Espacios. Vol. 32 (1) 2011. Pág. 25

Community Model for Research and Development (R&D) of Technological Innovations

Modelos comunitarios para investigación y desarrollo (I&D) en innovación tecnológica

Carlos Fernando Jung* y Carla Scwenberg ten Caten**

Recibido: 16-05-2010 - Aprobado: 20-10-2010


This paper describes the results of exploratory research into the Research and Development (R&D) model employed in the Program for the creation of Technological Innovation Nuclei in the State of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Implemented in 1989 by the Secretariat of Science and Technology of Rio Grande do Sul (RS), to promote sustainable regional development, this program has stimulated the formation of public and private sector partnerships to generate new technology, products and processes adapted to the specific conditions found in the different regions in the State. The results described herein were obtained by a process of exploratory research designed to investigate the conceptual principles and practical operation of the R&D activities of the RS Program for the Creation of Nuclei of Technological Innovation, and the lateral development of this program so as to identify the principal actions effectively contributing to regional development.
Keywords: innovation, research and development, nuclei, regional development.

Este artículo exhibe los resultados de una investigación cuyo objetivo fue comprender el modelo de Investigación y Desarrollo (I+D) utilizados en Programa de Polos de Innovación Tecnológica del RS. Fundada en 1989 por la Secretaria de Ciencia y Tecnología, este programa ha animado, a través de asociaciones entre el desarrollo del sector público y privado de las nuevas tecnologías, productos y procesos adecuados para las diferentes regiones del estado de Rio Grande do Sul. Los resultados se presentan principios conceptuales, el funcionamiento y la estructura del modelo, las principales contribuciones al desarrollo regional.
Palabras-clave: innovación, investigación y desarrollo, polos, desarrollo regional.

1. Introduction

The conception, implantation and operation of any network or technological nucleus find philosophical support in concepts and propositions ascribed to Freeman (1988), Lundvall (1992) and Nelson (1993) who present as a starting point a view of the innovation process as a systemic phenomenon. Thus, an Innovative System may be initially understood as a complex involving: Public Institutions for development, support and execution of Research and Development projects; Universities; University Centers; Faculties and R&D research Institutes :as well as private industries that apply the newly developed technologies produced by these entities in new processes and processes (Freeman, 1988).

Regions that offer better infrastructure, adequate human resources, advanced technology and a good quality of living, will attract private entrepreneurs to set up new production systems there (Lastres, Cassiolato and Arroio, 2006). while regions excluded from the market dynamic are likely to remain on the sidelines of the economic system and have lower levels of wealth, employment and income (Tusman and Nadler, 1997). This frequently causes inequality between individuals and companies both in Brazil and in other countries. As a result, politics and programs for regional development spring up everywhere in an effort to reduce the negative effects of globalization.

However, regional development is not limited to economic capital development alone, but must also include human competence and social capital such as confidence, cooperation and participation. The success of a particular project does not depend exclusively on theoretical capacity and knowledge of the state of the art (Suh 198) but also requires a favorable environment for development (Kline and Rosenberg, 1986).

Preparing the work force for the activities of research and development, expanding scientific knowledge and stimulating partnerships between the private and public sectors are universally recognized as essential ingredients for economic growth in any country (Lyianege, Greenfield and Don, 1999).However, Penteado (2007) states that, even considering only the last decade, these sectors are moving all possible efforts to make the creation of scientific knowledge and technological production form a virtuous circle to overcome one of the Brazilian paradoxes – that of a country recognized all over the world as a generator of science but limited in generating technology and developing aggregated wealth.

The Program for the Establishment of Technological Innovation Nuclei is one such source of innovation that operates in a number of the regions of the State of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil and was implemented by partnerships between various RS public and private Institutions (SCT/RS, 2007). This Program consolidates various human, financial and technological resources into an integrated system for science, technology and innovation. It has helped to finance 413 R&D projects in 21 regions of the State in the period between 1989 and 2005. Since 2000, the program emphasis has been on incentivizing and training the work force and on creating and divulging new technologies for the different regions of Rio Grande do Sul (RS) derived from R&D projects selected by democratic public ballots promoted by the State Government.

2. Methodology procedures

The results presented in this paper were obtained from an exploratory study (OCDE, 2007) within the scope of the Program for Technological Innovation Nuclei in the State of Rio Grande do Sul (RS). In this study, data collected in the field, library references and documents totaling 413 project syntheses - made available by the Division of Technological Innovation Nuclei of the Secretariat of Science and Technology of RS (SCT/RS) - were analyzed.

Five methodological instruments (Bonsiepe, 1978 and Crawford, 1983) were used in the analyses: (i) conceptual, (ii) diachronic analyses of the historical development, (iii) structural and (v) functional of the program. The main result obtained was the discovery of a new procedure that is capable of involving the regional communities in the systematic of determining the demand for R&D. In the following paragraphs, we present the program concept, the diachronic, structural and functional analyses.

3. Analytic study

3.1 Conceptual analysis

A nucleus consists of a region incorporating several municipalities recognized by the Secretariat of Science and Technology of Rio Grande do Sul (RS) and distinguished by some specific local productive arrangement (LPA). For instance, a research community (in universities, research centers or institutions) concerned with technological development, and other social partners interested in disseminating and utilizing technologies such as: COREDES (Regional Development Councils), municipal entities, commercial, industrial and service associations, cooperatives, unions and so on.

These COREDES were instituted by the State Law n° 10.283 of October 17th. 1994 (Articles 166 to 170), and the procedures were regulated by the Decree Law n° 35.764 of September 28th 1994, as follows: (i) Formulate and execute regional strategies and consolidate them with the existing strategies of Regional Development, (ii) Promote participation by society and the citizen combining multiple forms of direct democracy with public representation, (iii) contribute to the regionalization of the activities of the State - Executive, Legislative and Judiciary Power as is laid down in the State Constitution, (iv) Promote public spaces for social control of markets and of the various State apparatuses, (v) Campaign for constant growth of social participation and of the individual citizen in the choice of parameters for development of the State and its peoples, (vi) Intensify the build-up of a social organization dedicated to Regional Development (as distinct from, but in harness with, National Development), and (vii) Divulge the philosophy and practice of cooperative thinking so as to promote Regional Development through partnerships (SCT/RS, 2007).

The main objective of the Program is to support the development of innovative technologies that can be utilized by the various State productive sectors to improve competitiveness and diversify the production so as to increase the income levels of the working population and multiply the number of employment possibilities offered thus ensuring sustainable regional development (Jung et al, 2008). Furthermore, special support is directed to research designed to promote the development of the small rural producer by introducing innovative products, clean technologies, and the preservation and recuperation of the environment; development of fishing and aquaculture; and the optimization of productive processes.

At the present time, of the 25 regions corresponding to the COREDES into which the State is divided, Nuclei of Technological Innovation or Technological Modernization have already been implemented in 21 regions, each reporting to Executive Units responsible for management and execution of the projects. These Executive Units are normally Institutions of Public or Private Higher Education having the infrastructure necessary for Research and Development (Souza, 2006).

3.2 Diachronic analysis

According to SCT/RS (2007) the program was initiated in 1994 and its principal objective at that time was to strengthen the potentialities of the existing local productive systems or arrangements. This initial phase extended until 1994 and saw the implementation of the first development nuclei each of which presented a plan or program for development in which the type of activity, the actions proposed and the investment required were defined for the period considered. One hundred and four projects were approved up to 1993 – Figure 1 shows the principal activities and the number of projects undertaken in this initial phase of the Program.

Figure 1 - Number of projects approved and contracted up to 1993

In the second period, from 1995 to 1999, the first revision of the program processes was undertaken – amongst other things the advent of Law Nº 8.666 introduced alterations in the legal manner that inter-party agreements (called convênios) were being established and executed. At about the same time, the Office of the Secretary for Science and Technology drew up a new methodology for project presentation giving that procedure a technological connotation. The periods allowed for execution and the accounting systems requirements were modified to ensure better control and more timely execution of the projects. However, the system of actually selecting the R&D projects was still left to the researchers at the Technological Innovation Nucleus concerned albeit with the approval of the respective Regional Development Council. Figure 2 demonstrates the number and distribution of the projects over the principal areas of activity in the total of 156 that were approved and contracted in the second phase.

Figure 2 - Number of projects approved and contracted between 1995 and 1999

The third phase of the Program commenced in 2000 and introduced a series of adjustments designed to make the individual Nuclei still more responsive to the demands and actions of the local productive sectors. For this purpose, the program was expanded to include a procedure called the Annual Terms of Reference and the possibility of having more than one Executive Unit per Nucleus was added (SCT/RS, 2007).

From Figure 3 it can be observed that the Program of Technological Innovation Nuclei had achieved a total of 153 contracted projects between 2000 and 2005 and that Environmental Area projects had made outstanding progress especially considering that no such projects were presented in the first or second phases. In this third phase, projects focused on the environment and regional development had overtaken other areas that had previously occupied higher places in the overall context.

Figure 3 - Number of projects approved and contracted between 2000 and 2005

In the third phase (2000) the system whereby the researchers at each Technological Innovation Nuclei selected the R&D projects to be financed was altered and the programs were chosen by the public in a more general process called ´´ Participative Budgeting``, This process was maintained and improved over time and is now known as a ´´Popular Consulation``.

An important improvement was the decision to permit the Program for Innovative Nuclei to finance laboratory infrastructures in the Executive Units themselves. This kind of assistance offered right at the beginning of the work proved to be of fundamental importance in developing Projects for research over the long term as well as permanently equipping the Units to offer expert analytical services to the industrial community in the more distant areas of the State.

The existence nearby of specialized laboratories such as those for: (i) Vegetable Pathology, (ii) Microbiology, (iii) Physical-Chemical analysis, (iv) Soil Analysis, (v) Grammatology, (vi) Chemical Analysis, (vii) Physical/Chemical analysis in Polymeric materials, (viii) Cartography, (ix) Folier analysis of Fertilizers and Soil Correctives, (x) Precision mechanics, (xi) Chemical and Nutritional analysis of Forage and Food, (xii) Essences, (xiii) Construction material analysis, and (xiv) Geometric Metrology, and others placed cutting-edge technology at the disposition of regional companies that previously would have had to travel to the State Capital for these services. This regionalized infrastructure means that qualitative analyses of the developed products can be obtained quickly and consequently the competitiveness of the sector increases (Souza, 2006).

3.3 Structural analysis

Although the name “Nucleus`` in this program might suggest a small fenced-in or delimited territory located in some particular municipality together with the industries, centers, Research Institutes etc, that are engaged in the technological development programs, this is not generally the case – many single Nuclei serve entire regions with partners installed in several locations and/or municipalities (Jung and Caten, 2007).

A Nucleus of Technological Innovation is accepted as such when it includes Executive Units (universities, Faculties, Research Centers or Institutions) that have been shown to possess adequate scientific and technological competence and have signed a Protocol of Intentions with the Office of the State Secretary and the partner institutions. Once these formalities have been properly completed, the Nucleus is in a position to receive resources and then participate in the Program.

Various Program activities have been identified by research into the peculiarities of each Region of the State by the technicians of the Division of Technological Innovation Nuclei of the RS Secretariat of Science and Technology. The vocational strengths and local productive arrangements are first identified followed by an evaluation of the R&D capacities of the Executive Units installed in the region associated to a particular Nucleus. . In this manner, the Program of Nuclei covers the following fields of action: Agriculture, Agro-industry, Aquaculture, Automation, Biotechnology, Civil Construction, Leather and Footwear, Manufacture, Design, Electrical and Electronic technology, Energy, Knitted Goods and Clothing, Information Technology, Materials, Environment, the Mechanics of Metals, Furniture, Oil and Chemicals, Animal Husbandry, Fishing, Plastics, Mineral Resources, Health, Food Technology, Information Technology, Telecommunications and Tourism. As a reference, Seventeen Universities, One University Center, One Institute, Two Foundations, One High College and One Agro-technical College operate Executive Units. These are: UNICRUZ – Universidade de Cruz Alta; URCAMP – Universidade da Região da Campanha; UFSM – Universidade Federal de Santa Maria; ULBRA – Campus São Jerônimo; UNIJUI – Universidade Regional do Noroeste do RGS; PUCRS – Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul, UCS – Universidade de Caxias do Sul, URI – Universidade Regional Integrada do Alto Uruguai; UFRGS – Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul; UPF – Universidade de Passo Fundo; UCPEL – Universidade Católica de Pelotas; FURG – Universidade Federal de Rio Grande; FEEVALE; UNILASSALE; UERGS; UNISINOS – Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos; UNISC – Universidade de Santa Cruz do Sul; UNIVATES – Centro Universitário; IC - Instituto de Cardiologia; FACCAT – Faculdades Integradas de Taquara; Fundação Liberato; FUNDASUL – Fundação de Ensino Superior da Região Centro-Sul, and Escola Agrotécnica de Alegrete.

Under the terms of the partnership, the Public Sector (that is, The Program for the Creation of Technological Innovation Nuclei) provides budgeted financial resources for the acquisition of the equipments and consumable materials while the Executive Unit of the Nuclei for Innovation (i.e. The Institutions of Higher Education) pays for the staff and workers and provide the infra-structure required for the specific R&D to be undertaken (Jung, Caten and Ribeiro, 2007).

The local Community for its part ensures by public plebiscite that the projects proposed fulfill their expectations and attend the regional demand. The structural model of the R&D program is presented in Figure 4.

Figure 4 - Structural R&D Model of the Program

3.4 Functional analysis

Once a year, the Division of Technological Innovation Nuclei of the Secretariat of Science and Technology of the State of RS publishes an announcement forecasting the total amounts budgeted for the acquisition of permanent materials (equipments) and consumables to support one or more Research Projects in each the Nuclei. Then the Regional Development Council (COREDES) advises the Nucleus manager that financial resources are available for the development of new projects in his/her region and he/she in turn informs the respective Executive Units.

The researchers at each Unit identify requirements in the local productive context by consulting factories, professional, commercial and industrial associations and so on. They then prepare draft proposals for projects to satisfy the identified demands and may suggest innovation in the technologies or processes in current use in the market and/or factories. Subsequently the files of the proposed R&D projects are sent to the COREDES where they are consolidated with other requirements derived from other processes such as Projects of Public Safety, Transport, Education, Health, and Sanitation etc.

Finally, in each COREDES region, the State Government consults the general public by means of a voluntary, individual and secret public plebiscite via the Internet. Any registered elector in the communities can review and comment of the complete list of proposals and vote for those that he/she considers will contribute most to the quality of life in the region. This public consultation thus democratically completes the work of the Unit Researchers who initially defined the R&D projects. From the results, the State Government allocates the budgeted resources to the respective Executive Unit and supervises the applications and the execution of the Projects. Figure 5 - presents a flow-chart of the elaboration, selection and execution of the R&D projects managed by the Program Technological Innovation of RS for the period under consideration.

Figure 5- Flow-Chart of the process for selection and execution of the regional community’s requirements

When a regional demand, chosen by a public plebiscite conducted by the State Government in the region of the Innovation Nucleus involved, is identified, a reference list fixing the R&D priorities is drawn up.

Then a Public Request for Quote (RFQ) is issued by the Division of Technological Innovation Nuclei in the Office of Secretary of Science and Technology - RS setting out the financial resources available to buy equipments and consumables for the execution of one or more R&D projects per Innovation Nucleus participating in the program.

The values of the resources vary in accordance with the pre-fixed indices of the economic results obtained by the region. This means that each one of the Nuclei receives different financial values.

The RFQ specifies that the research projects to be proposed must be derived from, or based on, requirements originating in the region - as explained above, the requirement itself was selected by public plebiscite conducted by the State Government.

Continuing the process, the Nucleus Manager analyses the RFQ and transmits the terms, conditions and grants available to interested parties in the respective R&D executive units. On receipt of these documents, the Unit researchers can elaborate the respective project in detail and present the results to the regional Nucleus Manager.

When he/she gets these proposals, he/she makes an initial evaluation of the economic, scientific, technological aspects of each one and verifies that the Nucleus has the R&D capabilities required to handle the project. He/she also checks that the Proposer’s qualifications and professional history are such as to inspire confidence in the solution he/she proposes.

Those that he/she approves are forwarded to the Division of Technological Innovation Nuclei at the Office of the RS Secretary of Science and Technology together with a covering letter signed by the President of COREDES and the Director of the Nucleus Executive Unit assuming formal responsibility for the project and its execution.

A final evaluation is made by the scientific and technical staff at the Office of the Secretary of Science and Technology and, if passed also by them, authorization to execute the project is granted.

The Division of Technological Innovation Nuclei at the Office of the RS Secretary of Science and Technology then makes a synthesis of the approved project and sends it to the executive Unit of the Innovative Nucleus where it is again analyzed, revised and ratified as regards the objectives, the chronogram and the progress benchmarks.

The various parts are then consolidated and a contract is drawn up and signed between the State Government and the Executive Unit formulizing the conditions, destination and chronogram of availability of the funds. The Program starting date is that on which the State releases the funds.

The Unit starts work on the Project by allocating individual Researchers from the own staff who will be responsible for completing the Project within the time frames and budget defined earlier. If suitable people are not available within the Unit, outside experts are contracted, but not before the Project resources become available to the Unit.

The contracts are usually valid for two or three years and define in detail the benefits and obligations of each Partner. In general, the State, via the Program of Nuclei of Innovation, provides the investment capital to finance the purchase of equipments and consumables and the Unit pays for the labor, supplies the infrastructure and executes the Project.

During this phase, inspectors from the Division of Technological Innovation Nuclei (Secretariat of Science and Technology) systematically observe progress to ensure that the objectives and chronograms are being met and that the budget is not exceeded. Reports are prepared and issued every three months by the Project Coordinator at each Nucleus and sent to the Manager of the Division.

During the execution of the project, the Coordinator, in addition to carrying out the research activities, acts as project manager administrating the human and material resources. He/she should also be the communication link between the R&D institution and the industrial community in the region where the technology, product or process under development will be used.

When the Project is completed, the industrial and academic communities are informed on the results - usually by gratuitous conferences, seminaries and courses given to selected audiences. This procedure is not intended to broadcast the technology and/or the development systematic, but to inform interested parties on the benefits that the new technology could offer if incorporated in the existing regional productive processes.

To conclude the Project, a report is prepared for the Division of Technological Innovation Nuclei in the Secretariat of Science and Technology, RS detailing the entire procedure and the results obtained.

Finally, the Researchers prepare a Memorial describing the new technology, product or process in the format required for submission to the National Institutive of Industrial Property - INPI to obtain legal patent protection for the R&D work performed by the Nucleus.

As soon as the patent pending formalities have been deposited, the Researchers take the new technology to the regional factories and other potential users, explaining its application and advantages and assisting, where necessary, in the practical implementation so that the design work performed and the Public investment made, produces in fact the desired results.

Figure 6 presents the model of the basic R&D processes elaborated from an analysis of the description obtained.

Figure 6 – Functional model of the R&D process of the Program

4. Results

The study presents analyses of the concept, the historical development; the functional aspect and present position of the Program for the Creation of Technological Innovation Nuclei in the State of Rio Grande do Sul implemented by the Secretariat of Science and Technology of RS to promote the integration of Universities and Research Centers with the private productive sector.

The principal purpose was to develop new technologies capable of meeting the demands of the different regions of RS. With the passing of the years, it was found that the program gained in efficiency and in the ease with which the technologies could be transferred to the productive sectors. This contributed to an improvement in productivity and entrepreneurial competitiveness leading to the sustained development of the participating regions.

The research improved general knowledge of the basic research and development process adopted by the Technological Innovation Nuclei in Rio Grande do Sul State which now involves 13 stages and extends from the determination of the demand to be attended (by consultation with the regional communities) to the acceptance of the research results by the local productive systems.

The Program of Nuclei financed the implementation of various infrastructures in the Executive Units. This type of assistance was fundamental for the viability of new Technologies, products and processes, in addition to offering qualified services to the industrial communities in locations away from the State Capital.

Laboratories were implemented for: (i) Vegetable Pathology, (ii) Microbiology, (iii) Physical-Chemical analysis, (iv) Soil Analysis, (v) Bromatology, (vi) Chemical Analysis, (vii) Physical/Chemical analysis in Polymeric materials, (viii) Cartography, (ix) Folier analysis of Fertilizers and Soil Correctives, (x) Precision mechanics, (xi) Chemical and Nutritional analysis of Forage and Food, (xii) Essences, (xiii) Construction material analysis, and (xiv) Geometric Metrology. This regionalized laboratorial infrastructure made it possible to obtain qualitative analysis of newly developed products much more rapidly thus improving the competiveness of the regional sector.

The analysis of the R&D Model of the Program of the Nuclei suggests that the model utilized by the Program displays an important differential: the selection of the demands for projects by the regional communities themselves. From the characteristics studied, this model may be considered a variation of the Triple Helix Model that includes an aggregated value because of the participation of the regional communities in the Research and Development (R&D) process.


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*Gestor do Pólo de Inovação Tecnológica do Paranhana/Encosta da Serra, SCT/RS, Brasil.
**UFRGS, RS, Brasil. Email:

Vol. 32 (1) 2011