Where in the World to Invest During a Downturn

Point: Government policy affects foreign investment and innovation. Brazil is poised to do well.

Story: During a recent HSM webinar, Jeffrey Sachs (leading international economic advisor, sachs-largeColumbia University professor and author of New York Times bestsellers Common Wealth and The End of Poverty), was asked about the near-term prospects for Latin American countries and which countries he thought would do best. Sachs’ answer: Brazil is poised to do best.

For the last 15 years, Brazil has been investing heavily in education. In particular, Brazil made high school available to all citizens and invested in higher education, science and technology. The result is not only a more educated workforce but also a narrowing of the gap between rich and poor and between ethnically divided segments of Brazilian society. In contrast, countries with deep ethnic and racial inequities aren’t unified societies, which leads to mediocre economic performance. Brazil plans to invest $22 billion in science and technology innovation in 2010 and seeks corporations to join in additional investments in the country.

Sachs’ optimism about Brazil echos IBM’s sentiments. IBM is one of the companies investing in Brazil. CEO Sam Palmisano recently met with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva to discuss the creation of a “collaboratory” in Brazil. IBM’s  collaboratories match IBM researchers with local experts from governments, universities and companies. IBM’s Palmisano praised Brazil’s strategy: “Investments in innovation are critical, especially in a downturn. They can help Brazil and other countries, including the US, realize an economic expansion.”  Among the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), Brazil is seeing the highest growth in business partners that IBM works with, averaging 150% year over year, according to Claudia Fan Munce, managing director of IBM Venture Capital Group.

Action:
* Consider the benefits of locating R&D labs to another country, such as gaining  opportunities to see the challenges and solutions  not visible from a US-centric perspective.
* When evaluating countries for investment potential, consider their economic policies (business environment, trade policy, investment policy, infrastructure) as well as any cultural barriers (ethnic, religious, gender inequalities) that may be a barrier to integrating the best talent and to fostering economic growth

Sources:

Jeffrey Sachs webinar: Economics for a Crowded Planet
“Big Blue’s Global Lab,” Business Week September 7, 2009
“IBM Bets on Brazilian Innovation” Business Week August 17, 2009
Jeffrey Sachs, Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet
Jeffrey Sachs, The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time

If you’d like to ask Jeffrey Sachs your own questions, you’ll have the opportunity at the World Business Forum in New York City October 6-7, 2009.

2 Comments »Capital, Growth, Innovation, Opportunity, R&D, Strategy

2 Responses to “Where in the World to Invest During a Downturn”

  1. Claire Walter Sep 16th 2009 at 03:59 am 1

    I take small comfort in Brazil’s alleged/reported growing emphasis on technology instead of deforestation so that ranchers can raise cattle that will become junkburgers and/or destructive mining practices.

  2. Andrea Meyer Sep 17th 2009 at 07:19 am 2

    I’d say that investment in education and innovation is precisely the way to overcome a dependence on depleting natural resources. The new investments are driving new venture creation that will lead to a much more robust, sustainable economy.

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