Petrobras: How can innovation initiatives help develop new technological solutions?

Matthew Taylor's avatar
Matthew Taylor
A smiling person (Vinicius Maia, Petrobras) stands facing the camera, wearing a crew-neck t-shirt, a puffer jacket and glasses. Vinicius's head and shoulders are visible in frame. Behind Vinicius are a river and bridge, and a row of buildings.

In the lead up to Web Summit Rio, we sat down with Vinicius Maia of Petrobras to discuss the innovation initiatives the company is operating in order to develop its technology.

The energy sector is facing an increasing range of challenges, but technological innovation may be key to overcoming them.

That’s why Petrobras is running an open innovation initiative to develop partnerships with science institutions, universities, startups, technology companies, individual researchers and data scientists.

To find out more, we spoke with Petrobras’s Vinicius Maia.

What policies and activities are Petrobras pursuing in order to foster innovation – as a company and for Brazil in general?

Petrobras invests billions in innovation every year, and manages a very diverse portfolio. There are some key factors increasing the rate of success of the company’s projects:

  • Full integration between the innovation department and the business units. Researchers must understand the reality of internal clients to make sure they are attacking a real problem.
  • Monitoring the commercial readiness level (CRL). During the development of a new technology, commercial aspects matter just as much as the technical ones. We should make sure that at the end of the development, enough suppliers are in place and ready to scale up the solution to meet the company’s demands.
  • Promoting cooperation between institutions. One key aspect of successful innovation projects is the ability to bring together and combine the expertise of different stakeholders to achieve goals.
  • ​​

While researchers at Petrobras already work closely with their internal clients, in the near future we expect to increase the integration between technology companies and academia to achieve higher CRLs and bring new solutions to market.

Tell us about Petrobras’s open innovation initiative.

Petrobras’s open innovation program is called Petrobras Connections for Innovation. It encompasses different opportunities to partner with Petrobras to develop, test or commercialize technology.

It is open to different actors in the innovation ecosystem, including big companies, tech companies, startups, universities, science institutes, data scientists, and researchers in general. It consists of seven different modules, where challenges are published on a regular basis. Each module differs from the others based on technology readiness level, the target partner, and the business model of the solution.

People and organizations within the ecosystem can visit the program website to learn more about the open challenges and find out how to participate.

What partnerships are Petrobras pursuing in order to foster greater innovation?

We want to make sure we’re partnering with the best organizations in the world to help us overcome our challenges. That’s the whole idea of our open innovation program.

For less mature technologies, universities and science institutes usually are a better fit, while more mature technologies require an industrial partner to make sure the innovative product or service will be available on the market.

For niche technologies in intermediate maturity levels, startups have proven to be an excellent choice to finish the development phase and scale up the solution.

What opportunities are available for startups, educational institutions and individuals to participate in Petrobras’s innovation initiatives?

In 2022, we published more than 100 opportunities on the Petrobras Connections for Innovation website. In 2023, we’ve already published more than 30 opportunities in many different domains – including digital twins, robotics and drones – related to the energy industry.

What opportunities do Brazilian startups and educational institutions have for developing world-leading technologies that can transform society?

Brazilian startups and educational institutions can play a very important role in new technologies that the energy industry is developing, especially in the context of energy transition.

As an example, we currently operate the largest offshore carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) hub in the world in the pre-salt area, and much of the technology that enables it is the result of partnerships with Brazilian institutions.

In the next few years, Petrobras plans to invest a considerable amount in R&D focused on decarbonization initiatives, and both Brazilian education institutions and startups can play a major role in these developments.

To learn more about technology and innovation at Petrobras, visit the Petrobras website.

Main image of Petrobras’s Vinicius Maia: Petrobras

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