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Letter from the editor | 67

AsGa, an exemplary case

Since the former bulletin, Notícias FAPESP, became Pesquisa FAPESP, in October 1999, we still had not had the opportunity for turning the success of a small company into the subject for a cover story, based on its activities in R&D (Research and Development). It is true that there have been many good results from the projects supported by FAPESP, under the Small Business Innovation Research (PIPE), shown in the Technology section. But, in the course of the 20 foregoing issues, other themes have ended up imposing themselves as articles for the cover. And even if the criteria for picking out what deserves the cover seem obvious to any editor, it is actually not always an easy choice.

For this issue, however, the doubts did not prosper. We had a story with some captivating research showing the forces that act on the movements of the human body, and even showing the ideal way to hit a tennis ball. We had another important article on the first contemporary book, soon to be launched, on the phanerogamic flora of the state of São Paulo, which gathers information on almost 500 species of the gramineous family, both native grass and others, originating from other countries. On other occasions, these would be possibilities for the cover, but not this time: the case of AsGa has prevailed, because, at the least, it symbolizes the potential of a sector – small enterprises – that common sense, in Brazil at least, does not always associate with the capacity for innovation and cutting edge technology. This small company from Paulínia, 15 minutes away from Unicamp, which manufacturers multiplexers and optic modems, has managed to raise its turnover from R$ 16.5 million in 1999 to R$ 31.5 million in 2000, and finally to R$ 100 million this year. The company has achieved this impressive mark, without a doubt, thanks to its strategic vision, its capacity for innovation, and even a healthy stubbornness, but maybe above all for its unyielding determination to invest in ReD and for the financial support they have obtained for this – in this case, support from the Small Business Innovation Research (PIPE). This program was launched in 1997, and today it finances 165 projects for innovation in small companies, many of which are likely to repeat AsGa’s commercial success.

It is worth dwelling a bit on the example given by AsGa, at a moment when the country is proposing to discuss a policy for science, technology and innovation (STI) for the next ten years, under the auspices of the Ministry of Science and Technology and of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences. Well, at the preparatory regional conferences for this nationwide, among the multiple diagnoses of the sector, it was shown to exhaustion that one of the most serious problems for STI in Brazil is its meager capacity for transforming knowledge into wealth, for one fundamental reason: the proportion of companies in total investments in the sector, something around 30%, is still very tiny. Either due to a distortion in Brazilian business culture, or because there is a lack of sufficient mechanisms to support investments in ReD, or even due to circumstantial difficulties that bar investments with longer return and higher risk, or whatever reason, what AsGa’s example really shows is that there actually is a chance, given adequate support, for a new entrepreneurial environment to be created in the country, founded on the clear understanding that knowledge is the great source of wealth in contemporary societies.