Small high technology firms in developing countries : the case of biotechnology in Brazil.
The objective of this research is to examine the
institutional development of biotechnology in Brazil and, in
particular, the role played by small firms in fostering
biotechnology in the health and agriculture sectors and their
relationship with both universities and large firms.
The interest in this study stems from the crucial role
played by small, high technology firms in innovation and
diffusion of new technologies. Case studies emphasising the
innovative capacity of small firms in several advanced countries
are now available. In the US, in particular, there has been a
proliferation of hundreds of small firms in biotechnology since
the late 70s. The pattern of biotechnology development in the US
suggests that small firms are functioning as a "bridge" between
academia and large corporations.
In developing countries, very little is known about the role
of small firms in innovation, especially in a new, high
technology area such as biotechnology. In the early 1980s,
however, the emergence of a number of small companies operating
in biotechnology in Brazil suggested that this might be the
beginning of a new indigenous industry in this area. The purpose
of this study was therefore to find out precisely what these
biotechnology companies were doing, how far they fitted the
American model of the new biotechnology firms and their links
with the academic base, financial structures and large firms. It
is the first study in this area, and it has been deliberately
directed towards concentrating on the role of these small
companies have played in the development and diffusion of this
The empirical research presents original data collected from
detailed interviews with twelve representative firms and relevant
governmental agencies, carried out in 1989. Interviews were also
conducted with academics in order to assess how far the small
biotechnology firms were linked into the growing competence in
this area of Brazilian universities.
The main findings show that there are differences but also
similarities between the American and the Brazilian pattern of
biotechnology development. The Brazilian companies are not
operating at the cutting-edge of this technology. On the
contrary. they are using older and well tried techniques such as
plant tissue culture. They do, however. link into the
universities and large corporations.