Latin American countries generally lack the large and ynamic markets of advanced economies, they have no scientific infrastructure and few specialized industrial
clusters that typically attract foreign investments in R&D. The
United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and
the Caribbean found that these regions only attract about 3% of
all global R&D foreign direct investment (FDI) projects.
On the flip side, China was found to attract more than 30%
of FDI. Two of the weaker South American countries, Chile
and Peru, have created International Centers of Excellence
(ICEs) and have invited foreign research organizations and
industrial firms to participate. On the first call for proposals
to the ICE in 2009, each organization was offered a grant of
up to $20 million for a ten-year period. Participants were also
expected to contribute up to 60% of the grant value. A second
call for proposals lowered the grant to $13 million and the co-financing was increased to 88%.
The result was that 12 centers were established in the
Chilean program with participants that included eight
research organizations and four multinational corporations
from seven countries. Most of the centers have shown visible results with patents, independent spin-off companies,
published scientific papers and partnerships with various
domestic industries. Peru followed Chile’s program and has
started a similar program.
Brazil has about half the population of South America and
about 85% of its gross economy ($3.4 trillion vs. $4 trillion).
Its overall R&D infrastructure is strong. About 60% of its
$39 billion in 2019 R&D comes from government sources
and 38% from industry. Research is concentrated in universities and other federal and state institutions. There are
about 300 public universities and 2,100 private universities.
There also are 40 federal institutes of S&T education where
R&D is performed.
While Brazil is 10th in the world in terms of R&D investments, it ranks fairly low on the innovation list, 64th,
below the rankings of its neighboring countries, Uruguay
and Colombia. Several major companies have located R&D
centers in Brazil. IBM Research Brazil was established in
June 2010, with locations in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
Developers, engineers, scientists and other experts at these
labs are working on artificial intelligence, nanotechnology
and visual analytics, as well as Internet-of-things solutions
and cloud services.
China’s BYD Auto Co. has also installed its first overseas
facility for photovoltaic research at Brazil’s University Campinas (Unicamp) to support local sales of solar modules, energy
storage and electric vehicles. Unicamp and BYD collaboration
falls under Brazil’s Program of Support to the Technological
Development of the Semiconductor Industry and Displays,
with the goal to develop and bolster Brazil’s solar PV knowledge. BYD has a global staff of more than 20,000 engineers
French energy group Engie also recently committed to
setting up a research center in Brazil to act as the company’s
regional hub for wind, solar, biogas and hydrogen projects as
well as new technologies for Smart Cities.
The opening of Engie Lab Brasil by late 2018 follows the
opening of a similar lab in Chile, which opened in 2014.
Boeing’s acquisition of Brazil’s Embraer aerospace firm is also
likely to embolden their R&D efforts.
While Brazil is 10th in the
world in terms of R&D
investments, it ranks fairly
low on the innovation list,
64th, below the rankings of
its neighboring countries,
Uruguay and Colombia.
GDP R&D GDP R&D
BIL USD BIL USD BIL USD BIL USD
Brazil 3,293.0 38.53 3375.3 39.15
Argentina 927.3 5. 10 957.0 5. 17
Chile 467.5 2. 10 482.9 2. 12
Columbia 731.7 1.61 755.9 1.66
Venezuela 331.0 1.26 311.1 1.09
Peru 440.3 0.99 457.9 1.01
Ecuador 193.2 0.68 197.5 0.69
Uruguay 81.1 0.41 83.6 0.42
Bolivia 86.8 0.28 90.1 0.30
Paraguay 71.1 0.07 74.0 0.07
Total 6,623.0 51.03 6785.3 51.68
Source: R&D Magazine Survey 2018
South American R&D Investments