After several years of focusing on monetary and fiscal policy at the macro-level, and creating a more stable and predictable economic environment for industry, Brazil has embarked in the last several years on a large-scale effort to address structural issues around building the innovative capabilities of the country. In the face of increased global competition, particularly from Asia, many Brazilian workers and industries appear to be at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to capturing higher skilled and value-added work that can translate into higher productivity and a higher standard of living. National initiatives such as the program “Science Without Borders” are aimed at addressing the gaps in Brazil’s higher education system to build more innovative capacity.
SENAI, Brazil’s National Service for Industrial Training, is also turning its attention and resources to the issue of innovation in Brazil. Because of SENAI’s vast network of workforce training institutes across the country and its long history of working collaboratively with industry, it has been charged with the creation of 26 SENAI Innovation Institutes (ISIs), each of which will focus on a particular technology or group of technologies associated with one or several industries in which Brazil has existing capabilities. Half of the Institutes are operational as of 2015 and the other half will be launched in the next three years. SENAI’s goal is to create a network of institutes that will work with industry on applied research, and also act as catalysts within the national and regional innovation “ecosystems” to spur greater innovation, more open collaboration across institutions, and the development of the next generation of researchers and entrepreneurs.
Collaboration with MIT and the Industrial Performance Center (IPC) -- In its collaboration with SENAI, MIT’s IPC builds on two decades of research on national and regional systems of innovation around the world. In this program of research we have collaborated with governments and private organizations responsible for promoting innovation in a wide range of countries, including Taiwan, China, Finland, the United Kingdom, Norway and Japan. An important goal of this work has been to understand the sources of variation in national and local systems of innovation, and to seek practical insights into how the role of public research and educational institutions can be enhanced in these different contexts. An ongoing benchmark in this program has been the innovation ecosystem of which MIT itself is part, and the IPC both participates in and studies the Massachusetts innovation system as an important part of its portfolio of activities.
The IPC’s research agenda with SENAI on Brazil’s innovation ecosystem will focus on three primary areas of research: 1) national and regional institutions, 2) industrial organization and structure, including supply chains and 3) the ISIs individually and collectively as part of the network of innovation institutes across the country.
The IPC is holding a spring seminar series on the topic of innovation in Brazil.