Brazil at a crossroads: re-asserting the importance of science and technology for development – Ezequiel Zylberberg and Elisabeth Reynolds

Ezequiel Zylberberg, Research Affiliate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Industrial Performance Center

Elisabeth Reynolds, executive director of the MIT Industrial Performance Center

From Valor

The Brazilian government has pursued a state-led development approach for nearly a century. In the last twenty years, it has enacted various policies and programs explicitly designed to strengthen its national system of innovation. It has sought to build upon early successes in agriculture, commercial aviation, and deep sea oil & gas exploration to create new engines of growth for the 21st century.

Brazil has increased spending on science and technology, encouraged greater collaboration between industry and universities, and fostered the creation of new institutions whose primary aim is to facilitate greater private spending on research and development (R&D). Yet, recent headwinds threaten to derail what, despite several well-known shortcomings, has been a remarkable story of progress.

Beginning with the economic recession and political fallout associated with the Lava Jato corruption scandal that began in 2014, and continuing with the proposed dramatic cuts to science and technology spending and the ouster of respected leaders in the scientific community, Brazil’s science, technology, and innovation agenda has faced serious challenges and now faces an uncertain future.

During these difficult times, it is important for the business and scientific communities to re-assert the value of science, technology, and innovation, not as an end in itself, but as a platform for sustained economic growth and social development. Brazil cannot afford to fall behind as the pace of technological change quickens and the globalization of production and innovation grows in scale and scope.

It was in the context of these ongoing challenges that MIT’s Industrial Performance Center (IPC) began a five-year research collaboration with the Brazilian National Service for Industrial Training (SENAI) in 2014. The project recently culminated in the publication of a volume entitled Innovation in Brazil: Advancing Development in the 21st Century (Routledge, 2019, Portuguese edition by Elsevier forthcoming).

This book represents a true transnational collaboration. It includes contributions from MIT researchers as well as leading Brazilian academics and practitioners, and proposes a forward-looking innovation agenda for the country. This research will be the focus of an upcoming presentation at the MIT Sloan Future of Work Conference to be held on August 29th in São Paulo.

We find that in order to effectively accelerate innovation and position itself for growth in the 21st century, Brazil should address five key areas. First, the country should strengthen its engagement with the rest of the world through global value chains and knowledge networks. This is made more urgent by the arrival of a set of fast moving, complex, and globally integrated digital technologies.

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David Morgenthaler – a man who knew where to place the lever – Joe Hadzima

Joe Hadzima Senior Lecturer, Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship

Joe Hadzima
Senior Lecturer, Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship

From The Huffington Post 

When I read today that venture capitalist pioneer David Morgenthaler had died one of my first thoughts was the statement attributed to Archimedes “Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the world”. David moved the world in many important ways. As one of the first venture capitalists he used his own money to start Morgenthaler Ventures which he went on to build into a premier firm that invested in more than 325 startups. As a founding director of the National Venture Capital Association he helped shape the development of the industry, including leading the successful legislative effort to allow pension funds to invest in venture capital which vastly increased the capital available to innovative startups.

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The power of behavioral science for emerging economies: MIT explores Cuba and Trinidad & Tobago — Renée Richardson Gosline

MIT Sloan Prof. Renée Richardson Gosline

MIT Sloan Prof. Renée Richardson Gosline

From The Huffington Post

Both social scientists and policy makers have long puzzled over a basic question: Why do humans so often refuse to act in their own best interests? This ranges from behavior as simple as snacking on chips when we all know fruit is healthier to spending money on extravagant luxuries when we should be saving for retirement.

The answer is that our choices are shaped by both non-conscious processes and the social influences that shape our behavior. “Behavioral science” seeks to unpack these influences and can discover ways to encourage good economic decisions, healthy lifestyles and other beneficial habits. So I, as a behavioral scientist, was heartened to see the Obama administration issue an executive order in September 2015 calling for incorporating behavioral insights into federal policies and programs.

Behavioral science is kind of “cool” right now (cool, for academia anyway). There has been a great deal of mainstream attention paid to behavioral science recently, notably in books like Freakonomics and Predictably- Irrational to columns like New York Magazine’s The Science of Us, and television shows like National Geographic’s “Brain Games,” and various Ted Talks. There’s also increased attention on how behavioral science can move beyond the laboratory, with its interesting, quirky cool studies, to really be used as a tool to help shape behavior and policy. Thus, Obama’s creation of a behavioral science team within the White House could really give a boost to cross pollination between academics and policymakers that could result in public policy that would encourage healthier, more fulfilling lives. This could range from encouraging people to enroll in thrift plans, pay fines that hang over their heads, eat low-fat diets, or get out to vote.

Unfortunately, there has been a chasm between the kinds of tools that we use in academia and the policies needed in the real world. Most people outside of academia do not read the arcane articles in academic journals. But we have some great and interesting ideas percolating in campus “laboratories” that we need to share with budget-strapped policymakers dealing with real-world issues.

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