In 1985, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela created a regional trade pact, Mercosur, of which five other Latin American countries (Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru) are associate members. Closer technological cooperation and a common desire to boost innovation were central to this bid for regional integration. These 10 neighbors have created cooperative programs for ST&I, promoting links between research institutions and private companies. A key issue arising from discussions about innovation is how to better transfer knowledge between universities and research centers on the one hand, and private companies—in which R&D activities are still limited in Latin America—on the other. The concern is that most of the knowledge produced by research institutions stays on the shelf and has little impact on society. Of all the Latin American nations, Brazil has done the most to address this concern through its forward-thinking policies to promote innovation.
In terms of academic outcomes, in 2008 Brazil ranked 13th in the world in numbers of published scientific works. From 1981 to 2006 the number of articles published in international journals increased by 8.9 percent per year (compared to a global increase of 2 percent per year). The accumulated increase in publications by Brazilian scientists was approximately 232 percent, compared to the world average of 73 percent. In 2005, Brazil ranked 13th in nations applying for patents, compared to China (3rd) and India (11th). That same year, the number of patents originating in Brazil decreased by 13.8 percent from the previous year, while those in China increased by 32.9 percent and those in India increased by 1.3 percent (Embassy of Brazil, 2009).
Brazil holds an important position globally. In addition to the fact that most of the world’s rain forests lie within its borders and it plays a leadership role in global ecological activities, Brazil is richly endowed with natural resources, including both hydrocarbons and renewable energy sources. Growing overall populations and middle classes in some of the world’s most populated countries are resulting in increasing demand and pressure on resources such as energy, water, food, and minerals. Brazil is succeeding in using S&T to leverage its natural resources to help supply these needs while improving its own economic health.
Finding 3-1. Brazil’s current and likely continuing energy independence places it in a unique and important global position, less easily influenced than other countries by the United States. It is therefore important that the United States foster a productive relationship with Brazil, which is currently the leader and key to South America.
Brazil’s current wealth and success result in part from its endowment of natural resources, strong industrial sector, and prudent fiscal policies. However, the country recognizes that continued success depends strongly on the assumption by industry of a larger role in R&D and the translation of academic knowledge to wealth. Brazil’s future position on the global stage depends on this step.
Recommendation 3-1. The United States should accelerate strengthening a productive relationship with Brazil, which is the leader and key to South American S&T. To this end, the United States should consider working with Brazil in critical areas such as building its national S&T innovation environment.
Finding 3-2. Brazil is in the process of securing its borders against unauthorized use and study of its bio-resources, which represent a wealth of biological, agricultural, pharmaceutical, and medical applications.
Recommendation 3-2. The United States should maintain a cooperative relationship with Brazil that provides for appropriate U.S. access to Brazil’s resources.