies, both local and abroad. Instituto Caldeira is also expanding. It is currently adding more space to the complex’s existing 22,000 square meters. “Our idea is to build an innovation district,” says Pedro. “This way, we can live and breathe innovation.”
Pedro Valério's most important tips for startups:
- Learn how to generate value. It looks simple, but entrepreneurs need a clear value proposition of what they are generating for the ecosystem. As you generate value for the community, you will naturally create a strong web that generates value for your business.
- Connections accelerate innovation. Invest time to build genuine business relationships. Whether you are hiring or looking for funding, your network is home to many opportunities, and your business relationships are magnets for innovation and growth.
- Invest in local talent. Training of talent shouldn’t be restricted to social class. By training local talents, you can rescue their self-esteem and generate value for society through technology—not to mention create wealth through social development.
- Find your local one-stop shop. Innovation hubs are perfect for answering all entrepreneurial questions, from inspiring talks to pitching tips and even acceleration programs.
Main photo: Marina Gomes