With the Embedded Systems Conference in Brazil taking place next week this "BRIC" country will undoubtedly get a higher level of awareness among readers of EE Times. Brazil has been on the agenda for many international governments recently with high level delegations and bilateral visits from the USA, China, and India among others. During the week I visited Sao Paulo in March of this year, President Obama was fully into his visit to Brazil, getting widespread media attention in the Brazilian press.
What was apparent to me as I visited electronics and technology companies, engineering institutes, industry associations, and others responsible for technology in their own sectors (eg. in banking, healthcare, mobile and broadcast), was that Brazil was a relatively unknown entity in the global tech sector, especially among English speaking countries. It’s very different for those from, for example Portugal, Spain, Germany and Italy, where there have been stronger links to Brazil.
According to a report released this month by Accenture, based on research across eight countries, Brazilians have the highest consumer electronics ownership and spending in 15 product categories. More than half (55 percent) of Brazilian consumers have bought a mobile phone during the past year, compared to the international survey average of 32 percent. Similarly, 40 percent of Brazilian consumers plan to buy HDTVs this year compared to 25 percent internationally; and 20 percent intend to buy 3DTVs this year compared to 12 percent internationally (full data can be found at this
"Brazilian consumers are outpacing the rest of the world’s consumers in electronics usage and spending," said Petronio Nogueira, senior executive with Accenture’s communications and high-tech group. "Now as never before, Brazil has become a global epicenter for consumer electronics business opportunities."
This report is certainly confirmation of what I saw (see
my blog piece on IT Decisions), in that the country’s research and development funding is geared towards enabling product development in the key areas of demand and growth in the tech sector. For example, The Integrated Systems Technological Laboratory (LSI-TEC) at the University of Sao Paulo, which is a non-profit research organization that has been operating since 1999, provides innovation in advanced digital technologies and is very active in embedded systems design and transfer of intellectual property to commercial ventures. LSI-TEC develops services, systems and products in electronic devices, integrated circuits, software and hardware for educational applications, as well as basic software and applications for PDAs and cell phones. The team whom I met described it as the Fraunhofer Institute of Brazil.
The team at LSI-TEC cited examples of work that have resulted in commercial implementations – for example, they had designed the first HD set top box in Brazil, and now they are working on the use of the set-top box as a home sensor with a view to working with utility companies in transferring that technology. While they use standard embedded processors and system level design techniques, they were keen to see more semiconductor intellectual property being made available to design engineers in Brazil so that they can do more system-on-chip development.
Recognizing this companies like ARM have already committed to Brazil (see the EE Times story, ARM
makes market moves in Brazil). As the Accenture report points out, consumer electronics consumption has grown and will continue to grow rapidly, especially as social mobility increases (the mobile phone penetration rate is already over 1.2).
But international companies looking to enter Brazil will be doing so not because Brazil is a country where you can do low cost manufacturing or outsourcing of software development, since the cost of doing business there is relatively high compared to some markets; the attraction of Brazil is the internal market and its base as a hub for the growing Latin America market.
My perception was that Brazil is a developed rather than emerging economy. While there are some similarities with the growth of other BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries, Brazil is very different - the opportunity for international technology companies is certainly significant (as Foxconn and Apple have recently demonstrated), but there are challenges as with any new market and it’s important to ensure that you work with local partners and expertise to understand the best route in and what actual opportunities there are available.
There is no doubt about the consumer electronics ownership and spending figures. The only problem is that Brazil does not dominate any technology in consumer electronics, everything is designed and supplied out of Brazil, in USA, Europe or Asia.
Brazilian government should pay attention to this, they have to create ways to incentive the design of consumer products in Brazil by brazilian players.
Roger - while what you say is right, Brazilian electronic engineers and companies are significantly incentivised by Government initiatives to study and be placed in industry. I suspect given the international interest, Brazil will eventually come to develop its design centres and start to dominate one or mutiple sectors.
Freescale has had a design center in Brazil since 1997. They have over 130 engineers and have delivered over 70 designs (according to their website). I'm don't know if it has helped them in the market there, but it coudn't hurt.
I don't have the numbers, but I would not be surprised to find that Brazil is graduating far more engineers per year than the US.We are graduating foreign engineers that either stay here or return to their countries.
It is the US government that has to incentive our own high school graduates to get into an engineering field.
The ratio of foreign to American engineers working in the US is frightening.
I'm working since 2008 in a commercial IC design training center located in Porto Alegre, Brazil. This training center was established through a partnership between Cadence Design System and the Brazilian government to train IC design engineers in the following areas: AMS, RF and digital design. The training is one-year long and today around 150 engineers have already passed in this training center.
Today, most of them are in companies like the one mentioned above (non-profit research organization). A good landscape of the companies can be seen at the ApexBrasil portal under the semiconductor section (http://www.apexbrasil.com.br).
Most of the semicondutor projects are still government supported and focused to develop applications to the Brazilian needs. Also, these projects can be seen as an way to maintain and develop the engineers in Brazil. We expect to develop more IC engineers in the next years to ramp-up this market.
We know there's still a long way ahead ... but I believe with the right investments, partnerships and decision, it's possible to start new and successful semiconductor business in Brazil.
Local market for electronics is increasing year after year, for sure. In the other hand, design activities are going down. In the big 4 segment for semiconductor (Telecom, Computer, Automotive and Consumer) design activity in Brazil in pratically zero. Some in medical equipments, some industrial, car alarms, white line and few other products. Tech Institutes survive based on government incentivies. Local cost and corruption still avoid foreign companies to invest here.
A big reason for so many people planning to buy HDTV sets is the up coming FIFA world cup. Local SoC and embedded system design is critical and hopefully can diffuse into industry rather than being dominated by Allen-Bradley or Siemens at very high prices. Engineering is a subsidised activity; in the USA the military pushes much of the jobs, in Oz the military certainly employs many but very little consumer electronics pops out here, so good luck and hopefully the government supports the industry to a stage that it can survive, rather than suffocate it with regulations, high taxes and unrealistic hourly rates. As for corruption, seems like no country has a monopoly on that one--it keep the media well fed with the latest on the head of the IMF; even the squeaky clean are easy victims.
Brazil has a long time tradition for pushing for local manufacturing and is the country where we have more car manufacturers in the world. With the current changes in the semiconductor market with technology being offered through IP companies and third party foundries is not anymore needed to be a giant multibillion company to develop a leading edge technology chip. Government support for a long term policy and investment in forming especilists can make this a possible strength in a growing economy hungry for local specs on the consumer products that not always come ready from US or Europe. A local expert / partner is for sure a must to avoid loose a lot of money trying the one size feets all strategy in a complex and sometimes complicated market.
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