Marina Silva’s STI proposals

Marina Silva’s STI proposals

A look at an evangelical Christian’s science agenda


The presidential elections in Brazil are coming up this Sunday. For a long time, even after the rough 7:1 defeat against Germany in the World Cup, it seemed that Dilma Rousseff could comfortably plan for another term as President of the Republic.

The plane accident and death of presidential candidate Eduardo Campos changed this trajectory. Having assumed the candidacy of the Brazilian Socialist Party from Campos, Marina Silva quickly shot up in the polling, becoming a real threat to incumbent Rousseff with a considerable chance of winning in the second round of voting. At the time of writing the predictions vary from day to day promising a head-to-head race between Dilma Rousseff, Marina Silva and Aécio Neves. But what does this lady with strong evangelical beliefs, who quickly stepped up to the challenge of potentially ruling the most powerful Latin American nation, stand for in the science, technology and innovation (STI) sector?

Having studied the program of Marina Silva and her plans for Brazilian STI, I would like to dwell on a few of her ideas here and allow myself some thoughts on the possible implications for the internationalization efforts of Brazil in general, and Switzerland in particular.

  • Silva promises to allocate 2% of GDP to STI, and to increase funding for the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq)
  • The program states that Marina Silva would increase international scientific collaboration through the existing program Science Without Borders as well as through a new program that would enhance the exchange between innovation hubs in Brazil and the rest of the world.
  • Silva plans on encouraging the creation of innovative environments such as science and technology parks, which should help to generate new and innovative products.
  • With respect to the emerging trend of digital citizenship, Silva plans to put in place online platforms, which allow citizens to send proposals directly to teams of government. This would improve the efficiency of public consultations and increase the participation of the people in policy making.

The first point resonates with Brazil’s international partners in higher education, as increased funding to CNPq might also enable more research cooperation. However, it is essential that more funding goes hand in hand with more effective allocation of resources.

Rolled out by president incumbent Dilma Rousseff in 2011, the Science Without Borders (SWB) program has proven a success so far. With Switzerland an official program partner since last year, the exchange of students and researchers between the two countries may be further strengthened as Silva decides to extend the program by another period. Indeed, apart from a student’s academic and personal enrichment of a study abroad experience, programs like the SWB create long-lasting ties between individuals and institutions, and, as such, sow the seeds for further collaboration.

The promise of increased support for the creation of science and technology parks is a positive sign to strengthen the dialogue – currently rather muted – between the worlds of academia and business. This is an area of particular interest to swissnex Brazil, as the upcoming Academia Industry Training, launching in November, seeks to encourage Brazilian and Swiss researchers to leave the ivory tower of academia and plan for a market application of their projects. Considering Silva’s intentions, our program seems to meet a need and could find significant attention and new partners as new innovation parks see the day.

Finally, a digital platform for citizen engagement – one of the key tenets of what Silva coins “high intensity democracy” – might be an effective way of bringing the constituents closer to the decision-makers. In fact, the Swiss startup Govfaces is increasingly successful with precisely this idea. The concept is gaining traction across the world in an effort to let citizens and their elected representatives communicate more effectively. Maybe a step towards Swiss-style direct democracy?

In conclusion, although the tone of Marina Silva’s STI program strikes a chord with many, there is no doubt that these policies are not what determine elections. In fact, only four out of the eleven candidates even devised a plan of action for this sector, which shows that STI is still not awarded the attention that it arguably deserves. The low priority awarded also makes it ever so easy not to fulfill the promises made, once in office. Thus, whether the winner is Rousseff or Silva one can be skeptical of how much will indeed change in the aftermath of the elections.

We at swissnex are holding our breath as Brazilians cast their first round of (compulsory) votes this Sunday and hope that either candidate’s campaign promises for a strengthening of innovation and internationalization will be held.

Text: Yves Reust, Junior Project Manager swissnex Brazil
Editor: Malin Borg, Operations and Project Manager swissnex Brazil

Image: Marina Silva CC License