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UT Austin-Portugal Program Creates International Entrepreneurship Connections

Olaide Olambiwonnu presents as part of the UT Austin Portugal Program

Academics and entrepreneurs on both sides of the Atlantic have been working together on challenging problems for a decade, thanks to the UT Austin-Portugal Program.

An ongoing partnership between The University of Texas at Austin and Portugal, the program supports both entrepreneurs and academics. UT Austin-Portugal is one of several international partnerships funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT). To date, it has produced $130 million in direct and indirect economic impact for the country, with every dollar invested by the Portuguese ministry returning $40, says Marco Bravo, MSTC '09, the program's co-principal investigator and executive director.

The program's CoLab initiative links university and industry for large-scale research projects in digital media, advanced computing, applied mathematics, and nanotechnology with the goal of addressing current societal challenges. The most promising results are eligible for business incubation through the program's University Technology Enterprise Network's (UTEN) Global Startup Program. 

"It's a great program," says Robert Peterson, McCombs School of Business marketing professor and principal investigator for UT Austin-Portugal, which recently moved from the IC2 Institute to a new home at McCombs. "It's good for the university, the city of Austin, the state of Texas, and the Portuguese."

From Nov. 14 to 18, the UTEN Global Startup Program's orientation week enabled Portuguese entrepreneurs to showcase technology innovations from the country's researchers on a visit to Austin, as well as to meet with U.S. companies and venture capitalists interested in forging partnerships.

Cross-cultural networks for researchers and universities

"[The program] has received considerable international recognition, especially because of its internationalization and specialization focus. Universities understand these to be key elements in a new era of international affairs, where governments and industry collaborate by co-creating and sharing knowledge."

Manuel Heitor, Portugal's minister of science, technology, and higher education

Exposure to Austin's ecosystem

"We have a similar program at MIT, so it's great to have this in two different locations with two different experiences, and to expose our faculty and companies to the two environments. It's very complimentary."

Paulo Ferrao, president, Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT)

Adding to UT's entrepreneurship opportunities

"There are several successful entrepreneurial programs going on at UT. We are adding an international flavor. We bring foreign entrepreneurs with the best creative technologies to Austin and help them grow globally for the benefit of society."

Marco Bravo, executive director, UT Austin-Portugal Program

Offering research benefits

"We're getting a database of startup companies from a different culture that our faculty and graduate students can analyze for academic papers. That's a dimension that wasn't considered when the program was started. CoLab has supported faculty and graduate students in mathematics, computer science, nanotechnology, and digital media both in Portugal and at UT Austin. That's beneficial to the university facilitating publishing high quality papers in peer reviewed journals."

Robert Peterson, principal investigator, UT Austin-Portugal Program

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