Brazil creates national AI innovation network

A network of research centers will support startups and established businesses in the development of new products and services based on the technology.

The Brazilian government has announced the launch of a national innovation network focused on artificial intelligence (AI) with the aim of increasing the production capacity and competitiveness of local companies.

Described as the largest in the country, the network is the result of the cooperation between the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovations (MCTI) and the Brazilian Industrial Research and Innovation Company (EMBRAPII).

An investment of 70 million reais (US$ 12 million) deriving from government incentives will go towards the MCTI/EMBRAPII network in the next five years, of which 20 million reais (US$ 3.5 million) will be focused on AI applied to the automotive and agribusiness sectors. The model provides for equal contributions from the private sector, which could double the value of individual projects.

The goal of the network is to encourage use of advanced technologies in various productive sectors, through the provision of non-refundable resources, as well as access to an innovation ecosystem with complementary technological skills.

A network of 17 research centers with infrastructure and skilled professionals in areas such as machine learning, Internet of Things, Big Data, to support the industry to innovate is also part of the initiative.

Part of the resources to be provided under the network will be used to develop IA competences of the research centers and to strengthen national research, development and innovation capabilities in the field. These research centers are also expected to intensify international exchange of knowledge and reciprocal collaboration with the main AI networks in the world, particularly in Europe, Israel and North America.

Projects by small companies and startups, especially those engaged in high tech projects, are also within the scope of the network. According to EMBRAPII, non-refundable funding and technical-scientific support will be offered throughout the development cycle of the projects until the product or service hits the market.

The Network will also aim to promote the cooperative development of projects between different organization in the private sector. Such cooperation can be carried out between companies that belong to the same production chain, to generate new products and processes that benefit the entire sector.

Cooperation will also be promoted within the Network between startups and incumbents who are seeking to innovate in a particular business model which could be still unusual in Brazil. Collaborative work could also take place among competitors, a model in which they share costs and risks of the development of a particular technology, but then apply the technology according to their own individual strategies.

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The Network will be presided over the next two years by the Telecommunications Research and Development Center (CPqD) while the Federal Institute of Ceará (IFCE) will be in the vice-presidency of the new organization.

Representatives from 12 private partner institutions will asp participate in the Network's Advisory Council, which will define the strategy and guidelines for action. The group includes the International Association of Artificial Intelligence (I2AI), the Brazilian Association of Industrial Internet (ABII) the Brazilian Association of Information and Communication Technology Companies (BRASSCOM).

Other members of the advisory group include the Association of Brazilian Information Technology Companies (ASSESPRO), the Brazilian Computer Society (SBC), Brazilian Association of the Electrical and Electronic Industry (ABINEE), Association of National Technological Development and Innovation Companies (P&D Brasil), Association for Promotion of Excellence in Brazilian Software (SOFTEX), and the Brazilian IoT Forum.

The announcement of the AI Network follows the launch last month of Brazil's largest research facility focused on AI, the Artificial Intelligence Center (C4AI), the result of investments made by IBM, the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) and the University of São Paulo (USP).

Later in October, the government also announced the National Innovation Policy, which will be followed by the creation of a wide-ranging plan to address various aspects of innovation development in the country. An Innovation Committee will coordinate the activities and will be chaired by the presidential office and managed by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovations.