Conventional wisdom usually underestimates the important role of public research institutes and universities in successful cases of Brazilian economy. History of science and technology institutions shows a long-term process of formation of these institutions and their interactions with industrial firms, agricultural producers or society. This paper investigates historical roots of successful cases of Brazil. First, we present the late onset of National Innovation System (NSI) institutions and waves of institutional formation in Brazil. Second, we describe the history of three selected successful cases, which spans from a low-tech sector (agriculture), a medium-tech sector (steel and special metal alloys), to a high-tech sector (aircraft). These findings present new challenges for present-day developmental policies
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