Transforming innovation systems in emerging economies: an evolutionary study of the Brazilian petroleum industry

  • Alec Waterworth

Student thesis: Phd


The thesis is submitted under the alternative format, comprising three papers. The key theoretical contribution of the thesis can be found in each of these papers. First, the thesis explores the relationship between national and sectoral systems of innovation, and emphasises the need for governmental policies at each level to be both coordinated and complementary. Second, it offers an examination of the emerging role of universities in innovation systems, which far exceeds the traditional perspective of universities as 'knowledge suppliers' and the more recent notion of the 'entrepreneurial university'. Finally, it offers insight into the strategies of foreign MNEs under the context of industry clusters.The thesis discusses the development of the Brazilian petroleum innovation system following one of the largest oil and gas discoveries in the Americas for decades. The pre-salt oil reserves were discovered in 2007 and are estimated to amount to at least the 60 billion barrels of oil in the North Sea. They are located off the south-eastern coast of Brazil in ultra-deep water (i.e. depths greater than 1500m) and are named as such because they reside under a thick layer of salt (up to two kilometres in depth). The location of the reserves adds great complexity to the challenge of their extraction. It also offers opportunities for competitive advantage to those actors within the innovation system who successfully innovate in addressing this challenge.The study draws upon an empirical investigation that included forty-two in-depth interviews, conducted in 2014 and 2015, and is supplemented by documentary analysis. These interviews were largely held with governmental agencies, public universities and petroleum-focussed enterprises (both domestic SMEs and global MNEs). Each group of actors are discussed in a different empirical paper: the efforts of governmental regulatory agencies in creating innovation in Brazil's national petroleum industry; the evolving role of public universities in pursuit of technology transfer and academic entrepreneurship; and the R&D strategies of several global oil and gas MNEs that have taken residence in the recently-established industry cluster in Rio de Janeiro.The thesis also offers much to practitioners: guidance for the enactors of innovation policy following a large natural resource discovery; a model for universities wishing to develop a portfolio of entrepreneurial support, which has been shown to greatly support a university's own technology transfer objectives; and direction for foreign MNEs in how to adapt to changes in industry clusters. The need for and challenge of achieving cooperation between diverse actors in an innovation system are apparent throughout the thesis. This cooperation is even more important in emerging economies such of Brazil, which often suffer from a lack of coordination between actors.
Date of Award1 Aug 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorPhilip Shapira (Supervisor) & Abdullah Gok (Supervisor)


  • Innovation
  • Systems of innovation
  • Innovation systems
  • Academic entrepreneurship
  • Industry clusters
  • R&D internationalisation

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