Luiz Fernando Furlan doesn't believe that innovation only means applying new technologies or inventing new processes. For the former Brazilian minister of Development, Industry and Trade, innovation also means a new way of thinking.
In the case of Brazil, he says, "innovating was about understanding what was possible to build the future. "With former President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, "there was a very important change (in thinking) that is called self-esteem," Furlan said in an interview with Latin Trade.
This executive isn't easy to label. Over the course of his 65 years, the grandson of the businessman who founded Sadia, one of the most important food companies in the history of Brazil, has been a military cadet, a chemical engineer, a businessman, a board member at several multinational companies and a cabinet minister. One of his achievements was guiding Sadia through the worst crisis in its history, which ended in a merger with Perdigao, to create Brasil Foods (BRF) the nation's biggest food processing company. Furlan is currently an independent member of the company's board.
Furlan speaks almost reverently of the achievements of Lula, even as a corruption scandal has threatened to stain Lula's legacy. Several weeks ago, Lula's one-time right-hand-man Jose Dirceu was found guilty on a corruption charge related to a widespread scheme to buy votes from legislators to secure their support in Congress.
"There was a time when Brazilians felt small when they went abroad. Today it's the other way around; people have recovered their national pride with Lula because Lula always treated international authorities as equals," he said. "Lula always presented himself as the president of a great country that was progressing."
Furlan is proud of his country, which delivered 40 million people out of poverty in just ten years, and which today has the lowest level of unemployment in its history. He is especially proud of the fact that Brazil has "enough reserves to pay its public and private debts, and no longer depends on the IMF, Washington, London, or the Pope," to manage its economic policy.
But as a businessman he admits that Brazil has yet to solve many problems that affect the competitiveness of its companies, such as a lack of infrastructure, a bloated bureaucracy, high tax...