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It is up to the companies now

Iberian-American meeting evaluates the performance of scientific and innovative development

brazScience and technology indicators, more efficient and standardized internationally, could, among other functions, serve in Brazil as an important instrument for stimulating private companies to invest more in innovative research. The relationship between one thing and another does not appear very direct, but the idea behind this statement is that a statistical demonstration of the varied positive effects of such investments, including, of course, the commercial and financial gains resulting from them, could well be convincing to the point of motivating Brazilian companies, especially those in the industrial sector, to include investments in science and technology in their normal budget investments.

“One of the important elements for persistent development of a country’s innovative capacity is that its economy is truly inserted into international markets. And for this to occur it’s vital that its industry look at, follow up these markets, and participate in them”, stated FAPESP’s president, Carlos Vogt, one of the two members of the organizing committee of the 7th Iberian-American Congress on Science and Technology Indicators, which will be held in Sao Paulo, from the 23rd until the 25th of May. The other person on the committee is Mario Albornoz, the coordinator of Iberian-American Science and Technology Indicators Network (Rycit), an organism that, since its founding in 1995, is responsible for the realization, every two years, of these congresses, whose central concern is the elaboration of the most appropriate indices for the development of Latin America.

Evidently indicators do not take aim at only private companies, but Vogt’s ready reference to them is easily justified because among the indispensable agents of the general process of the country’s scientific and technological development, these companies present themselves as the most fragile and least present of the players within the scene. To have an idea of how much they remain far from being a dynamic environment of innovation based on technological research, it is enough to observe that “today only 45,000 graduates are distributed through industrial companies throughout the country, more than half of them being in the state of São  Paulo, and with a large concentration in determined sectors, such as aeronautics and energy”, commented FAPESP’s president.

It is worth recalling that in this scandalously derisive number are included both professionals only with a graduate degree as well as those with masters and doctorate degrees. And it offers a good measure of how low it is, first, the number of people with tertiary level education in the country, which in 2001 had reached the total of 6 million according to the Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators in São Paulo in 2004, elaborated and published by FAPESP (pages 4-10). But we can also consider as an indicator the number of doctors graduated per year in Brazil, which today is 10,000; should reach some 10,600 by the end of 2007, and whose already established political goal for 2010  is the formation of 16,000 doctors per year. Currently in Brazilian post-graduation courses there are some 250,000 students.

“We’re training people, we’ve got a very large stock of competency, thus we’re prepared for the leap that Brazil needs to take”, comments president Vogt. “But: there’s a feeling in public policies that it’s not just enough to train people, one needs to provide the conditions for these trained people to remain in the research fields, in the knowledge creation and innovation systems, and remain in the country”, he asserted. And the most urgent way for the creation of these conditions is the increase in demand for this competency within the entrepreneurial environment, he argued.

The congress organized for May will be an opportunity for debating these questions among various other essentials in the wide theme of science and technology indicators. On the event’s first day, after the opening discourses of the morning, there will be a long session about “Latin-American companies as agents of the science, technology and innovation system: how to deal with the barriers towards entrepreneurial research, development and innovation”, coordinated by Gustavo Lugones, from the Network Center, of Argentina. But in parallel, debates must occur around the indicators of the internationalization of science and on the indicators of international mobility of people qualified in science and technology. In the days that follow, among a series of other discussions, entering onto the scene will be scientific production indicators, innovation indicators and those of the public’s perception of science. To a certain degree, all of the possible measurements of knowledge and innovation production will frequent the debating tables at the Blue Tree Hotel, in São Paulo, from the 23rd until the 25th of this coming May.