Summary top

R&D spending by six Latin American countries increased markedly between 1990 and 1996. This gain in spending was split between very substantial increases in Brazil, Mexico, and Costa Rica, with declines reported by Chile, Argentina, and Venezuela. The public sector was the dominant source of funding and main performer of R&D in these countries. The United States supported R&D in these and other Latin American countries through funding of collaborative R&D, support of international financial institutions, which are providing science and technology loans to these countries, and through subsidiary companies conducting industrial R&D in Latin America.

R&D spending by six Latin American countries rose substantially in the 1990-1996 period top

Expenditures on research and development (R&D), adjusted for inflation rose over 40 percent, increasing from $8.7 billion in 1990 to $12.3 billion in 1996 in six Latin American countries (figure 1). In 1996, these countries accounted for over 90 percent of the estimated $13.7 billion of R&D spending in the Latin American and Caribbean region. [1]

Figure 1

Brazil, Mexico, and Costa Rica increased their R&D spending substantially:

Figure 2

R&D spending, adjusted for inflation, declined in Argentina, Chile, and Venezuela:

Despite strong gains by Brazil, Costa Rica, and Mexico, R&D by Latin American countries lagged the levels of more developed countries:

Figure 3

The public sector was the dominant funder of R&D in the six countries:

Table 1

Other funders of R&D included nonprofits and international organizations, notably the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB):

In addition to being the primary funder, the public sector was the dominant performer of R&D in four countries:[9]

Industry R&D has increased its share of total R&D performed in four countries:

Table 2

The U.S. has been playing an active role in supporting R&D in the Latin American region in several ways:

Table 3


[1] Latin America and the Caribbean include countries in South & Central America and the Caribbean region except Cuba that reported R&D spending in 1996 to Red Iberamericana de Indicadores de Ciencia y Tecnologia (RICYT). RICYT is an organization of Inter-American countries that is developing and improving indicators of science and technology in the Inter-American region. The estimated $1.2 billion of R&D expenditures by other countries consists of $1.0 billion by Colombia, with the remainder by all other countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region. This NSF report excludes Cuba due to a lack of a PPP conversion rate.

[2] The $7.1 billion was the PPP value; as a comparison, R&D expenditures at the market exchange rate were $5.8 billion in 1996.

[3] As measured in 1992 constant U.S. dollars of GDP using PPP conversion rates.

[4]Inter-American Development Bank, "Science and Technology for Development: A Strategy Paper", October 1999, p. I.

[5] Mexico data are for 1995.

[6] The reporting of industry R&D in RICYT is consistent with the OECD's guidelines (OECD 1993 Frascati Manual, p. 50), which includes public enterprises engaged in market activities. In addition, public enterprises have historically been the only source of industry R&D in Latin America prior to privatization and market reforms carried out in many countries in the late 1980's and early 1990's.

[7] Data on funding by private industry provided by CNPq (National Council for Research), a Brazilian governmental agency, as part of a November 1999 presentation to the National Science Board on "R&D Budget Coordination and Priority Setting." Public and private industry accounted for 40 percent of total R&D funding in 1996. The one-third share of public industry to total industry funding in 1995, if applied to the 1996 financing figures, would amount to an estimated 13 percent share of public industry funding of total R&D during 1996, effectively increasing the public sector's share from 60 to 73 percent.

[8] Information on the IDB's activities is available at . Information on World Bank loans is available at See also "World Bank renews its support for Brazil," Nature, February 5, 1998, p. 317.

[9] Data are unavailable for Costa Rica and Venezuala.

[10] Mexico data are for 1995.

[11] Mexico data are for 1995.

[12] Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Direct Investment Abroad. Washington, DC: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, 1998.

[13] Wagner, Caroline, International Cooperation in Research and Development. Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 1997.

[14] The U.S. has the largest share of paid-in capital of member countries in the World Bank and IDB. See for shares of member countries in the World Bank. See for shares of member countries in the IDB.

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