University-industry collaboration and the development of high-technology sectors in Brazil

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Bodas Freitas, Isabel Maria
Argou Marques, Rosane
Mirra de Paula e Silva, Evando
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Collaboration with university and other public research organisations seems to have become increasingly important for firms, as the technological interdisciplinarity and complexity, and the competitive pressures to shorten product life increased (Hagedoorn, 1996; Caloghirou et al., 2003). By collaborating with universities, firms may reduce uncertainty inherent from the innovation process, as well as expand their markets, access to new or complementary resources and skills, keep up with evolution of scientific knowledge, and create new technological learning options on future technologies (Hagedoorn et al., 2000; Lee, 2000; Fritsch and Lukas, 2001). In particular, in the new industrialized countries (NIC), as their economy and their technological capabilities improve, national public research and educational organisations (PREOs) are expected to play an increasing important role in supporting indigenous firms to move into more dynamic and higher-opportunity industries (Mathews and Hu, 2007; Mazzoleni and Nelson, 2007; Wu, 2007). Indeed, firms (especially small firms) active in high-technology sectors were found to achieve higher productivity through university-industry collaboration (Motohashi, 2005). Consequently, following the innovation policies of developed countries, governments in the new industrialised countries are launching policies fostering science-industry interactions and the development of high-technology sectors (Wong et al, 2007; Gouvea and Kassicieh, 2007). In Brazil, policy-makers are engaged in improving the technological capabilities of national firms and in developing high-technology industries, especially biotechnology, nanotechnology, renewable energies and information and communication technologies (Gouvea and Kassicieh, 2007; Brazilian Government, 2003). The adoption of OECD best-practices in technology transfer policies, such as TTOs, IPR of university results, support to spin off creation, might be per se inefficient to support university-industry collaboration and the growth of national high-technology sectors (Najmabadi and Lall, 1995; Goldman et al., 1997; OECD, 2005). The design and implementation of appropriate science and technology policies require in-depth information on the national context and characteristics of universityindustry collaboration. In particular, the understanding of the differences in the characteristics of PROEs collaboration with firms active in mature and emergent sectors is required. However, few studies have explored this issue. This paper is an attempt to fill this gap, and provide evidence supporting science and technology policy in Brazil. This paper analyses the evolution and context of science- industry collaboration, in Brazil. In particular, it investigates the motivations, goals, outputs, and main barriers and facilitators of that collaboration. In particular, the paper explores the specificities of university-industry collaboration in emergent sectors, such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), when compared to collaboration in mature sectors. Moreover, it analyses how PREOs have engaged in organisational change to encourage cooperation with industry, for example through the development of assistance services and adaptation of incentives. To undertake this research, we use data from face-to- face interviews with a sample of 24 coordinators of research groups at PREOs. This paper shows that in Brazil, informal and professional academic network of contacts with firms in emergent sectors is underdeveloped; students play a major role in mediating university and industry interaction. Moreover, the major national public research sponsors seems not to have yet adapted their financing procedures to finance projects of firms active in emergent sectors. This paper suggests that public support to university-industry collaboration through adoption of the OECD best practices of technology-transfer policies is not per se enough to encourage the development and growth of national high-technology activities. This paper is organised as follow. Section 2 reviews the literature on the role of PREOs on the process of catching up and in the growth of high- technology sectors. Section 3 reviews the context of university- industry interaction in Brazil. Section 4 presents the data and methodology used in this paper. Section 5 explores the pattern of the university- industry collaboration in Brazil in terms of motivations, objectives and output of collaboration, as well as the efforts of PREOs to provide assistance services and incentives for researchers to cooperate with industry. Moreover, differences in the specificities of university collaboration with firms active in emergent and mature sectors are examined. Section 6 concludes the paper.
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