Global Urban Development (GUD) in Brazil: The Porto Alegre Sustainable Innovation Zone (ZISPOA) and the Paralelo Vivo Sustainable Innovation Hub

Global Urban Development (GUD) in Brazil: The Porto Alegre Sustainable Innovation Zone (ZISPOA) and the Paralelo Vivo Sustainable Innovation Hub

The Porto Alegre Sustainable Innovation Zone (ZISPOA – Zona de Inovação Sustentável de Porto Alegre) and the Paralelo Vivo Sustainable Innovation Hub have made extensive progress since GUD’s previous World Urban Campaign Newsletter article in October 2015.  The excitement and energy of this rapidly growing movement for Sustainable Innovation and Inclusive Prosperity is highlighted in this brief video produced by the Porto Alegre City Government (POAdigital): 

ZISPOA is the first major step to implement GUD’s World Bank-funded Leapfrog Economic Strategy for the State of Rio Grande do Sul (RS) to become the most sustainable and innovative place in Latin America by 2030:

The Paralelo Vivo Sustainable Innovation Hub is the first startup hub, coworking and maker space, and innovation ecosystem in Latin America focused on promoting sustainable entrepreneurship, currently with 31 participating businesses and organizations.

In June 2016 both ZISPOA and Paralelo Vivo won “Good Ideas in Sustainability” awards from Virada Sustentável and the Fundação Gaia in a major regional competition among more than 150 contestants.  In addition, two ZISPOA startups, Re-ciclo and Gênese Social, also won awards, and four other ZISPOA startups were finalists: Cesta Feira, Horteria, MVM Technologies, and weBike.

Over the past year, GUD has worked with startup Pulsar on the Entrepreneurship Challenge for nearly 200 students at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) Engineering School, and collaborated with Pulsar to teach two ZISPOA courses at Paralelo Vivo, as well as the ZISPOA “Next Citizens” course at Paralelo Vivo and at other ZISPOA collaborative houses: Casa Cultural Tony Petzhold, CC100, Marquise 51 Hub Criativo, and Vila Flores.  Together nearly 100 students participated in these three courses.  In addition, on World Environment Day (June 5) we organized at Vila Flores the first annual ZISPOA Festival, in honor of Brazilian (and Porto-Alegrense) environmentalist José Lutzenberger, with more than 400 participants.

In December ZISPOA was selected by the Government of Sweden, the Swedish Institute, and Swedish Incubators and Science Parks to participate in the Smart Living Challenge global network, starting with an international webinar on April 28 about “Sharing for Sustainable Mobility” featuring international technical experts mentoring ZISPOA startups such as MVM for electric car sharing, weBike for bike sharing, and Easybox for garage sharing.

MVM is building Porto Alegre’s first electric car charging station, including solar-powered LED lighting, with assistance from other ZISPOA startups such as Oz Engenharia, Printup 3D, Paula Buela, and UFRGS students from Professor Luis Felipe Nascimento’s Sustainable Management course.  On October 20 ZISPOA will inaugurate this new electric car charging station at Shopping Total in a ceremony attended by many Porto Alegre leaders together with Sweden’s Ambassador to Brazil.  In addition, ZISPOA entrepreneurs will participate in two Sweden-Brazil Innovation Week seminars at Nós Coworking on Clean Energy, Sustainable Mobility, and Sustainable Urban Development, and will help launch Porto Alegre Zero Waste Week during a special ZISPOA Green Drinks event at Nós Coworking on October 21.

ZISPOA combines six key elements: Innovation and Technology; Entrepreneurship and Startups; Sustainability and Resource Efficiency; Creativity and Collaboration; Participatory Community Management; and Business-Friendly Environment.

Over the past year working groups were organized around these six elements, and hundreds of people have collaborated to take action and produce results on a wide variety of initiatives.  These include promoting “solar trees”, building a community garden and composting center (Espaço Floresta) at a neighborhood recycling facility, organizing weekly “Zistalks” with startup Point and monthly Sustainable Connections seminars with Net Impact, mapping and surveying ZISPOA for solar capacity and other entrepreneurial and renewable resources, creating a business-friendly website ( and an event-oriented Facebook page (, hosting monthly Green Drinks networking  events for sustainable entrepreneurs, developing the Miudinho sustainability blog (, engaging in visioning with UFRGS students from Professor Julio van der Linden’s Strategic Design course, participating in an RS State Government Commission supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals; and much more.  

Currently ZISPOA is focused on becoming the most sustainable and innovative place in Latin America by December 2020, through achieving five major goals: 1) Most Solar Powered; 2) Most Energy Efficient; 3) Most Digitally Connected; 4) Most Renewable Technology-Friendly; and 5) Most Bike-Friendly.  

Faculty and students from various courses at UFRGS and other universities including PUCRS and Unisinos, plus numerous startups from university-based technology parks and business incubators such as Hestia and Tecnopuc, along with AIESEC and several student Junior Enterprise groups including RENOVA and OTMZA, are participating in ZISPOA activities.

GUD and local partners such as Porto Alegre Resiliente, 3C, UFRGS, and Natureza Digital are collaborating with the international GeoSUMR partnership, including the US State Department, Ecocity Builders, ESRI, AAG, and WRI, on sustainable urban geoinformation and ecocitizen mapping for ZISPOA.  Also, ZISPOA is developing other international partnerships in Canada, Germany, India, Panama, Singapore, Spain, UK, and US, and works with UN-Habitat, UNDP, and the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development.

Starting next year Sustainable Innovation Hubs and Zones (ZIS) will spread to additional cities in Rio Grande do Sul, such as Canoas, Caxias do Sul, Pelotas, and Santa Maria, and similar Sustainable Innovation Hubs and Zones will begin organizing throughout Brazil and Latin America, including São Paulo, Panama City, and other major urban centers.

Article by Global Urban Development