The Bank of Amazonia S.A. (Basa) has a strategic role in the scientific and technological development of the northern region of the country. Operating as a retail and investment bank and a development agency, Basa manages funds like those of the Amazon Investment Fund (Finam), through which it finances research carried out by universities and institutes installed in nine states. The major part of the investments in S&T is actually passed down from the federal government and its bodies, but Basa’s contribution has been fundamental in the Amazon basin for the development of new technologies.
This year, it is starting the second stage of a program for financing research, which began in 1999 and has the purpose of improving the quality of the regional products, expanding their production, and increasing the income of the producers. In the first stage of the program, concluded last December, the bank invested R$ 12 million (“not reimbursable”) in 281 projects meeting a spontaneous demand for supporting technologies directed towards the production of timber, rice, cassava and fruit, among others. “We wanted applied research, nothing flashy, as the return expected is the product,” says Hélio Graça, Basa’s executive manager for Economic Studies. The projects were presented by 26 universities, research institutes and museums from the Amazon, the Emílio Goeldi Museum of Pará, the Federal University of Maranhão and the Executive Commission of the Plan for Cacao Farming (Ceplac), just to mention a few examples.
The resources set aside for each project varied from R$ 150,000 and R$ 450,000. To get access to the finance, each institute created an ad hoc committee, made up of five persons, two of which outside advisors, to avoid any misplaced esprit de corps and to ensure a technical analysis of the projects, according to Graça. Funding exclusively operational costs, the bank supported, for example, a research project carried out by the Maranhão State University, which analyzed the chemical, physical and biological properties of black stone, an animal charcoal, with therapeutic potential for the pharmaceutical industry and for filtering in the chemical industry; its use in reducing the lethal effects of the venom of the jararaca snake has also been assessed.
Another project partly financed by Basa, in partnership with the Center for Analysis, Research and Technological Innovation (Fucapi), was for implanting the Nucleus for Research and Development in Tropical Design, to stimulate the setting up of companies and training professionals for the areas of industrial design, furniture, artistic and decorative objects and non-conventional architecture using regional raw materials. The bank has also stimulated research on the handling and raising of chelonians in captivity and on improving the quality of ornamental fish, in partnership with the University of Amazonas Foundation (FUA). At least 90 projects have now been concluded. “The new technologies resulting from the researches belong to Basa, which passes them on, for free, to interested parties,” says Graça.
Starting this year, the bank will be putting up another R$ 7 million in contracting specific projects that support the implementation of technological platforms and productive arrangements, planned by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MCT). “We are now laying our bets on induced research,” says Graça. Basa is a mixed capital institution, working in nine states, responsible for passing down 84% of the long term funds contracted by companies from the region, and for 50% of the credit for working capital and for loans to private individuals in the Amazon. The low level of technological development and of the qualification of human resources, though, has ended up becoming a hurdle to the investment of these funds. “That is why we decided to invest in research,” Graça explains.
In parallel to financing research, the bank commissioned from the Institute for Applied Economic Research (Ipea) projects to steer the development of local productive arrangements and to get the best out of investments. Concluded in December, the projects indicated, for example, an enormous potential for the production of cassava in Acre, for cattle raising in Tocantins, and for the cultivation of rice and of wood for furniture in Roraima. “The vocations were defined together with the communities. Now we are going to get the proposed projects going,” explains Graça.
Also with the support of Ipea, Basa has developed matrices for supplies – products for the regions and for each one of the states from the north of the country, to identify the activities with the greatest multiplying effect in relation to the investments and higher added value. The economic potential of the 757 municipalities of the Legal Amazonia (The Legal Amazonia is administrative regions for tax incentives purposes and includes all the states of regions parts of neighboring states), with the objective of providing support for the second stage of the program for financing research and for orientating the setting up of branches.
The data collected by Ipea, which are to be made public in February or March, also provided support in defining the regional technological platforms that are being implemented by the MCT. “We have already identified 27 activities that merit the support of the bank and which are integrated with the results of Ipea’s research and the technological platforms proposed by the MCT,” Graça reveals.
It is within this perimeter drawn up by Ipea and the MCT that Basa will be focusing its investments in research, in the second stage of the finance program. “We need research related to the training of human resources for the timber and furniture area,” he gives as an example. “We will select the institution that offer better conditions for the project.” Basa is also investing in studies on biodiversity, in support of the Brazilian Molecular Ecology Program for the Sustained Use of Biodiversity in Amazonia (Probem), which is an integral part of Bioamazônia, a social organization created by the federal government in 1999.Republish