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Innovation

Orchestra rehearsal

States of the Southeast coordinate a common agenda for development

São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and Espírito Santo are going to draw up a unified plan for investments in science, technology and innovation (S, T & I) for the region. The idea is to sign cooperation agreements between the secretariats for science and technology to foster the research and development of new products in areas regarded as strategic, such as biotechnology and agribusiness.

The idea of unifying the agenda for technological development began to be devised during the Southeast S, T & I Conference held on August 3 and 4 in Belo Horizonte, when about 400 representatives of the four states drew up proposals for the 3rd National Conference for Science, Technology and Innovation, scheduled for the month of November, in Brasilia. The idea was advocated by Lourival Carmo Mônaco, the executive secretary of the São Paulo Secretariat for Science, Technology and Economic Development, taken up by the secretaries for science and technology of Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo and supported by the executive secretary of the 3rd National Conference, Carlos Aragão. The expectation is that, by October, the proposal of the Southeastern Region is detailed and rubber-stamped by the state governments.

The four states of the Southeast, jointly, record the highest percentages of spending on S&T more than those of the other regions of the country. In 2002, for example, the disbursements of the state governments – albeit strongly concentrated on São Paulo – added up to R$ 937 million, not counting the R$ 1.3 billion handed down by means of the various programs of the Ministry of Science and Technology (MCT). The region includes over half the research groups at work in the country and is responsible for 65% of the patent requests filed with the National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI) between 2000 and 2002.

Agenda for development
The 3rd National Conference for S, T & I has as its central theme the development of the country divided into five large areas: generation of wealth, social inclusion, areas of national interest, international presence, and management and regulation of knowledge. This list of topics ordered the debates of the regional encounters.

In Belo Horizonte, the strategies for technological development had a prominent place. There was consensus that the Law on Innovation, when regulated, should contribute towards the creation of a cooperative environment between universities, research institutes and companies – preserving their distinct vocations – and result in the development of new products. Amongst those taking part in the meeting, expectations were also positive in relation to the incentives provided for in Provisional Measure No, 252, known as the PM for the Good, which alleviated, by means of subsidies, the hiring of researchers by companies and which comes into force in the next year.

The low level of investments by companies in research and development (R&D), though, may restrict the impact of the Law on Innovation and of the PM of the Good on some sectors of economic activity. “It is easier for the university to help a company that already carries out research and development than one that does not do any”, explained Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, FAPESP’s scientific director.

Evaluated from this perspective, agribusiness should be one of the greatest beneficiaries of the Law on Innovation, found Alberto Portugal, ex-president of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa). In this area, Brazil has international leadership, but, to keep its prominent position, it will have to consolidate its R&D. “The challenge will be enormous”, warned Evaldo Vilela, the rector of the Federal University of Viçosa (UFV). “Today, we have the best technology in tropical agriculture, but in the future we will have savage competition in the world market for fibers, foodstuffs and timber, and this is without mentioning the prospects of growing barriers for the producers.”

The success of any partnership between the universities and the private sector will call for the schools to re-evaluate the syllabus and encourage entrepreneurship. “We qualify doctors to be professors, we don’t qualify researchers with a vision of technology, and, above, we do not protect our knowledge”, diagnosed José Arana Varela, the pro-rector for research of the São Paulo State University (Unesp).

Still in the academic ambit, the need was pointed out for a greater integration between the universities and the technical schools, for redefining the work of the technologist, whose role is regarded as primordial in the production and dissemination of technologies, and for the release of specific budgetary funds for equipping the laboratories to improve the education of professionals in the technical areas.

Research institutes
At the Belo Horizonte encounter, a “rediscussion and reevaluation” was suggested of the role of the technological research institutes. The objective is to seek new forms of funding to modernize the infrastructure, to create alternatives for “repositioning” human resources, and to allocate funds for international cooperation. “We also need legal support for negotiating contracts and economic and technological evaluation”, claimed Sergio Almeida Cunha Filgueiras, the director of the Nuclear Technology Development Center (CDTN), an institute linked to the MCT.

For the universities and research institutes, drawing closer to the private sector will put forward new themes for research, and, for the companies, it will help with innovation. “But, for innovation to grow, there is still a lack of encouraging partnerships with investors, associations with entrepreneurs, and the support of the State”, warned Brito Cruz.

Evando Mirra, the president of the Strategic Studies Management Center (CGEE), announced that the MCT is preparing the launch of the Innovation portal, to facilitate the relationship between universities and companies. “The portal is going to operate with the same model of the Lattes Platform – a system of information, databases and web portals aimed at the management of science and technology (S&T) – and will have the objective of broadening the adhesion of more companies to the innovation process”, reckoned Mirra.