Through a 2007 project with the World Bank, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) was able to more closely link research with priorities identified by the users of agricultural technologies. EMBRAPA brought together academia, the private sector, and rural producers through joint ventures to improve agriculture in Brazil. Its success can be instructive for countries implementing
similar programs.

Agriculture is an important part of Brazil’s economy, but the country faces increasing regional and international competition. New agricultural technologies and practices are necessary for remaining competitive, as well as to meet the food and income needs of the poor and protect Brazil’s environment. However, until recently the country spent very little on agricultural research, and the research that was done was linked weakly with client demand. It also failed to tap into the broader universe of actors in agriculture.

The public sector has traditionally been the main investor in agricultural research. The National System of Agricultural Research is led by EMBRAPA, the third largest research agency in the developing world and the most important in Latin America. In the past, most research was carried out directly by this agency. To better respond to farmers’ priorities and harness the capacity of a broader range of actors, EMBRAPA sought to diversify the research base and enhance technology transfer.

To do this, EMBRAPA established a competitive grants system to fund research that expanded the role of the private sector, universities, and farmers’ organizations. It has also increased international collaboration. Grants were made to 470 public-private initiatives. This vast joint venture reduced institutional isolation and dependence on public resources in research. As intended, EMBRAPA remained the leader of this process but is no longer its primary executor.

The initiatives included innovations in new cultivars, hybrids, vegetation genotypes, and clones, as well as more disease-resistant and productive herd animals. Future productivity increases can be expected from the cattle vaccines, animal and plant disease diagnostic kits, machinery and equipment prototypes, and farm management software created out of the grants. Other research products of socioeconomic, ecological, and technological importance include more efficient ecosystem evaluations, development of molecular markers for genetic improvements in plants, alternatives for sustainable exploitation of brushlands, and processes to improve the quality of milk, fruit, and vegetable products.