The UNIFACS won two of the 21 categories contested by institutions of higher education across Brazil in the 9th edition of Santander Universities, the leading higher education academic awards in Brazil, consisting of four awards that highlight projects in the areas of entrepreneurship, scientific research, university extension and academic performance. With three selected among the 50 finalists, UNIFACS won the Technology Based Business category and ranked second in the category Biotechnology and Health, both part of the Entrepreneurship Award. The university was also awarded the University Partnership Award. The award was announced at a ceremony held on November 19 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Sao Paulo. Each winning project received 100 thousand Reis to be invested in their project.
The winner in the Technology Based Business Award category, the prototype semi-automated design for the Treatment of Lignocellulosic Waste was developed by a doctoral student in Chemical Engineering, Professor Leila Maria Aguilera Campos, who is also professor and coordinates the university’s Green Chemistry Laboratory, under Professor Luiz Pontes. The great innovation brought forward by the prototype is the possibility of treating "lignocellulosic waste" (which are nothing more than those derived from cane sugar used to produce biofuels) without the need for skilled labor, significantly reducing the costs of ethanol production. "When you go through a reactor with steam explosions at high pressure, sugarcane waste is released in a fast and practical way," explains Professor Leila.
The project Recycling Pays You Back, winner of the University Partnership Award, is an arm of UNIFACS Recycles Project (UNIR), developed by the Coordinator for Community University Engagement and coordinated by professors Patricia Pastori, Elizabeth Dantas, Protásio Nery and Alessandro Leboreiro, and developed with the assistance of student volunteers, the project provides advice on management and entrepreneurship for Cooperative Canore, which is engaged in the recycling of cooking oil and is the main source of income for 17 families in the Northeast neighborhood of Amarnath. The goal is to revitalize equipment, train recyclers, improve the logistics of collecting and selling, promoting actions that lead to self-management and boosting the income of cooperative. "They use improvised materials to filter the oil and end up mixing various types, such as palm oil, soybean, sunflower, which reduces the market value," explains Professor Sts. "This award further strengthens our commitment to the UNIFACS students who work as volunteers, demonstrating that it is possible to engage in a collective search for solutions to transform reality of disadvantaged groups," says Professor Pastori.
In second place in the Biotechnology and Health Entrepreneurship category was fourth semester student of Chemical Engineering, Nina Almeida Guimarães. The Bioplastics project creates a plastic film from the bark and the rest pulp potatoe pieces that are literally wasted in the process of industrialization, although they represent approximately 35% of the vegetable. The bioplastic generated has features that are very similar in stiffness and flexibility with plastic produced from non-renewable sources, but it is cheaper. "Another advantage is that the environmental impacts are considerably smaller, because it is biodegradable," explains the graduate student. "It was a second place finish that is truly a victory, especially since the winning design was authored by a student masters," said the rector of UNIFACS, Profesora Marcia Barros.
According to Dean of Graduate Studies and University Research, Professor Carolina Spinola, these national achievements reflect the institutional focus of UNIFACS on research and entrepreneurship, which leads to a lot of internal encouragement and development of these areas. "There is a close relationship between research and entrepreneurship. Today, many innovative businesses arise and are incubated at universities, from the development of cutting-edge research. The same can be said of the area of community outreach, which is linked to research, searching for a social bias, bringing knowledge and development that are produced at the university to society."
About the Award
An initiative of the Santander Universities Global Division and Banco Santander, the Santander Universities Prizes consist of four major awards that reach the entire higher education value chain: undergraduate and graduate professors and researchers from Educational Institutions Superior nationwide. In 2013, the awards hit record entries, with 16,838 registered projects, 63% more than the previous edition. Of these, only 50 became finalists and only 21 were recognized on the night of November 19. In total, $2 million reais were distributed in awards and grants from international and U.S. study IBEROAMERICA.
This article has been translated into English to be shared on the Laureate International Universities website.