Innovation system in the Brazilian sugarcane agroindustry
Tosi Furtado, André
Scandiffio, Mirna Ivonne Gaya
Barbosa Cortez, Luis Augusto
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Ethanol has been recently of great interest worldwide due to two main reasons. First, it is a viable alternative to oil products, used in light vehicles, which price has been substantially raised in the last years. In second place because ethanol is a renewable source of energy and as such, mitigates the emission of greenhouse gases. Although Brazil is losing its leadership of ethanol production for the United States, it is internationally recognized as the leading country to develop its ethanol production from biomass. Differently from the American system which relies on corn as principal raw material, Brazilian ethanol is produced from sugarcane. The Brazilian route shows up as much more competitive and much less pollution contributor than the American one. The objective of this work is to analyze the leading aspects of the Brazilian Innovation System built around the sugarcane industry. The Brazilian success in terms of sugarcane cannot be understood just as based in a natural comparative advantage, but as a result of accumulation of efforts which ended in a positive trajectory of technological learning, relying, mostly, in incremental innovations. That process had, as inflection point, the ProAlcohol Program, launched after the first oil crisis in 1973. From that Program on, the agro industry started the diffusion of innovations making possible constant increases of productivity and cost reduction on its production. The technological advance brought benefit to both the alcohol and sugar production; Brazil became the world leader sugar producer. This work is based on the approach of national systems of innovation, according to which the innovative performance of a given country, region or even a sector, cannot be learned by focusing on the efforts and performance of the companies alone. Innovation results from the interaction of players from different institutional nature. To analyze the institutional arrangements as the basis to the innovative process, this work will study the Brazilian efforts on R&D, policies and innovation strategies of main players regarding the country’s innovation system in the sugarcane sector, including sugar and ethanol mills, industrial goods suppliers, public and private research institutions and governmental agencies. Given the need to intensify the productive and technological effort to meet the new perspectives of expansion for ethanol production, important changes are to be done in the existing institutional arrangement, where the State needs to have a more active position. This need is being manifested with more clarity recently, given the possibility of launching a new ethanol program. It is also stated the need for the sugarcane sector to make a technological and productive leap, calling the attention for a bigger engagement of the public players for financing and coordinating the innovation efforts for the sector.