Experts present contributions to science, technology and innovation policy in Brazil

Event organized by FGV brought together different players from the national ST&I system.
Public Policy
10 April 2024
Experts present contributions to science, technology and innovation policy in Brazil

“Brazil has fantastic institutional assets but there is a lack of cooperation between the institutions and agents that promote innovation in the country,” stressed the vice president of Fundação Getulio Vargas, Marcos Cintra, during the opening session of the Public Conference on Policies for Science, Technology and Innovation Based on Evidence, which took place on April 3 in Sao Paulo. The event brought together representatives of the national science, technology and innovation system with the aim of proposing evidence-based contributions for the sector’s new policy.

The proposals presented during this conference represent a contribution to drawing up a National Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation in Brazil, and are part of preparations for the Fifth National ST&I Conference, which will take place from June 4 to 6 in Brasilia.

You can watch this conference’s panel discussions in full here.

To check out the presentations made and the respective proposals for a new science, technology and innovation policy, click here.

Proposals for governance of science, technology and innovation initiatives

The conference’s first panel debated governance of the ST&I system and the coordination of initiatives by development bodies and funding agencies working in the sector. According to the director of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, Alvaro Prata, science must guide all national decisions at the executive level, supporting actions by different ministries.

“You can’t make a decision on the environment, health, infrastructure or public security without taking science as a basis,” said Prata. The professor and former president of Santa Catarina Federal University proposed a restructuring of ministries in order to generate more centrality for science, technology and innovation actions, based on Ciência para Prosperidade (“Science for Prosperity”), a book published by the Brazilian Industrial Research and Innovation Company (Embrapii).

Prata also proposed the creation of a new function – strategic advisors on ST&I– to participate in different parts of the legislative, judicial and above all executive branches. The idea is for each ministry to have a strategic ST&I advisor to act jointly with the Ministry for Science, Technology and Innovation, ensuring that decisions made in different areas are based on scientific evidence.

After that, the president of the National Academy of Medicine, Eliete Bouskela, warned of the need for Brazilian industrial companies to hire more people with master’s and doctoral degrees, as happens in other countries. “In Sweden, for example, manufacturers are usually located close to universities so that there can be greater dialogue between academia and industry,” said Bouskela, the first female president of the National Academy of Medicine in its 195-year history.

Jorge Guimarães, professor emeritus at Rio Grande do Sul Federal University, argued that it is necessary to reformulate Brazil’s high school education model in order to expand the supply of well-qualified professionals in the market. “We also need to reorient the mission of federal institutes to act in high school and further education, to forge partnerships with the SENAI/SENAC system, with a focus on complementary training, and to enact a university reform, perhaps the deepest challenge of all,” he said.

Guimarães was followed by the chairman of the Sao Paulo State Research Foundation (FAPESP), Marco Antônio Zago, who said there is a clear lack of ST&I governance in Brazil. He argued that boosting state and regional ST&I systems could improve this situation and stressed the importance of conferences like the one organized by FGV to discuss these subjects.

“We hope that at the end of this cycle, which will culminate in the Fifth National ST&I Conference, we will once again have a strategic plan for the country, with high-priority lines of action, defined targets and resources set aside for their implementation. This plan must take into account Brazil’s huge size and regional diversity, so it is essential to strengthen state and regional research agendas for scientific and technological development, with the participation of the academic community and local companies, and with combined federal and state resources,” said FAPESP’s chairman.

The last speaker on the panel was the Sao Paulo state secretary for science, technology and innovation, Vahan Agopyan, who reiterated the need to strengthen innovation environments and support innovative companies, especially startups.

Evaluation of investments in ST&I

The second panel discussion of the event presented proposals for new guidelines and a permanent evaluation system for ST&I Investments. The chairman of the Mining and Energy Ministry’s Energy Efficiency Steering Committee, Caetano Penna, presented five principles for evaluating mission-oriented policies. The first principle states that evaluating the impact of mission-oriented policies is an elusive task, as it is a long-term issue. The second principle indicates that achieving missions implies mobilizing capacities and carrying out capacity-building activities in a systemic way.

“Capacity means the stock of resources that a country has, and capability building is an organizational skill. These capabilities are facilitated by three mechanisms: collaboration, competition and control,” explained Penna. According to him, the three other principles state that “missions require a consistent, coherent, comprehensive and integrated mix of policies and instruments,” “mission-oriented policies are anchored in dedicated mechanisms and structures for institutional learning” and “it is possible to monitor and evaluate mission-oriented policies based on specific theories of change.”

Penna went on to describe how it is possible to monitor and evaluate mission-oriented policies based on these specific theories of change, based on a 2023 study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). “It is possible to monitor these policies not by looking at the impact and whether the policies are effective or efficient, but by looking at the process involving the inputs that are included in the policies,” he said.

As well as the Mining and Energy Ministry’s Energy Efficiency Steering Committee, the National Council of State Research Foundations (CONFAP) also took part in the panel discussion. The council’s president, Odir Dellagostin, before proposing recommendations for the sector’s new policy, demonstrated the importance of investment in ST&I.

“A compilation of studies in the European Union showed that the total value generated by public research is between three and eight times the value of the investment. Another study,in the United Kingdom, showed that for every £1 invested by the government, an annual social return of between £0.20 and £0.50is produced in perpetuity,” Dellagostin explained. He also mentioned a 2017 study indicating the impact on economic growth for every 1% increase in public spending in selected areas, mainly concerning investments related to research and development.

Among other things, CONFAP’s president recommended establishing clear and measurable goals, and adopting multidimensional evaluation approaches that can consider various aspects such as socioeconomic impact, technological innovation and contributions to sustainable development.

During the same panel, José Biruel, science and technology relationship manager at Petrobras’ Research, Development and Innovation Center (CENPES), and Paulo Figueiredo, a researcher at Fundação Getulio Vargas’ Brazilian School of Public and Business Administration (FGV EBAPE), shared their suggestions for the ST&I agenda.

Biruel presented Petrobras’ experience in R&D investments, while Figueiredo focused on the role of building up technological expertise, from an industrial point of view, as a way of helping form guidelines for evaluating investments in ST&I. The researcher also emphasized the private sector’s limited share of Brazilian R&D investment compared to other countries. “The public sector still has a very high share of this investment and there is little in the private sector, which curtails its capacity to innovate,” Figueiredo said.

Among his proposals, the researcher highlighted the need to position manufacturing at the center of innovation policies, to accumulate technological capacities for innovation at a company level, to develop and strengthen ecosystems and their startups in strategic areas for Brazil, with a focus on exports, and to encourage technological diversification at companies to generate transformation of the industrial fabric.

One of the participants in this panel, the vice dean of Fundação Getulio Vargas’ Sao Paulo School of Business Administration (FGV EAESP), Tales Andreassi, mentioned a paper by researcher Fernanda De Negri, titled “Public Policies for Science and Technology in Brazil: The Present Situation and Recent Developments,” which analyzes innovation policies.

“By looking at sector funds, innovation laws, mandatory R&D and national spending on science and technology over the last 20 years, this research concluded that in 2020, Brazil’s spending on science and technology was equivalent to 0.5% of GDP. In other words, 30 years have passed,but we still have the same figure as in 1992. In fact, between 2013 and 2020, this spending fell 37%. The big question here is how to shield the science and technology area from such huge variations in these investments,” Andreassi said.

Another institution involved in this debate was the Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA), represented by researcher João De Negri, who highlighted the fact that nobody has mapped Brazil’s research laboratories and their capabilities in different fields of knowledge. “I would suggest developing a program to scale up investment in ST&I and create high-impact technology hubs,” said the IPEA researcher.

Impacts of ST&I policies and programs

The conference’s last panel discussion, called “How to Define Metrics for Measuring and Evaluating the Impacts of ST&I Policies and Programs,” featured the dean of Fundação Getulio Vargas’ School of Public Policy and Government (FGV EPPG), Edson Kondo; the president of Embrapii, Francisco Saboya; Rio de Janeiro Federal University researcher João Carlos Ferraz; and the CEO of Recepta Biopharma, José Fernando Perez.

According to Edson Kondo, the increasing speed of technological progress is causing concern when it comes to the evaluation of indicators. Francisco Saboya complemented Kondo’s remarks by reiterating that if speed is not included as a variable in the innovation equation, Brazil will not move toward becoming an advanced nation that is capable of generating and exporting innovations.

“My suggestions are to create indicators that take into account the time and speed with which innovations take place, and which also consider the commercialization of knowledge embedded in a patent or research project and the incorporation of value in Brazil’s trade balance,” concluded Embrapii’s president. All the conference’s panel discussions gave an opportunity for the guest debaters to make recommendations and for the audience members to express their views.

You can find out more about the Fifth National ST&I Conference here.

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