When we observe the speed of the transformations brought forth by innovations in the business and company setting starting with the economic crisis of 2008, we perceive the daunting challenges to become integrated with the group of countries that gave rise to the 4th industrial revolution.
Countries like the United States, Germany, Japan, China, United Kingdom, and European Union have already established goals for the next 30 years.
While we observe this race to be the leaders of new technologies, we see in our own country plans for major cuts to science and technology budgets that threaten our future, as alerted by 23 winners of the Nobel Peace Prize in their letter to Brazilian President Temer. Faced with this scenario, there is a growing importance for engagement between companies and the scientific community to explore a path for opportunities.
The 9th edition of the Odebrecht Award for Sustainable Development is here to confirm what we are envisioning as possible paths for our needs and challenges. The award encourages students of Engineering, Architecture, and Agronomy to think about solutions for sustainable development. During these years, there were 45 projects awarded out of a total of 1,300 presented by students and professor from 260 schools and universities.
The projects present ideas that, with the right investments, will be able to help us in the race toward technological transformation associated with the environment.
During the last edition of the award (2016), students from the University of São Paulo (USP) developed a prototype that uses artificial intelligence concepts to automate the selection of sugarcane seedlings produced during pre-sprouting processes before being sent for planting. The system can identify the quality and selects it as either “viable” or “non-viable,” boosting the planting efficiency with improved productivity and reduced losses.
Another example in the 2015 edition came from students at the Catholic University of Pernambuco – UNICAMP, who formulated a biodetergent to apply as a dispersant for oil spills in oceans.
In a recent meeting in New York at an event to recognize the work developed at USP, Columbia University professor Albert Fishlow cited how the example of the seedling selector shows that Brazil is on the right path to keep up with the latest technological advances through its university-company interaction, similarly to what happens in other countries.
A recent survey that we conducted with the group of university student candidates for the Odebrecht Award for Sustainable Development revealed students motivated about the possibility of generating knowledge and useful proposals for society, paired with career-related opportunities. Companies are responsible for engaging this wealth of energy in partnership with universities, building the catapults for future entrepreneurs through the 4th industrial revolution.
Sergio Leão, director of Sustainability at Odebrecht S.A., with a Ph.D. from the University of California