From researcher to manager of an ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship

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From researcher to manager of an ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship

From researcher to manager of an ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship

Agostinho Almeida, Porto Business School Alumnus, leads a team in Colombia whose mission is to transform the city of Medellín into an ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship. How does a Portuguese researcher become the COO of an Innovation and Business Centre? The Magellan MBA allowed Agostinho to fill the gap between R&D and business, become an entrepreneur and perform a career shift.

With nearly a decade dedicated to research and teaching at the University of Minho, and a comfortable professional career, when Agostinho Almeida decided to take a gap year to attend The Magellan MBA he “was still a long way from innovation” at the time, in Portugal.


With The Magellan MBA came a career change in Agostinho’s life. He was far from imagining that could happen. “I didn’ t go into the MBA thinking I was going to start my own company. I hadn’t even thought of it. I went with a different vision, to meet new people and learn new things”, says the Porto Business School Alumnus.


Not everything he had planned came to pass but in the final product was good anyway. Initially, he didn’t want to participate in the Cohitec Programme but today Agostinho acknowledges that it was one of the best experiences he had, because “he realized not that it was what he wanted to do, but really what he should do.”


He hadn’t considered becoming an entrepreneur - he even apply to other companies after the MBA. Lastly, he founded three companies related to health and technology - Venture Catalysts, Abyssal SA and Immunethep  - with four friends he met on the MBA and that changed his life forever.


The MBA brought him the hard skills, helped him to establish a mental structure, the discipline, and the methodology for understanding how the business world works, the ability to do financial analysis and in the process of negotiating transactions, skills that he is still putting to daily use as a Chief Operating Officer (COO) of RutaN, a Colombian public organisation whose mission is to transform the city of Medellín into an ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship driven by a knowledge economy.


“Today things are completely different from when I arrived here (Porto Business School), straight from the research lab world that, at that time, was very far from the private sector, where the purpose was to do something specific and detailed, scientific articles, awards and scholarships. Because of this background any class, meeting with colleagues or instructors on the MBA, was fantastic, because it was completely new for me.  It was starting from scratch. For someone who likes to learn, who really wanted to see things differently, The Magellan MBA is a great choice – it's a game changer: the best analogy I find is – The MBA made enabled me to see the world through different lenses, allowing different perspectives”, recalls Agostinho Almeida.



Medellín invests 0.8% of GDP in R&D


Agostinho Almeida has already spent six years abroad and his experience in Colombia gave him a different vision of the business world – one useful in his role in the transactions and negotiations in the companies that he founded in Portugal and with which he still maintains a connection, within which he performs various functions.


When he arrived in Colombia in 2011, he began managing a research centre with the aim of bringing new products and services from R&D to the market as a way of applying what he learned during the MBA. Afterwards, he worked in financial management for a venture capital fund for three and a half years as an investment manager for technology-based companies, negotiating with companies from different industries, including banks, insurance companies and multilateral funds.


Six months ago he accepted another challenge as COO in RutaN, an organisation with about 100 employees, where he manages programmes, with an annual budget of 10 to 15 million dollars and the task of executing public projects. “Here, the MBA tools were useful, including the soft skills that help me to manage large and diverse teams in a different culture”, says The Magellan MBA Alumnus.


RutaN was created in 2009 by a combination of synergies between two public companies and the City Hall. RutaN' goal, by 2021, is that innovation remains the main driver of the city, boosted by a knowledge economy, which means a huge transformation of the city and “universities, wineries, companies and states and estimates of investments in R&D and Innovation” says the COO of RutaN. Currently, Colombia invests 0.2% of GDP in R&D and about to 0.7% in science, technology and innovation activities, while Medellín invests around 0.8% and 1.8% respectively, demonstrating a paradigm shift.


"The role of RutaN has been changing, depending on the city needs. For example, when it started, RutaN set up training programmes in technology transfer and development of new products for companies and universities. Now RutaN is focused on building talent in ​​Artificial Intelligence area. All this supported by global experts of these different areas ", explains the Portuguese manager.


Since then, the public organisation has contributed to change the Colombian city of Medellín, with a population of about two and a half million, and transformed the city into an innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem driven by a knowledge economy. In addition to entrepreneurship and innovation training programmes, RutaN has a unit dedicated to the development of strategic businesses to solve city challenges such as air quality, safety or health, and a soft landing programme that attracted more than 200 companies - more than 60% of companies are non-Colombian - that work mainly in the areas of technology and software, responsible for creating more than 4000 jobs.


"RutaN's strategy has been directed towards strengthening the skills of local actors, but on the other hand, it is able to attract the best talent, companies and capital, both with a logic of transformation the city. This hasn’t been made with financial support or tax benefits, and demonstrates that the city has much to offer to develop innovative businesses and serve as a platform for growth in the Latin American region. In the 1990s, Medellín was considered one of the most violent cities in the world, with low confidence of investors (national and international), without great capacity for R&D and with few innovation skills and has changed a lot in the recent years", says Agostinho Almeida.


In 2013, Medellín was voted as the Most Innovative City on the Planet by the Wall Street Journal and the Urban Land Institute, for its commitment to making innovation a catalyst for the city’s growth, as well as innovation and social and economic inclusion through transport systems, new public spaces, among others. "It is a pride and a great responsibility to be part of this transformation", he concludes.