Brazilian science and technology

Brazilian science and technology

The airplane Embraer 190 produced by Brazilian aircraft company Embraer.
Internal view of Embraer 120 airplane produced in the city of São José dos Campos.

Brazilian science and technology have achieved a significant position in the international arena in the last decades. The central agency for science and technology in Brazil is the Ministry of Science and Technology, which includes the CNPq and Finep. This ministry also has direct supervision over the National Institute for Space Research (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais - INPE), the National Institute of Amazonian Research (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia - INPA), and the National Institute of Technology (Instituto Nacional de Tecnologia - INT). The ministry is also responsible for the Secretariat for Computer and Automation Policy (Secretaria de Política de Informática e Automação - SPIA), which is the successor of the SEI. The Ministry of Science and Technology, which the Sarney government created in March 1985, was headed initially by a person associated with the nationalist ideologies of the past. Although the new minister was able to raise the budget for the science and technology sector, he remained isolated within the government and had no influence on policy making for the economy.

With the new ministry, the science and technology agencies increased in size but lost some of their former independence and flexibility, and they became more susceptible to patronage politics. Most of the resources of the CNPq were channeled to fellowship programs that had no clear procedures for quality control and no mechanisms to make the fellows active in the country's science and technology institutions. New groups competed for resources and control of the country's agencies of science, technology, and higher education. These groups included political parties, unionized university professors and employees, scientific societies, and special interest groups within the scientific and technological community. The SBPC (Brazilian Society for Scientific Development) shed its image as a semi-autonomous association of scientists to become an active lobbyist for more public resources and the protection of national technology from international competition.[1]


  • History 1
    • The Brazilian Empire 1.1
  • Organization 2
  • Funding 3
  • Timeline 4
  • Important universities 5
    • Public universities, institutes and colleges 5.1
    • Private universities 5.2
  • Research and development institutes 6
  • Scientific societies 7
  • List of Brazilian scientists 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


IPT - Instituto de Pesquisas Tecnológicas de São Paulo.
Rocket VSB-30 is assembled with its load util.
Center of Biological Sciences of Federal University of Viçosa.
Technology pool in Campinas.

Brazilian science effectively began in the first decades of the 19th century, when the Spanish Empire, although having a largely illiterate population like Brazil, Portugal and Spain, had, however, a number of universities since the 16th century. This may have been a deliberate policy of the Portuguese colonial power, because they feared that the appearance of educated Brazilian classes would boost nationalism and aspirations toward political independence, as it had happened in the USA and several Latin American former Spanish colonies. However, throughout the centuries of Portuguese rule, Brazilian students were allowed and even encouraged to enroll at higher education in mainland Portugal. In addition, mainland Portugal's population at the time was also largely illiterate and had for most of those period a single university, the University of Coimbra, which educated Portuguese people from all the Empire, including from the colony of Brazil.

The first firm attempts of having a Brazilian science establishment were made around 1783, with the expedition of Portuguese naturalist Alexandre Rodrigues Ferreira, who was sent by Portugal's prime minister, the Marquis of Pombal, to explore and identify Brazilian fauna, flora and geology. His collections, however, were lost to the French, when Napoleon invaded Portugal, and were transported to Paris by Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. In 1772, even before the establishment of the Science Academy of Lisbon (1779), one of the first learned societies of both Brazil and the Portuguese Empire was founded in Rio de Janeiro - it was the Sociedade Scientifica, but lasted only until 1794. Also, in 1797, the first botanic institute was founded in Salvador, Bahia. During the late 18th century, the Real Academia de Artilharia, Fortificação e Desenho of Rio de Janeiro was created in 1792 through a decree issued by the Portuguese authorities as a higher education school for the teaching of the sciences and engineering. Both the engineering schools of the Rio de Janeiro Federal University and the Military Institute of Engineering were created and developed from the oldest engineering school of Brazil which is also one of the oldest in Latin America.

D. João VI gave impetus to all these accoutrements of European civilization to Brazil. In a short period (between 1808 and 1810), the government founded the Royal Naval Academy and the Royal Military Academy (both military schools), the Biblioteca Nacional, the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden, the Medico-Chirurgical School of Bahia, currently known as Faculdade de Medicina under harbour of Universidade Federal da Bahia and the Medico-Chirurgical School of Rio de Janeiro (Faculdade de Medicina of Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro).

Notable José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva, in 1819.

The Brazilian Empire

After independence from Portugal, declared by the King's son in 1822, D. Pedro I (who became the new country's first Emperor), the policies concerning higher learning, science and technology in Brazil came to a relative standstill. In the first two decades of the century, science in Brazil was mostly carried out by temporary scientific expeditions by European naturalists, such as Charles Darwin, Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied, Carl von Martius, Johann Baptist von Spix, Alexander Humboldt, Augustin Saint-Hilaire, Baron Grigori Ivanovitch Langsdorff, Friedrich Sellow, Fritz Müller, Hermann von Ihering, Émil Goeldi and others. This science was mostly descriptive of the fantastic Brazilian biodiversity of its flora and fauna, and also its geology, geography and anthropology, and until the creation of the National Museum, the specimens were mostly removed to European institutions.

In the educational area, a number of higher education institutions were founded in the 19th century, but for decades to come, most Brazilian students, still studied at European universities, such as the ancient University of Coimbra, in Portugal.

Things started to change after 1841, when the eldest son of D. Pedro I, Emperor D. Pedro II came to the throne when he was 15 years old. In the next 50 years, Brazil enjoyed a stable constitutional monarchy. D. Pedro II was an enlightened monarch who favored the arts, literature, science and technology and had extensive international contacts in these areas. The mainstay of Brazilian science and the seat of its first research laboratories was the National Museum (Museu Nacional) in Rio de Janeiro, in existence until today. D. Pedro developed a strong personal interest and selected and invited many august European scientific personalities, such as von Ihering and Goeldi, to work in Brazil. He and his ministers, courtesans and senators often attended scientific conferences in the Museum. There, the first laboratory of physiology was founded in 1880, under João Baptista de Lacerda and Louis Couty. Unfortunately, the creation of research universities and institutes would only occur on the beginning of the 20th century - a long delay for the education, science and technology in Brazil.


Aerial view of USP, located in São Paulo.
A Brazilian-made Embraer of Brazilian Armed Forces.

Brazil today has a well-developed organization of science and technology. Basic research is largely carried out in public non-governmental organizations. Thanks to governmental regulations and incentives, however, since the 1990s it has been growing in the private universities and companies, as well. Accordingly, more than 90% of funding for basic research comes from governmental sources.

Applied research, technology and engineering is also largely carried out in the university and research centers system, contrary-wise to more developed countries such as the United States, South Korea, Germany, Japan, etc. The reasons for these are many, but the main ones are:

  • Few Brazilian private companies are competitive or rich enough to have their own R&D&I, they usually develop products by outsourcing from other companies, usually foreign ones ;
  • The high-technology private sector in Brazil is dominated by large multinational companies, which usually have their R&D&I centers overseas, and, with a few exceptions, do not invest in their Brazilian branches.

However, there is a significant trend reversing this now. Companies such as Motorola, Samsung, Nokia and IBM have established large R&D&I centers in Brazil, starting with IBM, which had established an IBM Research Center in Brazil since the 1970s. One of the incentive factors for this, besides the relatively lower cost and high sophistication and skills of Brazilian technical manpower, has been the so-called Informatics Law, which exempts from certain taxes up to 5% of the gross revenue of high technology manufacturing companies in the fields of telecommunications, computers, digital electronics, etc. The Law has attracted annually more than 1,5 billion dollars of investment in Brazilian R&D&I. Multinational companies have also discovered that some products and technologies designed and developed by Brazilians have a nice competitivity and are appreciated by other countries, such as automobiles, aircraft, software, fiber optics, electric appliances, and so on.

During the 1980s, Brazil pursued a policy of protectionism in computing. Companies and administrations were required to use Brazilian software and hardware, with imports subject to governmental authorization. This encouraged the growth of Brazilian companies but, in spite of their development of products like MSX clones and SOX Unix, the Brazilian consumers of computing were suffering from lesser offerings compared to foreign competitors. The government little by little authorized more and more imports until the barriers were removed. Brazil's IT industry has achieved some remarkable feats, particularly in the area of software. In 2002, Brazil staged the world's first 100% electronic election with over 90% of results in within 2 hours. The system is particularly suited to a country with relatively high illiteracy rates since it flashes up a photograph of the candidate before a vote is confirmed. Citizens could download a desktop module that relayed the votes to their homes in realtime faster than the news networks could get them out. In 2005, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva launched a "people's computer" to foster digital inclusion, with government finance available and a fixed minimum configuration. Having rejected the Microsoft operating system (Windows XP Starter Edition), it is being shipped with a Brazilian-configured Linux system offering basic functions such as word processing and internet browsing. Plans to make cheap internet access available have not yet come to fruition. In 2008, the Brazilian Government under Lula da Silva, founded the CEITEC, the first and only semiconductors company in Latin America.[2]


A Brazilian-made Avibras ASTROS-II SS-30 multiple rocket systems on Tectran 6x6 AV-LMU trucks stand in firing position while being displayed as part of a demonstration of Saudi Arabian equipment.

Brazilian funding for research, development and innovation comes from six main sources:

  1. Government (federal, state and municipal) sources. There are a number of state organizations which were created mostly in the 1950s specifically for directly promoting and funding R&D&I, such as the National Research Council (CNPq), which is now named Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico and the National Agency for Financing Studies and Researches (FINEP), both a part of the Ministry of Science and Technology (MCT). MCT is a relatively novel ministry, having been created in 1990. Before this, CNPq was the only research granting institution at federal level, working directly under the Presidency of Republic. At state level, almost all states have founded their own public foundations for support of R&D&I, following the pioneering (and highly successful) example of São Paulo state, which created the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP) in 1962. Usually these foundations are guaranteed by changes in the state constitutions, along the 1980s and 1990s.
  2. Indirect funding through the budgets of public and private universities, institutes and centers. Some universities, such as UNICAMP, have their own internal agencies, foundations and funds set apart and managed with the purpose of supporting R&D&I by their faculties and students.
  3. Public companies, such as Embrapa (Brazilian Enterprise for Agricultural Research). Their source of revenue is the government itself (via budgetary allocations by ministries and state secretaries) and investment of a part of products and services sold.
  4. Industrial, commercial and services private companies, usually for their own R&D&I centers, or via some fiscal benefit (tax exemption laws), such as the Informatics Law.
  5. National private and non-for-profit associations and foundations, via statutory mechanisms or donations by private individuals or companies. An example is the Banco do Brasil Foundation.
  6. Funding by other nations, international organizations and multilateral institutions, such as World Wildlife Foundation, Kellogg Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, US National Science Foundation, Volkswagen Foundation, just to name a few of the more important ones in the history of Brazilian science and technology.


Important universities

Public universities, institutes and colleges

Private universities

Research and development institutes

Scientific societies

List of Brazilian scientists

See also


  1. ^ Science and technology - Brazil
  2. ^ CEITEC - The Company

External links

  • The Museu Nacional and its European employees. Jens Andermann
  • The Museu Nacional at Rio de Janeiro. Jens Andermann
  • The Brazilian Centre of Physical Research.
  • Brazil Technology.