University of Sussex
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The risk–reward nexus: a qualitative analysis of public–private partnerships for investments in innovation in Brazil

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posted on 2023-06-09, 21:21 authored by Andrea Laplane
Governments throughout the world are confronted with new challenges, in particular having to reconcile economic growth, sustainability and social inclusion. Tackling these issues requires new forms of collaboration between public and private actors. As such, how can public–private partnerships be effective? This research addresses the emergence of the state’s active role as a risk-taker and co-investor in technological innovation. The analysis undertaken considers policy issues that arise from public–private partnerships, by focusing on how public actors may directly appropriate financial rewards. From a perspective that views innovation policy as creating markets, experimentation is crucial for shaping equitable partnerships and strengthening the entrepreneurial role of the state. Furthermore, purposeful state action can influence the institutional frameworks within which these partnerships unfold, and favour the realisation of socially desirable policy goals. The interplay between the two – experimentation with partnerships and changes in the institutional environment – is investigated in three papers that are presented as chapters within the thesis. In Chapter 1 a framework for studying public–private partnerships for investments in innovation is developed. By highlighting the legal dimension of the role of the state in institutional change, the framework includes essential tools that public actors could use for negotiating more equitable reward distribution with business. In chapters 2 and 3 concrete attempts to build investment partnerships in Brazil are examined, focusing on the recent revival of active and explicit industrial policies in the country. Chapter 2 is a comparative analysis of two R&D programmes, oriented towards biofuels and health, which leads to an appraisal of their preliminary outcomes, viewed through the risk–reward nexus lens. Chapter 3 comprises an in-depth case study in the qualities (attributes and functions) of the contracts that enable public actors to appropriate financial rewards of high-risk investments. Viewed as a whole, these three chapters contribute to the understanding of the legitimation processes that underlie the role of the state as an investor, by offering a nuanced appreciation of the limits, tensions, possibilities and tools for building effective public–private partnerships. The theoretical and practical insights from this thesis should benefit the design, implementation and assessment of innovation policies geared to tackling contemporary challenges in Brazil and elsewhere.


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University of Sussex

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