Research Institutions

© iStockphoto

Besides the research carried out in Federal, State, community, and private universities, a large number of non-university institutes, above all Federal, State, and company R&D centers perform scientific and technological research in Brazil. In November 2008, the National Institutes of Science and Technology (INCT) were created, which serve as networks of research groups.

The Brazilian innovation ecosystem has historically relied on research carried out in federal, state, and private universities, in addition to scientific and technological research led by Research and Development centers of companies and non-university institutes, especially federal and state, as well as institutions of the so-called the S system, which includes the National Service for Industrial Apprenticeship Training (SENAI) and the Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service (SEBRAE).

In recent decades, Brazil has been giving even greater attention to the innovation and entrepreneurship areas. In support of bolder strategies for these areas, the National Institutes of Science and Technology (INCT) were created in November 2008, which function as networks for research groups. And, in 2013, the first units of the SENAI Innovation Institutes came into operation – the initiative had the technical support of Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute of Production Systems and Design Technology IPK.

Brazil also has institutions that work diligently for scientific development and public policies in the areas of education, science, technology, and innovation. Among them are the Brazilian Academy of Sciences (ABC) and the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science (SBPC).

The ABC, for example, was founded in 1916, and is dedicated to studying the subjects of primary importance do Brazilian society, for the purpose of providing scientific support to the formulation of public policies. Its focus is on the country’s scientific development, interaction between Brazilian scientists and between them and researchers from other nations. Read more about the ABC.

The SBPC is a civil, non-profit organization, which follows no political party’s position, dedicated to defending scientific and technological advance and the educational and cultural development of Brazil. Since its founding, in 1948, the SBPC has played an important role in the expansion and improvement of the national science and technology system, as well as the dissemination and popularization of science in the country. Read more about the SBPC.

Federal Research Institutes

Most Federal non-university research institutes are linked to the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communication (MCTIC), such as the National Institute of Technology (INT), in Rio de Janeiro, and the National Center for Energy and Materials Research (CNPEM), in Campinas, São Paulo. The first is involved in the areas of engineering assessments, corrosion and degradation, energy, processing and characterizing materials. The CNPEM, on the other hand, unites four research units that are relevant to the national scenario: Luz Síncroton National Laboratory (LNLS), National Laboratory of Biosciences (LNBio), National Bioethanol Science and Technology Laboratory (CTBE), and National Laboratory of Nanotechnology (LNNano).

Several other institutes and research centers linked to the MCTIC are: the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe), the National Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics (Impa), the National Amazon Research Institute (Inpa), the Strategic Technologies Center for the Northeast (Cetene), and the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB).

With units in Brasília and Rio de Janeiro, the Applied Economics Research Institute (IPEA), linked to the Department of Strategic Affairs of the President of the Republic, is outstanding for its studies in the area of economics, which provide the foundation for government actions and public policies. Another important source for public policies is the research done by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), in Rio de Janeiro.

Several research institutions are linked to the Ministry of Defense. Highlighted among them are the Aeronautics Institute of Technology (ITA) and the Military Engineering Institute (IME).

The Aeronautics Institute of Technology (ITA), located in the city of São José dos Campos, São Paulo, and founded in 1950, is a public university institution linked to the Aeronautics Command (COMAer). It specializes in the areas of science and technology of the aerospace sector, offering undergraduate and graduate courses in engineering.  Furthermore, the institution has five Postgraduate programs, divided into 22 major areas: Mechanical Engineering and Aeronautics; Electronic Engineering and Computing; Aeronautical Infrastructure Engineering; Physical Sciences; and Space Technologies. The Institute has an extensive infrastructure of research laboratories. It supports and promotes basic and beginning scientific projects related to its area of aeronautics.

The Military Engineering Institute (IME) is responsible, within the Brazilian Army, for university-level engineering and basic research in the areas of electrical, mechanical, chemical, cartographic engineering, and others.

In the “Ministries” section, other important Brazilian research centers are mentioned, like Embrapa (agriculture), Cenpes (petroleum and natural gas), Fiocruz (health), and Cepel (energy).

State Research Institutes

Brazil’s federal units have numerous state research centers, generally meeting regional demands. The State of São Paulo is responsible for practically half of the country’s scientific production, through the largest network of research centers, including national benchmarks. Three good examples are the Institute of Technological Research (IPT) and the Butantan Institute (IB) and its immunobiological research, both located in the city of São Paulo, as well as the Food Technology Institute (Ital), in the city of Campinas, which also has the headquarters of the Agronomic Institute of Campinas (IAC), operating for over 120 years.

National Institutes of Science and Technology (INCT)

The goal of the National Institutes of Science and Technology (INCT) Program is to mobilize and gather the best research groups in areas strategic to the sustainable development of the country and to produce cutting-edge technologies, in order to promote innovation in a coordinated manner with innovative companies. The institutes drive basic scientific research and prepare young researchers, besides supporting the installation of laboratories in educational institutions and research, and in companies. The program is linked to the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communication (MCTIC), in a partnership with the Ministry of Education (MEC), Ministry of Health, and the National Economic and Social Development Bank (BNDES).

On November 10, 2016, then-President Michel Temer signed the release of R$ 328 million for financing 101 INCTs, which involve 8,738 researchers from 410 laboratories, located in the 27 Federal units. São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Minas Gerais have the largest number of selected INCTs, with 33, 19, and 10 projects, respectively.

The list covers areas like livestock, biodiversity, energy, nanotechnology, urban problems, environmental issues, and information and communication technologies. The Health area alone has groups dedicated to brain, genetic, hormonal, neglected, and tropical diseases; cancer, dengue, diabetes, obesity, and tuberculosis; besides the development of vaccines, drugs and medications; comparative genomics, regenerative medicine, stem-cell research, psychiatry, and resistance to antimicrobials.

SENAI Innovation Institutes

SENAI’s Innovation Institutes are an integral part of a strategy to promote applied research, technology, and innovation as tools for making Brazilian industry more competitive.

To that end, since 2012, SENAI has worked with Germany’s Fraunhofer IPK institute, a reference in applied research, which provided technical support for planning and implementing the first units in operation, since February 2013.

Present in the five regions of the country, SENAI’s innovation complexes have laboratories with state-of-the-art technology, scientific expertise, and applied research. The units are located near industrial complexes, technology parks, and universities to facilitate the flow of knowledge between the productive sector and academe.

Learn more:

Centers for Applied Research in Artificial Intelligence

The São Paulo State Research Support Foundation (FAPESP), the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI), and the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee ( announced, in May 2021, the establishment of six Applied Research Centers (CPA) in Artificial Intelligence focused on health, agriculture, industry, and smart cities.

Located in universities and institutions in different states of Brazil, such as São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Bahia, and Ceará, the new centers will be dedicated to the development of scientific, technological, and innovative research, all of which will be applied and focused on problems that can be solved through artificial intelligence.

FAPESP, MCTI and will make one million Reals available, per year, to each of the new centers over a period of up to ten years. An identical amount will be contributed by partner companies, totaling 20 million Reals per center.