A Cooperative Agenda for Science and Technology Innovation between the United States and Brazil

Catherine A. Novelli
Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment 
U.S. Brazil Innovation Forum, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Washington, DC
May 27, 2015

As Prepared

I. Intro

Thank you, Jodi, for your kind words, and I am pleased to be here with Minister Rebelo and Ambassador Figueiredo. Also, thank you to the Brazil-U.S. Business Council and the U.S. Chamber for inviting me to participate in this important gathering. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to talk with all of you about what we can do to promote cooperation on science, technology, and innovation between our two countries. Brazil is a poster child for significantly increasing investments in research and technology development to support its own aspirations for economic growth and social progress. And the U.S. also places a great value on continuing to contribute to the scientific base that provides the foundation for innovation efforts at home and abroad.

As the Western Hemisphere’s two largest economies, Brazil and the United States share a responsibility, as well as, an enormous opportunity, to work together to promote policies and partnerships that support scientific and technology innovation for economic growth and social progress.

II. Opportunities for Government to Government Collaboration

U.S. science engagement with Brazil runs deep. We have a wealth of bilateral collaboration in many areas – public health, ecosystems research, ocean sciences, disaster management, measurement standards, and innovation. In this week’s U.S. –Brazil Science and Technology Joint Commission Meeting, we want to go even further. We are looking forward to identifying ways to collaborate on: renewable energy, greenhouse gas monitoring, a new synchrotron light accelerator in Brazil, biomedicine, and smart grids. In all of these areas, we know that there is great potential to use new scientific discoveries and give them practical effect.

For example, in the area of renewable energy, we are looking forward to discussing how Brazilian and U.S. scientists can collaborate with industry to bring electricity to those in rural areas who are not connected to the grid.

On the environmental side, U.S. and Brazilian scientists are working together to track deforestation rates using satellite imagery and airborne LIDAR. They are also studying the impact of climate change on the Amazon ecosystem. This work can have a direct positive impact on our policies to preserve unique ecosystems and maintain sustainable development.

Working together matters. A recent scientific study showed that international collaboration is becoming increasingly important for the advancement of science and technology. The study analyzed all scientific papers published between 1996 and 2012 in eight disciplines, and found that those papers developed though international cooperation performed better in journal placement and citation performance. And as the scientific community knows, publishing science knowledge and citing those articles is a way the community shares its ideas and the most up to date research.

Brazil has an abundance of creative and innovative human talent - it currently boasts the largest particle accelerator in Latin America, and is constructing an even larger one to maintain that position. However, Brazilian scholars have produced relatively few academic articles with foreign coauthors. Expanding Brazil’s global connections, including with U.S. researchers would maximize Brazil’s foot print in the global scientific community. Beyond advancing pure science, collaborations can provide us with an opportunity through science and technology to lead together on some of the most pressing issues facing the world such as food security and global health.

III. Opportunities For More Private Sector Investment in Science and Technology R and D.

Not only do we want to intensify our robust government to government engagement, we want to take our science and technology cooperation to another level. This requires expanding the circle of stakeholders to include the private sector. Involving the private sector presents exciting new opportunities to both advance pure science and promote innovation.

A number of America’s most innovative companies are investing heavily in Brazil. GE last year opened a US$ 500 million global R&D center in Rio de Janeiro that will focus initially on the energy sector. Companies like 3M, Baker Hughes, Dell, Dow, DuPont, FMC Technologies, Google, GM, Halliburton, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Monsanto, Motorola, Visteon, and Whirlpool all have operated or announced R&D centers in Brazil.

Business is also collaborating. This year, Boeing and Brazil’s Embraer opened a joint research center in Sao Paulo to research aviation biofuels. We hope to see more joint research collaboration. However, we have heard from our business community that there are still significant challenges when it comes to doing business in Brazil. For example, currently, it takes anywhere from 83- 245 days to open a new business in Brazil, and on average there are almost 12 administrative steps involved. All these steps cost money, which new ventures and startups do not have. Brazilians themselves refer to these costs as “Brazil costs.” As another example, it takes anywhere from 30-60 days to set up a connection to the electricity grid. For new tech businesses there is no business until there is electricity.

There is an analogous situation when it comes to patent applications, the life blood of innovative industries. Currently, the process of issuing a patent in Brazil takes from five to eight years. Every year Brazil receives an average of 26 thousand patent requests. Out of this amount, only 10% are granted. To that end, we know that Brazil is focused on changing this dynamic, and we applaud Brazil’s efforts to modernize the patent process and cut wait times in half. In the U.S., we continue to strive to create an atmosphere where pure science can thrive along with business applications of that science. We look forward to collaborating with our Brazilian colleagues to reduce barriers for practical business uses of science.

IV. Opportunities to Build More Programs for A Robust STEM pipeline

Finally, I would like to address young empowering innovators who are going to be the future talent in the STEM pipeline. I would like to share the story of Dr. Fernando Pecoraro, a young innovator from Brazil, who participated in the LAUNCH program. Launch is an open innovation platform founded by NASA, NIKE, The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and The U.S. Department of State that provides innovators with support, networking, and mentoring from influential business and government leaders. Since completing the program, Dr. Pecoraro [Pec-O-Ra-Ro] is now working toward the commercial deployment of green chemistry that uses chemicals derived from oranges to clean up land oil spills. We believe exchange programs like Launch are critically important for building skills and relationships needed for strong scientific work and collaboration, and look forward to expanding them

V. Conclusion

As I have outlined above, we have a tremendous opportunity to strengthen our science and technology partnership. I look forward to continuing our dialogue with Brazil, to move our mutual agenda forward at a quicker pace, and to see what kind of wonderful and game changing things we can create together.