Science and Technology policy in Brazil: A new policy for a global world

Simon Schwartzman, general coordination; Eduardo Krieger, biological sciences; Fernando Galembeck, physical sciences and engineering; Eduardo Augusto Guimarães, technology and industry; Carlos Osmar Bertero, Institutional analysis

São Paulo, November, 1993

5. A new policy for a global world

In spite of the large science and technology gap between Brazil and the leading industrial nations, there might be an opportunity for convergence that should not be missed. Access to international information is cheap; circulation and mobility of scientists are intense; technologies for products and processes are offered in a highly competitive international market; multinational corporations spread their branches and research facilities throughout their world, depending on local conditions. The main requirements to seize this opportunity and share these knowledge resources are the country's social capabilities, which are essentially a matter of education and scientific competence (Abramovitz, 1986; Nelson and Wright, 1992) (box 8). While science and technology are becoming more internationalized, the requirements to participate in their benefits remain local and national, and depend on purposeful efforts from local and national governments.
 

Box 8: The Internationalization of Trade, Business and Technology (Nelson and Wright, 1992) 

The main thrust of this policy paper is that there is a definite need to move from the previous mode of scientific and technological development into a new one, more adequate to the current and future realities. Science and Technology are more important than ever for Brazil, if the country is to raise the standards of living of its population, consolidate a modern economy, and participate as a significant partner in an increasingly integrated and global world(6). The economy must modernize, and adjust to an internationally competitive environment. Education should be expanded and improved at all levels. As the economy grows and new technologies are introduced, new challenges will emerge in the production and use of energy, environment control, public health, the management of large urban conglomerates, and changes will occur in the composition of the labor force. Strong indigenous competence is necessary to participate as an equal in international negotiations with important political and economic consequences for Brazil, in areas such as the protection of intellectual property and rights of access to information, norms of environment control and the establishment of technical standards in international communication networks. A traditional, laissez-faire approach to scientific and technological development will not produce the necessary competence on the scale and quality needed for these tasks, and will not make them as useful as they can be. There is little place left for protected technologies under artificial conditions, and large-scale, sophisticated and highly concentrated technological projects are not likely to spin off into education and industrial development as a whole. Attempts to bring the whole field of science and technology under the aegis of centralized planning and coordination run the risk of stimulating large and inefficient bureaucracies, and to stifle initiative and creativity.

The new policy should implement tasks that are apparently in contradiction: to stimulate the freedom, initiative and creativity of the researcher, while establishing strong links between their work and the requirements of the economy, the educational system and of society as a whole; and to make Brazilian science and technology truly international, while strengthening the country's educational and S&t capabilities. To achieve this, the individual researcher, and their research unit or laboratory, should be freed from bureaucratic and administrative constraints, and stimulated to look for the best opportunities and alternatives, in the country and abroad, for the use and improvement of his competence. This requires, in turn, a competitive environment based on public incentives and private opportunities that rewards achievement, increases the costs of complacency and underachievement, and gears a substantial part of the R&D resources toward a few important and strategic selected goals. More specifically, the new policy should include the following tasks:
• To increase the links between academic science and the productive sector, and to increase the share of the latter in the national effort for scientific and technological development, approaching the patterns of the modern, industrialized economies, where most of the R&D effort takes place in the productive sector. This requires a significant increase in private investments in R&D, not a reduction of the already limited public funds.
• to create two different "markets," one for academic science, another for applied technology. The academic market needs a system of rewards and incentives for scientists, appropriate career structures, and means to increase public support for science. The market for applied technology should combine the requirements of competence and quality with those of economic feasibility and social need.
• to increase the links between science, technology and education, from the graduate programs down to technical and basic education;
• To invest heavily in the development of innovative capabilities of the productive system as a whole, through incentives, extension programs and the strengthening of the country's infrastructure for basic technology;
• To support a few integrated projects of clearly identified social and economic relevance and in need of S&T research and education, in areas such as energy, environment preservation and control, transportation, public health, food production, and in social fields such as basic education, poverty, employment and the management of urban conglomerates (Goldemberg, 1993; Soke and Tucker, 1993; Castro, N., 1993).
• To create the conditions for Brazil's participation in international programs dealing with global issues;
• To make the government agencies for science and technology more flexible and bound to peer review procedures, and to stimulate research groups and institutions to search for partnership and support from a variety of sources and through different procedures, beyond what governments can provide and do.

Note

6. The term "global" conveys the notion of an interdependent world civilization, with permeable boundaries and no clear hegemonic centers. There is a growing literature on the global nature of modern societies. See for instance Albrow and King, 1990; Robertson, 1992; Featherstone, 1992; Wallerstein, 1990.