IT Sligo “student ambassador” Luiz Fernando Zago has headed home to Brazil but not for the World Cup.
He has a different sort of goal in mind - business collaboration between Ireland and Brazil.
A commercial high-flier in the making, he has been a guest at a string of influential business conferences on both sides of the Atlantic in the past year.
And he is grateful to IT Sligo for helping him develop his entrepreneurial skills.
“It was a great year in Sligo,” he says. “In academic terms and professionally, I achieved a lot of things.”
Luiz is among 22 students who were awarded “Government of Ireland Scholarships” for 2013-2014. He was also named as an Education Ireland “Student Ambassador”.
He came to IT Sligo last September from the Institute’s partner university, the Federal University of Santa Catarina, which is one of the most prestigious public universities in Brazil.
Having completed his final year undergraduate studies at IT Sligo, he hopes to return to receive a BB (Hons) Marketing degree in November.
At the moment, though, Luiz intends putting his talents into action to the mutual benefit of his home city and Sligo.
He is taking the helm at a venture that aims to stimulate business links between Sligo and the North West and the technology hub city of Luzerna and its surrounding Midwest of Santa Catarina state in southern Brazil.
It is a joint project of the IT Sligo Innovation Centre and Incubadora Tecnologica Luzerna (ITL), a business innovation centre founded in 2009 by the municipal government of Luzerna.
The partnership was sealed during a recent visit by the Luzerna Mayor, Moisés Diersmann, and ITL Director Rafael Patzlaff, who were welcomed by the Mayor of Sligo, Councillor Marcella McGarry and the Institute’s President, Professor Terri Scott.
At a ceremony attended by staff from both innovation centres, a memorandum was signed jointly agreeing the establishment of the joint project.
“I see Ireland as a gateway to the European market,” Luiz said.
“What I wanted to do was to create an opportunity for companies here in Sligo to have representation in Brazil which would make it easier for them in terms of exporting and trying to reach South American markets.”
Initially, the two innovation centres intend to establish a “social trade platform”, a portal that would enable businesses, entrepreneurs and start-ups to engage directly with each other in both countries in sharing experiences and exploring new markets.
ITL opened in 2009 and hosts 10 companies with expansion projects on the run. Its major activities are mechanical engineering, electronics and automation, agribusiness, biomedical engineering, food, renewable energy and forests.
Luiz took part in the 39th “Business Today” International Conference, an event led by Princeton University students in New York City last November and the prestigious 9th South American Business Forum in Buenos Aires, Argentina, representing IT Sligo each occasion.
When the World Cup begins, he will be watching the opening games on TV from Australia where he will attend Asia Pacific Week conference on business policy in that region. But he still has Sligo on his mind.
“Sligo is part of my history now and I will be very glad to bring my parents here in November to show them where I used to live and where many good things happened for me.”