Student Orientation in Portugal Promotes Entrepreneurial Experiences


On Saturday, September 18th, 2010, the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program held the annual Orientation Day in Portugal, at Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia da Universidade de Coimbra (FCTUC).

The presentations were given to the audience of approximately 25 newly enrolled students who participated in a one-day orientation program. Students already enrolled in the Carnegie Mellon Portugal program shared their valuable advice on living and studying in Portugal, and the company representatives gave the students an opportunity to understand the challenges with establishing start-up companies by emphasizing the importance of innovation.

João Gabriel Silva, head of the Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia da Universidade de Coimbra, made the welcome speech. He praised the progress of the Program, and emphasized the commitment of the Universidade de Coimbra to the partnership. The dual degree of Professional Master’s of Software Engineering, taught at FCTUC, has been a great success in both academics and industry, causing many Portuguese companies to become actively involved in the Program. The highlights of the Carnegie Mellon Portugal program were presented by João Barros, national director of this partnership. In his presentation, he emphasized the students’ innovative research, newly-hired and renowned faculty members, and the successful Program research projects. Barros also spoke about the importance of the Program’s strategic areas and emphasized the industry involvement (over 55 companies) in the partnership. Currently, 226 students are enrolled in the program, 60 of which have graduated. João Barros highlighted the fact that “the most important ingredient of this partnership is the students.”

Rui Meireles, Ph.D. student in Computer Science (CS), and Filippo Cagnetti, post doc in Applied Mathematics, presented their experiences and expectations within the Program and in Portugal. Meireles started his presentation by congratulating the newly enrolled students: “you made it into a great program that will change your life forever!” Meireles made a comparison between the research work and the environment in Portuguese universities and at Carnegie Mellon University concluding:“at the Carnegie Mellon University there are more opportunities to attend scientific talks given by the renowned researchers, attend demanding courses, and overall there is a bigger research ‘buzz’”. “On the other hand,” said Meireles, “Portuguese universities have a more relaxed environment which gives us more time to focus on research.”, He also gave advice on how to deal with a long-distance relationship with advisors: “always keep both of your advisors involved and in sync, they’ve already got their Ph.D.’s; therefore you must be proactive.” He finished his presentation with a message to the new students: “your Ph.D. will be dificult but ultimately rewarding.”  Cagnetti emphasized the critical mass which exists in Instituto Superior Técnico, and praised the good weather in Portugal that gave him the opportunity to learn to surf.

The afternoon sessions were dedicated to entrepreneurship. Three companies and one incubator presented their role within the program. Paulo Santos, from the Coimbra’s incubator Instituto Pedro Nunes, spoke about the way that companies canbe created in Portugal and the support given by this incubator. The presentation “Research to the Market” was presented by Pedro Bizarro, researcher at FCTUC and scientific chief of Feedzai, the first startup company created within the program. Given the fact that in Portugal nine in ten startups created in two years do not subsist, the team of Feedzai went forward and established a new company which is converting research into a product that is commercialized all over the world. Feedzai is a company specialized in processing large volumes of data with low-latency producing actionable information in real-time. Marco Costa, from Critical Software, explained how to manage innovation and what is innovation for his company, emphasizing that it is very important the application of creativity. Pedro Falcão, from Novabase Capital, spoke about the importance of innovation.

September, 2010