Startups selected for Centelha program in São Paulo begin training and capacity building25 de abril de 2023
By Elton Alisson | Agência FAPESP – Representatives of 44 startups based in São Paulo state, Brazil, embarked in early April in a 12-month journey to transform their innovative ideas into successful business ventures. They had been selected for the local portion of Centelha (Portuguese word for “spark”), a national program to support innovative entrepreneurs and disseminate entrepreneurial culture among young people.
Launched in 2019 and implemented in 26 states across Brazil, the program is an initiative of the Ministry for Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI) and FINEP, the Brazilian Innovation Agency, in partnership with the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), the National Council of State Research Support Foundations (CONFAP), and CERTI Foundation. FAPESP executes the program in São Paulo.
The ideas selected for Phase 1 in April 2022 progressed in June to Phase 2, which required the presentation of business models. The program includes training and capacity building to refine the projects, with support and feedback from mentors.
The best projects embarked in August on Phase 3, which entailed funding proposals, physical and financial planning, and development of innovative products, services and/or processes.
Projects selected in Phase 3 of Centelha are also eligible for funding from the FAPESP Innovative Research in Small Business Program (PIPE) to ensure project continuity.
“What the participants learn about innovative entrepreneurship during their journey through the three phases of the Centelha Program is more important than any contracts that may be signed involving their projects,” said Marcelo Camargo, head of applied research and technological development at FINEP, in his opening remarks to the first training workshop held by the program on April 5 at FAPESP.
“FINEP and FAPESP are working to expand the scale of innovative entrepreneurship in Brazil. This is a very important mission in a country with so much social inequality,” he added.
The representatives of the selected startups will receive 12 months of technical support for the development of products and processes through in-person training, mentoring and workshops run by experts from FAPESP, SEBRAE (the Brazilian small business support service) and ABStartups (the Brazilian Startup Association).
SEBRAE will award complementary scholarships to the selected startups under an agreement with FAPESP and is partnering with ABStartups to offer a mentoring program for the entrepreneurs.
“The program will consist of an initial diagnosis of the firm, followed by feedback and mentoring for entrepreneurs with consultants provided by ABStartups who have practical experience in the market and are themselves founders of businesses,” said Marcos Leite, deep tech program manager with SEBRAE for Startups.
The number of proposals submitted by startups from all parts of São Paulo totaled 571. The projects are at different stages of development, from proof of concept or initial prototype to pioneering commercialization.
They are also in a wide array of areas, including social technologies (22%), chemistry (22%), artificial intelligence (12%) and biotechnology (9%).
One can illustrate their diversity with only a few examples. One of the projects approved entails the development of a drug delivery biochip to be implanted in pets. Another aims at creating a collaborative platform to translate online content into sign language. And there is also a marketplace project to connect consumers with providers of laundry services.
“The proposals involve more sectors for applications than ideas because an idea may be applicable in more than one sector,” said Patricia Tedeschi, FAPESP’s Manager for Innovative R&D.
Teams representing most of the selected startups comprise four or five entrepreneurs, a highly positive point for the success of science- or technology-based startups, known as deep techs, noted Douglas Zampieri, a member of FAPESP’s Research for Innovation Adjunct Panel.
“What we’ve noticed at FAPESP is that ‘solo’ startups with a single person responsible for the project to begin with are the first to drop out of the market,” he said.
Another reason why startups perish, he added, is a shortage of funding in the early stages when they are likely to be still developing and experimenting. This is precisely when they most need money and are vulnerable because they do not yet have a significant revenue stream.
“Thanks to its partnerships with SEBRAE and FINEP, FAPESP is now able to offer startups a safety net during their entire journey to production and initial commercialization. Funding from FAPESP and its partners reaches BRL 5 million in the five years it typically takes to launch a product into the market,” Zampieri explained.