Posted on 11/21/2022 03:50
(credit: Maurenilson Freire)
Thiago Valda – CEO of the Brazilian Bioinnovation Association (ABI)
Brazil is the second largest global economy, but it ranks 57th in terms of innovation. I begin my text with this statement specifically to draw your attention. There is something very wrong with the national innovation environment, and it has the potential to get worse. The ranking comes in the 57th position of the Global Innovation Index 2021, from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and reflects how much (not) we have been able to invest in science and technology. It is paradoxical because Brazil has companies, intellectual potential, infrastructure and some formal tools to support innovation. So where did the process go and why do I say it tends to get worse?
Innovation involves risk, it is expensive, and in many cases, it takes time to get to an economically viable product. Biotechnology, for example, requires between 10 and 15 years of investment in research until a new product is found, which often needs to be proven economically viable before it can be brought to market.
Few companies have this self to invest. Even with a huge intellectual potential, they are not able to structure research and, accordingly, raise the degree of competitiveness of the country. To reduce this hurdle, what most advanced economies do is create reliable public financing instruments for science and technology in their various forms.
Since 1969, Brazil has had the National Fund for Scientific and Technological Development (FNDCT), which is maintained with resources from various contributions from citizens to invest in innovation through sectoral funds (agribusiness, biotechnology, energy, water resources, health, etc.) and others. Types of operations. Some of the well-known projects in which the fund has been involved are the construction of Sirius, the largest particle accelerator in the southern hemisphere, research in the fight against Zika and covid-19, engineering projects for the construction of the Itaipu hydroelectric power station and the Rio-Niterói bridge, investments in agricultural research through Embrapa and financing for the construction of Research laboratories in several Brazilian universities.
In 2015, our leaders gave a clear signal that they see innovation as something strategic to the country’s sovereignty by approving Constitutional Amendment No. 85, which places innovation as a priority in the Brazilian Constitution. Well, back to FNDCT. In 2017, an amount exceeding R$ 3.5 billion has been approved, with gradual growth year by year, until 2021, R$ 7.1 billion has been approved for use by the fund. The expected value has doubled in four years.
That’s cool, so what are you complaining about? It turns out, since 2017, that the money actually released for any kind of investment in science and technology has been stuck at around R$2 billion. The rest was all contingencies, as they technically say, which means the federal government is using it on other fronts without anything to do with innovation, especially to pay interest on public debt.
In January 2021, Supplementary Law 177/2021 was enacted, which, among other things, prohibits the emergency of the FNDCT, in a commendable measure by the legislators to preserve a more prosperous future less internationally dependent from a technological point of view. . For us, who work towards innovation, excellent news. This law, in addition, brings the point of extreme modernity to the world by highlighting projects and activities in science and technology that work to neutralize greenhouse gases and develop a bio-economy, in full compliance with the Paris Agreement to which Brazil is a signatory.
Yet again, in the first week of September, we were surprised by Interim Measure 1,136, which amends LC 177/2021 allowing for an emergency FNDCT budget and removing the clause that includes prioritizing resource use on projects intended to neutralize the carbonization of the environment. Although it has no practical effect, as it does not specify values or deadlines, it is a clear message of lack of commitment to the cause that is at the center of the global debate.
Finally, there is more than enough evidence that in order to achieve the best indicators of quality of life and economic and social balance, it is necessary to invest in innovation, science and technology. Just look at the top 10 rankings in which Brazil ranks 57th. They are from first to tenth: Switzerland, Sweden, United States, United Kingdom, South Korea, Netherlands, Finland, Singapore, Denmark and Germany.
Investing in innovation, especially in strategic innovation and structure, is costly and time consuming and, therefore, should be a risk shared between governments and the private sector. To withdraw resources destined for innovation for any other purpose, particularly the payment of interest on debt, is to work so that the future is the same (or worse) as the present, in which there is no prospect of improvement, of changes, of augmentation. The total export earnings are of high value. We will continue to produce and sell low-value products, despite the huge capabilities we have.
We have heard from previous generations that Brazil is the country of the future. This will continue to be passed down from generation to generation until there is a serious, long-term commitment to innovation. FNDCT should serve the interests of Brazilians who want to thrive, produce and find a market for innovation and superior innovation in the country. Because, along with finances, the best minds go to other countries.
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