copy the linklink copied!Chapter 5. Federal programmes for SMEs and entrepreneurship in Brazil

This chapter describes and assesses federal programmes in support of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurship, notably in the areas of access to finance, innovation, public procurement, entrepreneurship education, managerial and workforce training, and women’s entrepreneurship. Access to finance is mostly promoted in Brazil through loan subsidies, whereas loan guarantees are less widespread. Brazil has a wide range of targeted programmes to support innovation in SMEs, some of which are well-designed and successful. However, spending on targeted SME innovation programmes is dwarfed by spending on research and development (R&D) tax credits, which are overwhelmingly used by large companies. Entrepreneurship education in Brazil has a solid reach and content, on which the government could build to reach more effectively disadvantaged groups and groups underrepresented in the entrepreneurial population. Finally, there is a need to strengthen public policies for women’s entrepreneurship, including through the implementation of more women-specific support programmes.


copy the linklink copied!SME debt finance programmes

Chapter 3 has looked at overall credit market conditions and recent reforms in credit market regulations, arguing that Brazil’s credit market is tight but that important regulatory reforms have recently been undertaken to ease access to finance. This section looks at specific programmes enhancing access to finance for SMEs. It highlights the important role played by Brazil’s National Bank for Economic and Social Development (Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social, BNDES) and Brazil’s preference for credit subsidies over loan guarantees.

BNDES credit programmes

BNDES is the single most important source of finance for SMEs in Brazil   

BNDES is one of the largest development banks worldwide, with total assets of BRL 860 billion. BNDES operates 10 credit products and 36 credit lines: a credit product involves a specific financing objective, while a credit line sets out specific conditions for targeted clients or sub-objectives. Each product has a pre-defined cost and the BNDES remuneration, which together constitute the interest rate passed on to the client. Since BNDES works through a network of accredited financial institutions (both private and public), these also charge their own remuneration in the final interest rate, based on their own credit risk assessment of the client.

BNDES is the single most important source of finance for Brazilian SMEs. In the first semester of 2018, SMEs, including micro-enterprises, accounted for 48.6% of BNDES credit, up from 30.6% in 2016 (OECD, 2019). Some of BNDES’s most relevant products for SMEs are the BNDES Card, BNDES Automático, BNDES FINAME and BNDES Crédito Pequenas Empresas. The first is a credit card issued by BNDES-accredited financial institutions with a pre-approved overdraft of up to BRL 2 million; the second supports investment of up to BRL 150 million; the third finances the acquisition of capital assets; and the fourth offers up to a maximum of BRL 500 000 of credit per year to micro and small enterprises as defined by Lei Complementar 123/2006 (i.e. MPEs).1

The BNDES Card (Cartão BNDES) is particularly popular among MPEs struggling to receive bank loans. It is a credit card that comes with a pre-approved credit line (up to BRL 2 million) and an interest rate subsidy (1.3% per month in early 2019). Small business owners can use the card to buy products from registered national suppliers. In 2017, more than 650 000 companies were using a BNDES Card for a total amount of BRL 2.7 billion of credit. Overall, the BNDES Card accounted for 30% of BNDES disbursements to SMEs in 2015. An initiative similar to BNDES Card exists in Hungary, where the maximum credit allowed under the programme has recently been considerably increased.

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Box 5.1. Hungary’s Szechenyi Card

Hungary’s Szechenyi Card is an overdraft loan facility requiring no tangible collateral that can go from HUF 500 000 (about EUR 1 600) to HUF 25 million (about EUR 80 000). The government supports the card through a guarantee, coverage of 50% of the guarantee fee, and an interest rate subsidy of 1% on loans up to HUF 10 million (EUR 32 000). The government has very recently extended the Szechenyi Card to investment loans and increased the maximum amount of the overdraft facility to HUF 100 million (EUR 320 000). Because the programme works through the intermediation of commercial banks, it is considered to have improved the relationship between banks and small businesses.

The interest rate subsidy in BNDES credit is being phased out  

BNDES lending has typically come in the past with a sizeable interest rate subsidy. However, since January 2018, BNDES applies to its credit products a newly defined long-term rate (Taxa de Longo Prazo, TLP) instead of the previous “long-term interest rate” (Taxa de Juros de Longo Prazo, TJLP). The TLP has two components: the first is anchored to the inflation index and is adjusted monthly, whereas the second is pegged to the remuneration of one of the National Treasury Bonds (NTN-B) and is fixed for the whole duration of the contract. The TLP has added a market anchor to the remuneration of BNDES long-term credit, whereas the TJLP allowed for larger credit subsidies by being linked to the inflation target and to a risk premium set by the National Monetary Council. The transition from the TJLP to the TLP will be gradual, with BNDES loans expected to be fully remunerated based on market rates by 2023, but there are already clear signs of convergence between the average market interest rate and the average interest rate applied by BNDES (Figure 5.1).

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Figure 5.1. Average market interest rates and BNDES interest rates for micro and small enterprises, 2012-18
Annual interest rate
Figure 5.1. Average market interest rates and BNDES interest rates for micro and small enterprises, 2012-18

Source: Banco Central do Brasil, Time Series Management System.


BNDES credit has generally had a positive impact   

There is a large evaluation literature on the impact of BNDES credit programmes. The 2017 BNDES Effectiveness Report gathers information on 35 impact evaluations published by either internal staff or external researchers (BNDES, 2018). The 2019 edition will add information on 15 more case studies. Many impact evaluations find that BNDES credit has had a positive impact on investment and job creation among recipient firms, whereas evidence about the impact on productivity is more mixed.

For example, an evaluation of the BNDES Investment Support Programme (Programa de Sustentação do Investimento, PSI), which was launched in 2009 to tackle a rapid decline in capital investment, shows a positive impact of the programme on firm-level investment (Machado et al., 2014). At a more aggregate level, Barboza and Vasconcelos (2019) find that BNDES loans have had a positive and statistically significant impact on Brazilian aggregate investment during the period 2002-16. In particular, one real of BNDES credit has led to an increase in average investment of BRL 0.46; among the different programmes, FINAME showed the strongest impact (i.e. BRL 0.73 of average increase in investment for each real lent).

However, other studies also suggest that highly subsidised credit in the past has kept unviable companies artificially alive (see Dutz et al., 2017, for a review of the literature), hindering the process of “creative destruction” at the core of productivity growth. In this respect, the expected reduction in the interest rate subsidy inherent to BNDES loans should reduce such risk in the future.

Fintech solutions are slowly being introduced in the credit market   

Canal MPME is a web platform that provides detailed information on BNDES credit products and through which SMEs can apply for loans. Applications are shared with financial institutions registered with the platform, which may respond and engage in credit negotiations with the applicant firm. Canal MPME also enables BNDES to collect information on the demand and take-up of SME loans, thus favouring better targeting of its products.

In 2018, BNDES initiated a plan to integrate fintech solutions into its Canal MPME. First, a public consultation of fintech companies was launched to offer solutions connecting potential borrowers with financial institutions, such as through credit score analysis, financial education and reverse auctions. Second, BNDES launched a Fintech Challenge, which resulted in ten finalist fintech companies and three winners. Third, BNDES announced the accreditation process of fintech companies that could offer financial and management education. Through this transformation, Canal MPME is expected to act in the future as a hub of financial and non-financial solutions for micro, small and medium companies. In turn, this should help ease access to finance for SMEs and reduce banking concentration by redirecting loan applications to smaller financial institutions.

BNDES will continue to have an important role in SME financing  

Going forward, BNDES will continue to play an important role in supporting access to finance for SMEs. As shown earlier, BNDES business loans have increasingly focused on SMEs. BNDES has also strengthened its support for market segments that are credit-constrained and/or activities that have important economic externalities (e.g. innovation, environment and renewable energies) (BNDES, 2018). These trends should be preserved in the future, as they enhance the additionality of BNDES credit.

Second, BNDES has so far privileged loan subsidies over loan guarantees, whereas more attention to credit guarantees would be warranted. Wider use of loan guarantees would enable BNDES to reach a larger number of firms through a more limited budget and would enable financial institutions, both large and small, to engage more into SME lending.2 BNDES already manages a small-scale guarantee fund (Fundo Garantidor para Investimentos, FGI), which could be scaled up to support more operations (see section on loan guarantees).

Third, there is also scope for BNDES to offer non-financial forms of support, similarly to development banks in other countries. International evidence points out that the impact of financial support is magnified when complemented with technical assistance, counselling and mentoring. The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), for instance, conducted in 2013 a large-scale external assessment of the impact of its activities, finding that the impact on sales, employment and productivity of supported firms was stronger when financing and consulting services were jointly offered (see Box 5.2). The positive effects of combining financial and non-financial support are even more pronounced in middle-income countries, where small businesses are more likely to lack adequate managerial and financial skills (Boschmans and Pissareva, 2017). BNDES could consider offering complementary technical assistance in (some of) its programmes in collaboration with private sector organisations and organisations in Sistema S.

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Box 5.2. Business Development Bank of Canada’s advisory services

Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) is the main federal development bank of Canada and a key player in business management support and advice. Being fully owned by the government, BDC provides advisory services to small businesses at an affordable price, though in most cases not for free. The BDC uses its network of more than 100 business centres across Canada, as well as external organisations, to reach out to its clients. In 2014, it worked on 2 500 SME consulting mandates for an average transaction value of CAD 8 700.

The combination of financing and business advisory services is a good practice of BDC. A recent analysis shows, for example, that BDC clients who receive both financial and advisory services experience stronger growth in sales, employment and productivity than BDC clients that take up only one of the two. BDC clients who received both consulting and finance reported sales growth between 8-25% greater than a control group of non-BDC clients over the five years following the intervention, while sales growth was 1%-14% higher than in the control group among BDC clients who only received financial support.

Sources: OECD (2017), SME and Entrepreneurship Policy in Canada,; BDC (2013), Measuring BDC’s Impact on Its Clients,

The National Programme for Productive Microcredit (PNMPO)

Brazil’s microcredit experience is largely positive, but mostly limited to the Northeast of the country  

Microcredit regulation in Brazil dates back to Law 10735/2003 requiring banks to allocate 2% of deposits to finance loans for low-income individuals. Banks can issue microloans directly or transfer resources to other financial institutions specialised in microcredit. Unused funds have to be deposited at the Central Bank with a zero interest rate. In 2005, the former Ministry of Labour, now part of the Ministry of Economy, launched the National Programme for Productive Microcredit (Programa Nacional de Microcrédito Produtivo Orientado, PNMPO). In addition to the compulsory 2% requirement, the programme is also funded through the Worker Support Fund (Fundo de Amparo ao Trabalhador, FAT).

The PNMPO allows a large number of financial institutions to provide microcredit, including microfinance institutions, public development banks, commercial banks, credit co-operatives and, more recently, fintech companies. However, Banco do Nordeste, a public development bank, holds more than 80% of microcredit loans, taking the lion’s share in this market segment. The PNMPO has also recently broadened the eligible population, from micro-entrepreneurs with annual income up to BRL 120 000 to up to BRL 200 000. Based on PNMPO regulations, the monthly interest rate cannot exceed 4% and lenders must visit the borrowers before disbursing loan. More recently, this obligation has been limited only to a first meeting with the aim to reduce the operational costs of the programme. In the first 10 years of operations, between 2005 and 2015, PNMPO disbursed over BRL 50 billion. However, there are still untapped opportunities, since BRL 570 million from the 2% bank deposit requirement remain on average unused every year. According to the last PNMPO executive report, 95% of microcredit users are own-account workers and 65% are women (Ministério da Economia, 2019).

Impact evaluation of PNMPO is rare. Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV), a university, conducted a study on Banco do Nordeste’s microcredit programme, Credi-Amigo, which is the largest in Brazil. Based on microdata from 2005 and 2006, FGV found an increase in sales of 35% and operating profits of 37% among microcredit beneficiaries (Varella et al., 2017). Another independent evaluation of microcredit in Brazil prior to the PNMPO showed that an increase in the supply of microcredit raised formal credit utilisation, but did not reduce the use of informal sources of credit. Nonetheless, the combination of formal and informal sources of finance boosted the performance of microcredit users, especially women-owned businesses (Skoufias et al., 2013).

The prominence of Banco do Nordeste means that the offer of microcredit has a strong regional bias in Brazil, with over half of the volume of microcredit disbursed to the Northeast, the poorest of the five macro-regions of Brazil. Going forward, while keeping a strong presence in the Northeast is important, the government should seek to stimulate the take-up of microfinance in other regions. There could also be scope for increased collaboration between PNMPO and other government programmes, especially those of SEBRAE. Many beneficiaries from PNMPO would indeed benefit from training and mentoring, with access to microcredit that could act as a gateway to other forms of technical support.

The PROGER-FAT programme

PROGER-FAT supports small business competitiveness through skills upgrading  

The Programme for the Generation of Employment and Income of the Worker Support Fund (Programa de Geração de Emprego e Renda do Fundo de Amparo ao Trabalhador, PROGER-FAT) is another main direct line of credit for micro and small businesses, under the direct responsibility of the Ministry of Economy (formerly, before 2019, under the responsibility of the Ministry of Labour). The overarching objective of this programme is to encourage job creation and small business competitiveness. In 2018, PROGER-FAT provided BRL 4.95 billion of credit to improve the performance of small businesses, which are in this case defined as companies with revenues up to BRL 10 million. The main credit line (96% of total credit) was one broadly defined as “investments for small enterprises in urban and rural settings”, which aims at financing both investment and working capital requirements. Smaller credit lines were also intended to support innovation and technology diffusion through FINEP Inovacred (see section on SME innovation programmes), SME export or still microcredit through the PNMPO. PROGER-FAT funding is disbursed through public development banks such as BNDES, Caixa Econômica Federal, Banco do Nordeste and Banco do Brasil (Ministério do Trabalho, 2018).

Over the 24 years of the programme, PROGER-FAT has been evaluated five times, twice by external institutions and three times by internal evaluators. These evaluations have tended to show positive impacts of PROGER on job creation, which is essentially the main objective of this policy. In the future, evaluation exercises could also look at the impact of the programme on other outcomes such as labour productivity.

Loan guarantee programmes

Loan guarantees are not common in Brazil and are mostly used by larger SMEs  

Brazil operates three main credit guarantee funds for SMEs: FAMPE (Fundo de Aval às Micro e Pequenas Empresas), the oldest and largest guarantee fund, FGO (Fundo de Garantia de Operações) and FGI (Fundo Garantidor de Investimentos).

SEBRAE has run FAMPE since 1995 to support access to finance for micro and small companies (MPEs) through guarantees of up to 80% of the loan amount. Credit is channelled through SEBRAE-accredited institutions, which are responsible for the credit risk analysis and the selection of the borrower. The maximum guarantee is BRL 150 000 for working capital loans, BRL 60 000 for export-oriented loans (pre-shipment phase), and BRL 300 000 for investment loans supporting technological development and innovation. Between 1995 and 2015, FAMPE issued BRL 7.8 billion in loan guarantees to about 260 000 MPEs.

Banco do Brasil, a state-owned bank, has run the FGO since 2010. The main shareholders, besides Banco do Brasil, are Caixa Econômica Federal, another state-owned bank, and the federal government through the National Guarantee Association (Agência Brasileira Gestora de Fundos Garantidores e Garantias, ABGF). In 2017, the total amount of guarantees was BRL 2.3 billion for a total loan volume of BRL 3 billion funding a total of 31 730 operations.

Finally, BNDES has operated the FGI since 2010. It provides guarantees for SMEs seeking loans from accredited financial institutions that cover between 10% and 80% of the loan value and up to a maximum of BRL 10 million per enterprise. Based on the 2017 internal management report, 62% of the beneficiaries (total of 28 143) were enterprises that had not previously received any bank loan. In 2017, the FGI guaranteed a total of BRL 750.4 million in 4 420 operations worth BRL 984.3 million. Most operations concerned working capital requirements (89.7%).

Overall, these figures suggest that loan guarantees are not sufficiently used in Brazil. In 2017, about 86 000 Brazilian enterprises used loan guarantees for a total of BRL 3.8 billion in guarantees leveraging BRL 5 billion in new small business loans, that is, only about 1% of total new small business loans in the same year. In 2017, the average size of a guarantee-backed loan was BRL 58 000, suggesting that loan guarantees were mostly used by small companies. Going forward, there is potential to expand the use of loan guarantees while streamlining the activities and ownership structure of the existing guarantee funds to facilitate the access by SMEs.

copy the linklink copied!Equity and quasi-equity finance initiatives for SMEs

BNDES is investing significant resources in supporting the venture capital (VC) industry  

The main institutional player in the Brazilian equity market is BNDESPAR, a subsidiary of BNDES, which has a total of BRL 1.1 billion of equity participations mostly at the seed and early stages of investment. Another main player is FINEP, Brazil’s national innovation agency that depends on the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communication (Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia, Inovações e Comunicações, MCTIC) and that primarily invests in start-ups. The work of FINEP, including as a provider of equity finance, is presented in Chapter 7 of the report on the innovative start-up ecosystem, while this section focuses on the activity of BNDESPAR.

BNDESPAR’S main seed capital funds are Criatec I, II and III. As of 2019, Criatec I was in the divestment stage, Criatec II was entering the divestment stage, while Criatec III was still investing. All three funds have a duration of 10 years and are meant to support SMEs with annual revenues of up to BRL 10 million (BRL 12 million in the case of Criatec III). The three funds together have involved a commitment of BRL 489 million (BRL 100 million, BRL 186 million and BRL 204 million in Criatec I, II and III respectively), mostly investing in sectors such as ICT, agro-businesses, nanotechnology, biotechnology, advanced materials and digital technologies. The first two editions of Criatec invested in 72 companies, which generated 60 patents. While in the early years the participation of BNDESPAR could go up to 80% of the total fund (Criatec I), it has decreased since then to the average of 40%, which is in line with the experience of other OECD countries such as Canada (OECD, 2019).

BNDESPAR has also recently supported business angel investment. Fundo de Coinvestimento Anjo was introduced in 2018 and is expected to become fully operational in 2019. The fund will invest BRL 100 million in start-ups with annual revenues below BRL 1 million. The fund will use BNDESPAR resources and matching funds from private investors, including pre-selected angel investors and accelerators, and will be managed by an external entity. Initial investments are capped at BRL 500 000, while follow-on investments are capped at BRL 5 million. Companies receiving follow-on investments will be subject to an assessment by an investment committee consisting of the fund’s external managers and BNDESPAR managers. The goal of Fundo de Coinvestimento Anjo is to invest in a total of 100 companies, with priority sectors similar to those targeted by Criatec.

The activity of BNDESPAR could be expanded in three areas   

Although BNDESPAR is relatively successful in its activity, there are still some gaps in its equity finance offer. First, there is a paucity of follow-on equity finance that could prevent the scale-up of successful start-ups and growth-oriented SMEs. To address this gap BNDESPAR could set a new fund, based on a co-investment approach with private operators. For example, in Portugal, the 200M Fund is a matching fund through which the government invests together with qualified national and international investors in domestic high-growth SMEs.3

Second, there is no fund in Brazil dedicated to “hard-tech”, which refers to companies that want to address difficult technological problems. Hard-tech companies are generally risky but generate above-average profits when they succeed.

Third, BNDES could strengthen the venture-debt market, as the first debt venture fund was only approved in April 2019.4 In this investment typology, investors typically intervene in the scale-up phase of innovative companies that are considered too risky or requiring too large sums to be suitable for bank loans. One advantage of venture debt compared to private equity is that the former does not dilute excessively the equity participation of early-stage investors.

The global private debt market has expanded rapidly in many countries, especially in Europe, and has become an important financing source for companies that are positioned high on the risk-return scale. Debt venture is offered either stand-alone (i.e. not in combination with private equity) or sponsored (i.e. complementing a private equity operation, typically referred to as the “leverage component”) (Thompson et al., 2018). Private debt in Brazil is underdeveloped and is likely to benefit from government support. BNDES could potentially follow the example of the European Investment Bank (EIB) in establishing a co-investment scheme (see Box 5.3).

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Box 5.3. International learning model – European Investment Bank’s venture-debt instruments

Description of the approach

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the publicly owned, non-profit long-term lending institution of the European Union (EU). Since December 2016, it has established full-scale venture-debt operations under the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI). The main purpose is to address a market gap for innovative companies at a somewhat mature stage with a financing need between EUR 7.5 million and EUR 50 million.

Applications are scrutinised by EIB’s financial experts, who review the quality and experience of the company’s management team, capital structure, business plan and future strategy. Upon approval, the EIB co-invests with third-party sources up to 50% of the eligible project costs. The investment comes with a tenor of 5 to 7 years.

The EIB invests in high-growth SMEs that have already received equity investments and have a strong business plan to scale up their activities, but that lack the necessary funds. By the end of 2018, EIB had signed 80 operations for a total portfolio of EUR 1.8 billion, making it the biggest provider of venture debt in the EU.

Factors of success

The scheme addresses an identified market gap in the EU, i.e. the lack of funds for scaling up innovative ventures. It offers relatively large tickets at long tenors, allowing beneficiaries to focus on expanding the business rather than on securing additional funds. With a few exceptions, the capital does not dilute the equity stake of early-stage investors. In addition, securing funding from the EIB implies going through a rigorous selection process that shows the business potential of recipients, making it easier for the selected companies to acquire additional funding from private investors. Finally, the EIB scheme does not imply a direct involvement in the day-to-day management of the business, making it appealing to both entrepreneurs and early-stage investors averse to losing control of the business by taking on board VC funds.

Relevance to Brazil

Similarly to Europe, also in Brazil, there are limited opportunities for firms with high growth potential to secure follow-on funding to scale up their activities. BNDES could draw inspiration from the EIB scheme to stimulate the debt venture market in Brazil.

Further information

Website of the European Fund for Strategic Investments:

copy the linklink copied!SME innovation programmes

Setting the context: the place of SMEs in national innovation policies

National innovation policies mostly favour large companies   

Overall, national innovation policies in Brazil tend to favour large companies. Lei do Bem and Lei da Informática, the two main federal laws administering R&D tax credits, command large annual budgets but are basically only accessible by large companies. Since almost all SMEs fall within either the “presumed profit” (lucro presumido) corporate income tax regime or the Simples Nacional preferential tax regime, they are automatically excluded from R&D tax credits. Based on 2012 data from MCTIC, 45 large firms (more than 500 employees) in ICT hardware and related electronics received 81% of tax expenditures under the Lei da Informática, with each of these firms receiving on average over 160 times more in benefits than the average small-firm recipient (less than 500 employees). As to the Lei do Bem, 346 large firms received over 92% of tax spending under this programme, with each firm receiving on average 46 times more in benefits than the average small-firm recipient (Dutz et al., 2017). It should be kept in mind that tax expenditures (i.e. foregone fiscal revenues) in Brazil accounted for about 61% of total spending on business support policies and for 2.9% of GDP in 2015, much more than subsidised credit (27% of total spending and 1.3% of GDP) and general expenditures (i.e. grants and spending on programme activities) (12% of business support spending and 0.5% of GDP) (Dutz et al., 2017).

Innovation programmes beyond R&D tax credits also appear to benefit mostly large companies. By way of example, Plano Inova Empresa (PIE) (Enterprise Innovation Plan) was launched in 2013 by the Office of the President of the Republic with a large budget of BRL 32.9 billion to foster productivity growth at the firm level. BNDES and FINEP were given the responsibility of managing most of the funding (BRL 28.5 billion, i.e. 87% of the total), most of which went into loan subsidies (BRL 20.9 billion, 73% of the total). The PIE chiefly targets certain priority sectors (BRL 23.5 billion) that are typically the domain of large corporations, such as defence, energy, mining and petrochemicals. Figure 5.2 shows the distribution of PIE spending across sectors: 41% of total spending is allocated to energy and petrochemicals (Corder et al., 2016).

Of the total BRL 32.9 billion of the PIE budget, only 1.8 billion was allocated specifically to SMEs, 66% in the form of subsidised credit, 19% in the form of grants, 12% in the form of equity investment through the Criatec Funds, and 3% through decentralised interventions delivered by local governments (Corder at al., 2016).5

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Figure 5.2. Plano Inova Empresa’s spending by sector, 2013-18
BRL 23.5 billion = 100%
Figure 5.2. Plano Inova Empresa’s spending by sector, 2013-18

Source: Corder, S., A. Buainain and I. de Souza Lima Junior (2016), “Análise Preliminar do Plano Inova Empresa”,


The remainder of this section looks more closely at federal programmes fostering innovation activity in SMEs, keeping in mind that these programmes account for a relatively small fraction of innovation policy spending in Brazil. The focus is on programmes that target existing SMEs, whereas programmes for innovative start-ups are analysed in Chapter 7 of the report. A distinction is made between consulting and mentoring programmes, subsidised credit programmes (mostly for larger SMEs), and collaborative innovation programmes.

Consulting and mentoring programmes

Brasil Mais Produtivo is well aligned with state-level industrial priorities   

Brasil Mais Produtivo (BMP) is a recent initiative established by the former Ministry of Industry, Foreign Trade and Services (MDIC) to enhance productivity in manufacturing SMEs (11-200 employees) through factory-line cost reductions.6 The programme has offered technical advice on lean manufacturing, energy efficiency and business digitalisation.

The lean manufacturing component of the programme has aimed to reduce waste in the production process and to improve inventory management. The first phase consisted of 120 hours of in situ technical training for a total cost of BRL 18 000 for each company, one-sixth of which to be covered by the company and the rest by the government.

In the first phase of the programme (July 2016-August 2018), this component supported 3 000 companies, for a total government cost of BRL 50 million. Many of the supported companies were located in official clusters (Arranjos Produtivos Locais, APLs), or other relevant sectors for the local economy, and showed strong export potential. The most represented sectors were food and drinks (32%), textile and fashion (30%), engineering (22%) and furniture (15%). The most represented states were São Paulo (12%), Minas Gerais (11%) and Santa Catarina (11%), which reflects the geographical concentration of manufacturing in the South and Southeast of Brazil.

Results from a monitoring exercise of this first phase of BMP point to a positive impact beyond the initial objectives. Beneficiary companies saw an average increase in productivity by 52%, against the initial objective of 20%; a reduction in labour turnover by 61%; and a drop in faulty products by 65%.

With respect to the energy efficiency component, the first phase of BMP only supported 48 companies. Consulting services had a duration of 140 hours per firm and covered issues related to energy efficiency such as lighting, power systems, heating and refrigeration. Based on the abovementioned monitoring exercise, this component of the programme led to an average reduction in energy consumption of 26.4%. In 2019, it is expected that the energy efficiency component be expanded to another 300 companies, with a total investment in each company of BRL 21 000 (BRL 4 800 of co-investment).

On the whole, BMP is an interesting new initiative which seeks to reduce the large productivity gap between SMEs and large companies in manufacturing (see Chapter 2). The programme is also well aligned with state-level policies by giving priority to companies in local clusters or other sectors important to the local economy, although there are also path-dependency risks by which some sectors might continue to be privileged even when they have lost their international competitive advantage and new technologies and/or sectors should rather be given priority.

However, BMP also has strong sector and regional biases  

However, BMP also leaves some open questions. With food, textile and furniture accounting for 77% of participating companies, the programme seems to have a clear preference for traditional low-tech manufacturing. This is partly due to the programme targeting small companies, which are more likely to be in low-tech industries, and there are already federal programmes that target high-tech industries. Nonetheless, the overrepresentation of three specific sectors suggests that BMP might be overlooking other sectors that would deserve attention. Participants in BMP are also highly concentrated in the industrial heartland of Brazil (the South and Southeast), which clearly reflects the country’s industrial geography but which can also further exacerbate regional disparities. Closer attention to SMEs in the other regions of Brazil would be warranted.

In 2019, the government was considering moving some parts of the programme online to reduce costs and reach more companies. However, the success of the programme, which aims to improve business operations through tailored solutions, seems to depend heavily on face-to-face interactions between the consultants and the business owners. An alternative to reduce government costs and self-select stronger companies into the programme would be to increase the proportion of the company’s cost-sharing, for example from the current one-sixth to one-third or one-half of the intervention cost. This requirement could also differ depending on the location of participating companies, with the aim to attract more enterprises from lagging regions into the programme.

The Operational Efficiency Programme from Canada (Box 5.4), which as of 2019 had been discontinued, offers the example of a programme that shares similar objectives with Brasil Mais Produtivo and that could offer interesting insights on how BMP could be fine-tuned in the future.

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Box 5.4. International learning model – Canada’s Operational Efficiency Programme

Description of the approach

The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), Canada’s national development bank, set up the Operational Efficiency Programme (OEP) in 2014. As of 2019, the programme had been discontinued. The objective of this programme was to fine-tune business operational efficiency by helping participating companies to benchmark their performance against the industry average, to identify and eliminate causes of waste in the production process, and monitor progress against a set of key performance indicators built as part of the BDC support. The methodology hinged on-site visits and interviews with managers and staff. For example, stage I of this programme (i.e. the “potential for operational efficiency”) included two-and-a-half days of site visits and interviews with company managers and workers, followed by a two-day preparation of an Action Plan to improve operational efficiency. Participants needed to employ at least 20 workers to be eligible, but most of them did not have more than 50.

Factor of success

There were three main factors behind OEP’s success. The first was the standardisation of package tools based on a BDC’s proven methodology, which assured consistency of the work across Canada. The second factor was the recruitment of qualified and experienced external consultants, which enabled more flexibility in meeting business demands and reduced the overhead costs of the programme. However, external consultants remained under the close supervision of BDC, which helped ensure services quality. The third factor was the development of a strong relationship with clients: clients were required to engage fully during the programme, and BDC officials were involved during the initial stage together with external consultants.

Obstacles and responses

One of the main challenges lied in the time and cost commitment for business owners. General lack of awareness among SMEs about the importance of operational efficiency also posed an initial challenge. This problem was solved through the organisation of workshops at business-related events.

Relevance to Brazil

Canada’s OEP could provide insights to the Brazilian government on how to fine-tune Brasil Mais Produtivo in the future. For example, the clear cost structure and deliverables of OEP made the programme’s offer transparent and appealing to SMEs, which may become more willing to take on a larger share of programme costs.

Further information

Marchese, M. et al. (2019), “Enhancing SME productivity: Policy highlights on the role of managerial skills, workforce skills and business linkages”,

Innovation vouchers are available in Brazil through SEBRAE and MCTIC  

Brazil operates two technology voucher programmes: SEBRAETEC and Bonus Tecnológicos (technology vouchers). SEBRAETEC has been in place since 1999 and offers subsidised consulting services to micro-enterprises and small companies, as defined by Lei Complementar 123/2006 (MPEs). Consulting services are delivered across seven different areas: design, intellectual property, quality control, innovation, sustainability and digital services. SEBRAE manages a national web portal, as well as 13 portals at the state level, where MPEs and consultancies can both register to ease the match between the demand and supply of technology-oriented services. SEBRAE subsidises up to 70% of the cost of consulting for MPEs. The number of participants and the annual budget of SEBRAETEC have fluctuated considerably over the last years. In the period 2015-17, the programme reached a total of 268 000 companies through a budget of BRL 603 million (i.e. BRL 2 250 per company).

The Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communication (Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia, Inovações e Comunicações, MCTIC) and the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, CNPq) operate Bonus Tecnológicos. In this case, vouchers are given for partnerships between micro/small companies and medium/large companies in the field of advanced manufacturing. Funds are mostly used to share technological R&D infrastructures, to contract specialised technical services and/or to transfer technology. The most recent public call for vouchers (third quarter of 2018) offered a total of BRL 2 million.

Innovation vouchers are traditionally used to solve minor technological problems or scope out larger ones. Existing evidence suggests that the additionality of innovation vouchers is typically high, but that the impact on long-term innovation is rather limited (OECD, 2010). The main success factors in innovation voucher programmes are presented in Box 5.5, based on evidence from OECD countries.

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Box 5.5. Main success factors for innovation vouchers
  • Simplicity: given the small sums involved, the administration of innovation vouchers should be as simple as possible, for example avoiding heavy reporting on the use of the funding.

  • Effective promotion: because innovation vouchers also aim to overcome an information barrier between SMEs and knowledge institutions, it is important that they are advertised widely among potential users.

  • Clear purpose: Applications should be simple but still ask firms how they plan to use the vouchers. This will facilitate the match of the enterprise with the appropriate knowledge institution.

  • Effective brokerage: Brokerage of the scheme is best performed by a government agency, rather than by another organisation such as a university. Government institutions are, in fact, in a better position to connect voucher users with other national support programmes.

Source: OECD (2010), Innovation Vouchers,

SEBRAE’S Local Innovation Agents appear overstretched and might benefit from stronger industry experience   

Since 2010 SEBRAE runs in collaboration with CNPq a network of local innovation agents called ALI (Agentes locais de inovação), who offer free and personalised consulting services to SMEs. The methodology of the programme provides for agents to visit small businesses in their premises, perform a diagnostic assessment, and propose a tailored action plan. Once the plan is refined and accepted, the entrepreneur implements it with the support of the innovation agent over a period of a maximum of 8 months.

The ALI network has expanded considerably over its existence, passing from serving 5 500 companies through a network of 400 consultants in 2010 to working with 44 000 companies through a network of 1 250 consultants in 2017. The average number of companies followed by each agent has accordingly increased from 14 to 35, probably stretching too much the ability of the agents to offer high-quality services to their clients. Over the same period, the annual budget of the programme fell from the peak of BRL 135 million in 2015 to the low of BRL 28 million in 2017. A recent impact evaluation by SEBRAE shows that 30% of the companies in the programme managed to reduce costs, while 35.3% increased revenues (SEBRAE, 2018a). Both are positive outcomes, although this also means that 35% of participants did not receive any direct profit-related benefit from the programme.

Moving forward, a rethinking of ALI could be in order. The programme appears overstretched, with too few agents for the number of companies served. Furthermore, the outcomes of ALI are positive, but not exceptional. One of the causes could lie in the profile of the local innovation agents, who are mostly holders of CNPq scholarships lacking industry experience. Evidence from other countries shows that the impact of innovation agents is stronger when they have credible industry experience, especially if this experience has been gained in the same sectors of the company they attend and/or as entrepreneurs.

In the Spanish region of Andalusia, for example, a network of young local innovation agents mostly consisting of university graduates was dismantled when it became clear that its impact on local business innovation had fallen short of expectations (Box 5.6). On the other hand, Canada’s network of Industry Technology Advisors (ITA) has been considered a good practice through the use of industry-experienced technology consultants working hand in hand with a much smaller number of companies than the ALI network in Brazil. The case of ITA is detailed in Box 5.7 and could inspire a possible reform of ALI in the future.

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Box 5.6. The short-lived experience of local innovation agents in Andalusia, Spain

Between 2005 and 2010, the regional government of Andalusia, Spain, ran a network of 85 innovation agents mostly delocalised in industrial estates, science parks and technology centres. During the 5 years of the programme, the Andalusian innovation agents, who were mostly recent university graduates, assessed the innovative needs of about 80 000 firms and signposted these companies to public programmes from which they could benefit. The local innovation agents were also tasked with implementing some specific programmes to favour the access of SMEs to information technology and management training. While more firms, including in peripheral areas and low-quality industrial estates, were able to get involved in regional innovation policies thanks to the work of the agents, the programme could not show after five years strong evidence of increased business innovation at the firm level. In 2010, the network was discontinued, although the regional government praised its ability to have introduced for the first time many small firms, including in peripheral areas, to the concept of technological innovation.

Source: OECD (2011), “Entrepreneurship, SMEs and Local Development in Andalusia, Spain”,

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Box 5.7. International learning model – Canada’s IRAP Industry Technology Advisors

Description of the approach

Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Programme (IRAP) engages with over 8 000 SMEs every year, providing direct technical/business advice and funding support through a network of 255 field staff known as Industrial Technology Advisors (ITAs). The ITAs are close to their client base and are often located in technology parks, innovation support organisations, incubators, universities, and colleges across the country. These individuals typically join IRAP after they have achieved extensive private sector experience as senior managers or/and entrepreneurs in small businesses. The sector experience of ITAs is typically matched with the needs of the regional client base.

The location and number of ITAs are constantly re-evaluated to ensure the appropriate skill sets are available to meet the demands of the market. Typically, ITAs have a local office but they also travel extensively (for some, 80% of their time) to meet with the clients at their site and bring them the necessary support and resources.

To obtain funding from IRAP, firms are invited by their ITA to submit project proposals that outline the business opportunity as well as the proposed innovation project. The depth of the assessment process is commensurate with the maturity of the firm, the complexity of the project, the amount of the IRAP contribution requested, and the involvement of the company and its other partners.

Factors of success

The ITA-client relationship is widely regarded as the fundamental element that sets IRAP apart from other federal government programmes in Canada. In view of the growing recognition that growth constraints are also attributed to the realm of managerial skills and capabilities, the extensive discussions held between the ITA and the client enable the ITA to assess the managerial and technical needs of the client. ITA-client relationships are resource-intensive by design, but it is through this relationship that the opportunity for significant impact is created and realised.

Obstacles and responses

A possible weakness is the limited number of ITA officers, given the geographical expanse of Canada. However, this problem is partly overcome by the fact that ITAs tend to travel extensively to engage with a larger number of companies.

Relevance to Brazil

ITAs are essentially local/industrial development agents, but compared to Brazil’s local innovation agents they have stronger industry experience. Brazil could consider strengthening the profile of its network of local innovation agents by hiring people with industry and/or entrepreneurial experience, similar to the profile of Canada’s ITAs. At the moment, most local innovation agents in Brazil are, in fact, scholarship holders from the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, CNPq)

Further information

OECD (2017), SME and Entrepreneurship Policy in; National Research Council Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program’s Website:

“ProVA-Retail Innovation Laboratory” supports innovation in the retail trade sector  

The Brazilian government has also recently started to support innovation in the retail sector through a new programme called ProVA-Retail Innovation Laboratory. The initiative was launched in 2016 by the Secretary of Commerce and Service (SCS) at former MDIC, after a process of consultation with retail representative organisations through the Forum on Retail Competitiveness. The ProVA Lab opened its doors in 2018 and is now operated by the Brazilian Association of Industrial Development (ABDI) in partnership with the Ministry of Economy. It is currently hosted at a shopping mall in São Paulo and aims to contribute to the improvement of innovation, competitiveness and productivity of the retail ecosystem.

As of mid-2019, two cycles of activities had been completed, which had reached more than 1 900 retailers. In particular, two start-up acceleration programmes were completed, which resulted in two patent applications and the internationalisation of a start-up participating in the acceleration programme. The third cycle of the project is expected to spread the experience of the programme beyond São Paulo by launching retail innovation spaces in other parts of the country still in partnership with trade and services organisations.

Subsidised credit programmes

BNDES MPME Inovadora should seek to reach more SMEs through a larger budget and smaller loans   

MPME Inovadora is a credit line offered by BNDES to SMEs with annual revenues below BRL 300 million to undertake innovation projects. Loans can go up to BRL 20 million, can cover 100% of the investment, and come with better conditions than market rates. The loan interest rate is composed by the long-term interest rate of the Central Bank, the BNDES rate of 1.05% and the rate charged by the financial institution issuing the loan (subject to negotiations with the client). Clients can also request a guarantee on the loan through the BNDES Investment Guarantee Fund (Fundo Garantidor para Investimentos, FGI).

Between 2016 and 2018, the programme issued BRL 156 million of loans to 44 companies, which makes the impact of this programme relatively limited. The average credit was BRL 3.6 million, suggesting that the main recipients are likely to have been relatively large SMEs. Going forward, subject to the evaluation of past activity, the budget of BNDES MPME Inovadora could be increased, while the average loan size could be reduced to reach more SMEs.

FINEP Inovacred targets mid-sized firms   

FINEP Inovacred offers subsidised loans to SMEs with annual revenues below BRL 90 million to develop new products and processes, ameliorate existing ones, or introduce marketing and organisational innovations. The programme is delivered by financial institutions (e.g. development banks and commercial banks) that receive remuneration of 3% per year on the issued loans, but that also carry the related operational risk.

FINEP Inovacred loans have a ceiling of BRL 3 million for companies with annual gross revenues up to BRL 16 million and a ceiling of BRL 10 million for companies with annual gross revenues up to BRL 90 million. The interest rate on the loans equals the Central Bank’s long-term interest rate for companies with annual revenues up to BRL 16 million, while the same rate plus 1% for companies with annual revenues between BRL 16-90 million. The maximum duration of the loan is seven years: in the first two years, the company pays back only the interest rate (grace period), with the remaining five years used to pay back the loan principal. The project being supported, however, must be completed within the first two years of the loan duration.7

Between 2015 and 2017, the programme disbursed loans worth BRL 607 million to 336 projects, corresponding to an average of BRL 1.8 million per project. Compared to BNDES MPME Inovadora, FINEP Inovacred has therefore reached more companies involved in smaller innovation projects, although beneficiary companies are still likely to be relatively large SMEs by Brazilian standards. In doing so, the programme is especially relevant for the sort of mid-sized firms that otherwise receive relatively little attention in Brazilian SME policies.

Collaborative innovation programmes

SEBRAE’s PROCOMPI encourages open innovation, but its budget is spread too thinly   

PROCOMPI (Programa de Apoio à Competitividade das Micros e Pequenas Indústrias) is the result of a collaboration between the National Industry Confederation (Confederação Nacional da Indústria, CNI) and SEBRAE which supports competitiveness in micro and small enterprises through collaboration with industry associations and local development organisations. PROCOMPI has been in place since 1999 and, between 2010 and 2015, invested BRL 30 million in about 2 300 small enterprises across 17 sectors. This was 15% higher than the initial target, with half of the investment going to the lagging regions of the North and Northeast of Brazil. In 2016, the government allocated BRL 23.4 million to the 5th cycle of the project (2016-20), which is expected to fund 118 projects, with each project to involve a minimum of 25 companies from the same sector.

A report on the last budget period (2010-15) shows that PROCOMPI encouraged participation in innovative projects in 59% of participating companies, much above the initial objective of 20%. However, only 14% of participants introduced product or process innovations, slightly below the initial target of 15%. PROCOMPI has mostly targeted low-tech sectors such as furniture, ceramics, food and beverage, and textile (SEBRAE/CNI, 2015).

PROCOMPI has an important objective – stimulating innovative collaboration among micro and small enterprises – but runs on a very thin budget. In the next funding cycle, each project will receive on average only BRL 200 000 and will be expected to work with at least 25 companies, which limits the scope for learning. The budget of PROCOMPI should be increased, and each project should possibly involve a smaller number of companies to favour mutual learning and enhance the impact on firm-level innovation.

FINEP Conecta is a well-designed initiative aimed at fostering industry-university collaboration  

FINEP Conecta aims to bridge the gap between industry and academia by funding, through subsidised loans, risky but highly innovative projects. In 2017, the programme had a total budget of BRL 500 million. Depending on the size of the firm, FINEP Conecta loans offer different conditions in terms of interest rate subsidy, grace period, loan maturity and FINEP participation rate, as shown in Table 5.1 which summarises credit conditions for the standard loans in this programme.

An important aspect of this programme is that the stronger the collaborative component of the project, the better credit conditions become. Projects that receive a 15% score on collaboration receive a 1% bonus on the loan interest rate; projects that receive a 25% score on collaboration additionally receive longer grace periods and maturity up to 12 years; and so forth.

On the whole, FINEP Conecta pursues an important objective, which is bridging the gap between industry and university. The programme is also well-designed, with long-term maturity and strong government participation to reflect the uncertain nature of innovation.

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Table 5.1. FINEP Conecta credit conditions, 2019

Firm size

Financing limit (BRL)

Interest rate

Grace period

Total loan duration

FINEP participation (%)

Size I

150 000-3 million


Up to 24 months

Up to 96 months

Up to 90

Size II

150 000-3 million


Up to 24 months

Up to 96 months

Up to 80

Size III

150 000-10 million


Up to 24 months

Up to 96 months

Up to 80

Note: Size I: companies with annual operational revenues below BRL 4.8 million (i.e. micro and small companies as defined by Lei Complementar 123/2006); Size II: companies with annual operational revenues between BRL 4.8 million and BRL 16 million; Size III: companies with annual operational revenues between BRL 16 million and 90 million. TJLP stands for Taxa de Juro Longo Prazo, i.e. the Central Bank’s long-term interest rate.

Source: FINEP (2019), Condiçoes Operacionais, Brasília.

Collaborative innovation should be further strengthened   

On the whole, there is scope in Brazil for further strengthening collaborative innovation programmes, especially between SMEs and research organisations, since this type of collaboration is rare in Brazil (see Chapter 2). Germany’s ZIM programme offers a possible model to enhance industry-university collaboration (Box 5.8). Portugal’s Interface Programme also encourages collaborative innovation, including between multinational enterprises and local SMEs (Box 5.9), something which Brazil should also pursue more proactively (see Chapter 6).

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Box 5.8. International learning model – Germany’s ZIM Programme (Central Innovation Programme for SMEs)

Description of the approach

In German, ZIM stands for Zentrales Innovationsprogramm Mittelstand, i.e. Central Innovation Programme for SMEs. It is a national programme of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy designed to support SME innovation and encourage collaboration between SMEs and research establishments. SMEs can undertake R&D projects on their own (individual projects) or co-operate with research institutes or other companies (co-operation projects). Furthermore, innovative business networks can apply for funding for management and organisation services or for R&D projects initiated by the network (co-operation networks). ZIM mostly supports the development of new products, technical services and new production processes. The two main selection criteria are the innovativeness and marketability of the project. The application process is very simple to encourage participation by small companies.

ZIM is open to all technologies and sectors and is Germany’s largest innovation programme for SMEs. In the period 2009-19, ZIM supported more than 40 000 projects. Most of these projects have concerned co-operation between SMEs and research institutes. Hundreds of innovation-networks have, indeed, been founded with support from ZIM; on average, each network has consisted of just over ten individual partners, mostly enterprises, but also research institutes and universities. A budget of EUR 555 million is allocated for 2019.

Factors for success

The easy application and quick decision-making processes are two key success factors of the programme. Furthermore, the possibility for companies to apply for three different types of project and to choose from many different technology fields offers strong flexibility on how to frame the project.

Relevance for Brazil

Collaborative innovation is relatively weak in Brazil, especially collaboration between companies and universities. A project like ZIM could address this problem in Brazil, especially through the modalities of co-operation projects and co-operation networks.

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Box 5.9. International learning model – Portugal’s Interface Programme

Description of the approach

Due to lack of human and financial resources, SMEs often innovate in the context of collaboration with other players, such as buyers, suppliers or research organisations. In order to leverage and strengthen these technological and knowledge partnerships, Portugal has launched the “Interface Programme”, which includes support for:

  • Technological Interface Centres: these centres support the development of joint innovation and R&D projects between SMEs and research organisations, including higher education institutions.

  • Competitiveness clusters: the Interface Programme supports 20 industry clusters through a budget of EUR 10 million.

  • Collaborative laboratories: these labs foster collaborative applied research and have the main objective of creating scientific employment in Portugal.

  • Suppliers clubs: through this line of action, the main objective is to integrate SMEs into global value chains, leveraging on collaborations with multinational enterprises based in Portugal.

Factors for success

The involvement of business associations, multinational enterprises and research organisations at the stage of policy formulation has enabled the government to design a policy that closely addresses the needs of these different players. For this programme to work, the government has also put in place incentives for researcher mobility between academia and industry. Finally, a strong emphasis has been placed on projects that see an active collaboration between large and small companies, including but not only through the suppliers’ clubs.

Relevance for Brazil

A programme like Interface would support collaborative innovation between SMEs and research organisations as well as between SMEs and multinational enterprises, both of which are currently weak in Brazil.

For further information

Website of the programme:

copy the linklink copied! Public procurement for SMEs

In OECD countries, approximately 12% of GDP and 29% of total government spending concerns the acquisition of goods and services from the private sector, which means that the impact of public procurement on policy objectives, such as business growth and social inclusion, can be significant (OECD, 2018). Nonetheless, SMEs are faced with barriers in accessing government contracts, such as lack of expertise in interactions with the government and lack of time to deal with complex bidding procedures.

In the OECD area, the most commonly used measure to encourage participation by SMEs in public procurement is e-procurement (88%), the assumption being that online bidding favours SME participation, followed by splitting contracts into smaller lots (83%), and encouraging joint bidding/consortia (68%). This last approach was, for example, followed in Chile, which introduced “temporary supplier unions” in 2015. Fewer countries have introduced simplified bidding procedures for SMEs (57%) or requirements for prime contractors to subcontract to SMEs (56%). Finally, half of the countries (50%) have set up early-payment arrangements for SMEs, while less than 20% have given preferential financial treatment to SMEs, such as waving procurement fees (OECD, 2018).

There is a gap between legislation and implementation in public procurement for SMEs   

In Brazil, public procurement contracts were worth BRL 47 billion in 2017, with about 15% of the total volume awarded to micro and small companies as defined by Lei Complementar 123/2006 (micro e pequenas empresas, MPEs) (Figure 5.3). When only federal ministries and agencies are taken into account, government contracts amounted to BRL 28.3 billion, 9% of which was awarded to MPEs (BRL 2.7 billion). A study about online federal procurement over the period 2004-10 showed that winning at least one contract in a given quarter increased business growth by 2.2%, with continued growth for at least two years after winning the contract (Ferraz et al., 2015).

In Brazil, the access of MPEs to public procurement is governed by Lei Complementar 123/2006, which indicates that all contracts up to BRL 80 000 be reserved for these companies. Government ministries and agencies must also allocate up to 25% of their calls for tender only for MPEs, provided that these calls concern the acquisition of “divisible goods”. Furthermore, MPEs can be selected when their offer is of the same price or up to 10% more costly than the one of a medium or large company, i.e. the so-called Empate. This same principle applies to MPEs that are based in the same location of the public office administering the bidding process, with the aim to encourage local development. However, this last clause is still scarcely used by local public administrations, perhaps due to lack of awareness. The preferential treatment in the context of public procurement is also conceded to consortia whose members are only MPEs, similarly to other countries, such as Canada, Korea or the United States through the “Small Business Set-aside” system (OECD, 2018).

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Figure 5.3. Share of MPEs in public procurement
LHS (Left-hand side): Percentage of value of public procurement contracts to MPEs and Large Firms; RHS (Right-hand side): BRL billion
Figure 5.3. Share of MPEs in public procurement

Source: OECD based on data from SEBRAE.


To increase awareness of public procurement opportunities among small firms, the federal government has established a number of online portals to make information publicly available, such as the Transparency Portal (Portal da Trasnparência), where citizens can access the full registry of public revenues and expenditures, bids, contracts and conventions. In addition, the federal government has organised a series of matchmaking events between government buyers and private sector suppliers through the programme Fomenta.

An assessment of government contracts between 2003 and 2012, before and after the introduction of Lei Complementar 123/2006, found that the law lowered participation costs for MPEs (and in particular young firms), which also resulted in a larger number of contracts awarded to these companies. However, this did not reduce procurement costs for the public administration, and small companies continued to be more likely to have their contracts terminated due to incompliance with terms and conditions. This was the result of a number of reasons: lack of administrative and legal capabilities by MPEs to appeal to courts; sanctions more likely to occur in less complex contracts such as those usually assigned to MPEs; and average stronger scrutiny by the public administration of contracts assigned to MPEs (Reis and Cabral, 2015).

Overall, the Brazilian law on public procurement is favourable to MPEs, although the share of government contracts assigned to these enterprises fell from 25% to 15% of the total between 2013 and 2017. Contracts to MPEs by federal ministries and agencies also declined between 2014 and 2018, from 14% to 12%. Thus, there is a gap between legislation and implementation which might be the result of reluctance by small business owners to get involved in what they perceive as a complex bidding process, as well as lack of preparation among public procurement officers on how to design calls for tender that are compliant with the preferential treatment reserved for MPEs. Late payment by the government is another factor likely to discourage small business owners from participation in public procurement.

Going forward, programmes such as Fomenta which connects buyers and suppliers, should be scaled up, while the training of procurement officers on MPE-friendly calls for tender should be mainstreamed across the whole public administration. The creation of consortia of MPEs to win government contracts could also be encouraged, including by increasing awareness about this possibility offered by the law. Finally, the government should also ensure the timely payment of contracts both by the government and large private sector companies contracting work to smaller enterprises. The United Kingdom offers a good example of the latter approach (see Box 5.10).

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Box 5.10. International learning model – The United Kingdom’s Statutory Duty for Payment Practices and Performance

Description of the approach

In 2017, the government of the United Kingdom became the first to introduce legislation requiring some of the UK’s largest private businesses to report their payment practices onto a public database. The duty to report was introduced to help tackle the problem of late payments, which is a significant challenge for SMEs worldwide and can make the difference between their survival or demise. The rationale behind the policy was that it would increase transparency and make payment behaviour a reputational and boardroom issue. Companies with good payment practices would set an example for poorer payers, and SMEs would know what to expect when trading with big companies.

Businesses meeting certain size criteria are required to report on a number of different aspects of their payment practices, including the average number of days taken to pay invoices; the percentage of invoices paid within 30 days, 60 days and more than 60 days; the percentage of invoices paid beyond terms; and a company’s longest and shortest payment terms. There is also an opportunity for them to include narrative about their payment terms, for instance, if they offer more favourable terms to SMEs. A named director is required to sign off the report.

Failure to submit a report and submitting misleading or false information are criminal offences on the part of the company and its directors. Stakeholder feedback has indicated that the possibility of prosecution does encourage directors to ensure reports are submitted.

Success factors

The Prompt Payment Code (PPC) is an example of the positive effects of the publication of payment data. The PPC is a voluntary code that gives a gold standard for businesses to demonstrate that they treat their suppliers fairly. Signatories are required to pay 95% of invoices within 60 days. The code is administered independently on behalf of the government. Visibility of the payment data, from the new reporting duty, has enabled the administrators of the code to challenge poor performers and suspend or remove them. A press notice naming the companies is then issued.

In terms of success, it is apparent from their reactions to being “named and shamed” that big businesses do not want the reputational damage that comes with their poor payment practices being brought into the spotlight. Seeing that the data is being used to uphold the integrity of the code has led other signatories to take steps to improve their payment practices to avoid being removed.

Obstacles and responses

The PPC predates the duty to report by ten years. One of its obstacles to success was that prior to the publication of payment data, it was impossible to know whether PPC signatories were meeting the terms of the code.

However, making payment practices a reputational issue for companies does impact payment behaviour. Other businesses have learned of the PPC from the publicity surrounding the removals and are either signing up or striving to meet the terms of the code, recognising the importance of having good payment data.

The UK Government recently recognised the importance of the PPC when used in conjunction with the published payment data by announcing its intention to reform the PPC to make it more robust, including deeper scrutiny of payment practices and tighter referencing requirements.

Relevance to Brazil

Late payment of invoices disproportionately affects small businesses, to the point where it can jeopardise their survival. By adopting the approaches outlined above to tackling payment delays, Brazil could help improve the cash flow of smaller businesses, which would put them in a stronger position to hire, make investments, commit to contracts, and reduce their risk of business failure.

For further information

Payment Practices Reporting (PPR):; PPR database direct link:; Prompt Payment Code:; UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (2019), Creating a Responsible Payment Culture: A Call for Evidence on Tackling Late Payment Government Response,; UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (2017), Duty to Report on Payment Practices and Performance – Government Response,

Brazil could use public procurement to stimulate SME innovation   

At present, Brazil does not use public procurement as a means to encourage business innovation, contrary to a growing number of OECD countries (OECD, 2017). The government of Brazil could pilot an initiative that fosters the use of public procurement to stimulate innovation in SMEs and start-ups. The initiative could see the government launching a call for new products or services (i.e. an innovation challenge) to be delivered by small enterprises going through a competitive process. Alternatively, through a fair procurement process, the government could award contracts to entrepreneurs with pre-commercial innovations for their testing within the federal government. This approach has, for example, been implemented in Canada through the Build in Canada Innovation Programme (OECD, 2017). In Portugal, the “Partnership for Innovation”, among other things, also aims to foster the acquisition of innovative goods and services by the public administration.

copy the linklink copied!Entrepreneurship education

Entrepreneurship education in Brazil rests on strong foundations   

Many countries around the world have subscribed to the notion that entrepreneurship education is important throughout the education system in order to build entrepreneurial mind-sets and create an entrepreneurial culture in the population. In the context of Brazil, SEBRAE has the most important role in the offer of entrepreneurship education. Since 2013, SEBRAE’s National Programme for Entrepreneurship Education (Programa Nacional de Educação Empreendedora, PNEE) has reached 4 million students through 120 000 teachers at 6 000 educational institutions. The aim of PNEE is to build an entrepreneurial culture in the education system by training teachers who can teach students about entrepreneurship. The PNEE uses both in-person and web-based delivery formats.8

Boxes 5.11 and 5.12 summarise the main information on SEBRAE entrepreneurship education programmes, from elementary children through to universities students and professionals. These programmes are available across the country at no cost for the schools and students, although enrolment is fully voluntary. To participate, schools work with the closest SEBRAE office, either independently or through their Municipal Department of Education.

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Box 5.11. SEBRAE’s entrepreneurship education programmes at grade school level

SEBRAE’s entrepreneurship education programmes at the primary and secondary levels are all teacher-led and include a combination of traditional classroom teaching and experiential learning opportunities. SEBRAE trains all teachers through programmes that range from 23 to 48 hours in duration. These train-the-trainer programmes are offered either online or in local SEBRAE offices around the country.

  • First Steps of Young Entrepreneurs (Jovens Emprendedores Primeiros Passos, JEPP): Students aged between 6 and 14 learn, through play in a fun environment, how to start and operate a business, build a team, calculate risks, make complex decisions, and identify opportunities. Within the 20-30-hour programme, there is a different theme for each of the nine different course levels.

  • Waking up (Despertar): Through a 70-hour teacher-led programme, high school students learn about personal and professional development, citizenship, co-operation and ethics, through study, experiential learning, and a Young Entrepreneur Fair at the end.

  • Growing and Enterprising (Crescendo e empreendeendo): This shorter, 12-hour, teacher-led experiential learning programme exposes high school students to the complexities of the world of work and teaches them to recognise opportunities, plan the future, and appreciate business and entrepreneurship.

  • Training of Young Entrepreneurs (Formação de Jovens Empreendedores, FJE): Through a 60-hour teacher-led classroom programme, high school students participate in six sequential workshops to develop an entrepreneurial mindset, appreciate their own potential, plan the future, and identify opportunities.

  • Young Rural Entrepreneur (Jovem Empreender no Campo, JEC): High school students in rural areas evaluate their options with regard to developing a family business and learn about rural property and income opportunities. This is done through training of 20 hours in 5 teacher-led classrooms that include discussions, readings, debates, activities, and group work.

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Box 5.12. SEBRAE’s entrepreneurship education programmes in higher and vocational education

Through the PNEE, SEBRAE works with higher education institutions across Brazil to infuse entrepreneurship education into the curriculum of undergraduate programmes. The main initiatives in higher and vocational education are as follows:

  • Empretec: Based on a UN methodology used in 40 countries, this 60-hour programme, delivered over six full-immersion days, helps participants develop entrepreneurial characteristics and behaviours and identify new business opportunities. Brazil has run this programme for 25 years.

  • Entrepreneurship Education in Vocational Education and Training (VET) (Disciplina de Empreendedorismo para a Educação Profissional): Provided through VET partners, this teacher-led programme is delivered in four separate modules, between 24 and 52 hours each, on topics related to life and career planning, entrepreneurial attitudes and entrepreneurship fundamentals, and the world of work.

  • Entrepreneurship Education in Higher Education (Disciplina de Empreendedorismo para a Educação Superior): Through 80 hours of instruction, this programme aims to teach students how to identify business opportunities, build a business model and write a business plan.

  • Entrepreneurship Education & Innovation (Disciplina de Empreendedorismo e inovação): Through 80 hours of instruction delivered over four modules, this programme brings real-world situations into the classroom through interactive and in-person simulations.

  • Extension Project on Social Entrepreneurship and Social Impact Business (Projeto de Extensão de Empreendedorismo Social e Negócios de Impacto Social): Delivered through 20 in-person classrooms and field meetings, each 8 hours long, this programme teaches students about the entrepreneurial ecosystem and how to tackle social challenges. Students develop a project proposal at the end of the course.

  • Entrepreneurial University Challenge (Desafio Universitário Empreendedor): This is an online training programme that teaches entrepreneurial skills in an interactive way through games related to marketing, management, entrepreneurship and innovation.

In addition to the educational programmes outlined above, SEBRAE also organises the Global Entrepreneurship Week in Brazil, which in 2018 saw about 8 000 events across the country, and operates a Reference Centre for Entrepreneurship Education, a website with entrepreneurship education material freely available.9

In addition to SEBRAE, the Brazilian Ministry of Education has partnered with former MDIC (now Ministry of Economy) to create the Friend of the Entrepreneur Institute (Istitução Amiga do Emprendeedor, IAE), where each partnering higher education institution has access to SEBRAE content on entrepreneurship education. As of December 2018, still at an early stage of this new programme, 276 of the 2 448 public and private universities across Brazil had registered (i.e. 11% of the total). The Ministry of Education also implements the international programme Junior Achievement (JA), which delivers experiential learning in entrepreneurship, financial literacy and work readiness worldwide. JA is available in 41 institutes and 655 campuses across Brazil. Since 1983, the JA network has worked with more than 150 000 volunteers and has served more than 5 million students in Brazil.

Entrepreneurship education could further increase its outreach   

Overall, Brazil’s entrepreneurship education infrastructure is strong. Nonetheless, Brazil also faces some challenges to further develop entrepreneurship education. First, Brazil needs a more explicit focus on attracting disadvantaged individuals from poor and minority brackets of the population into entrepreneurship education. Second, the online content available through the Reference Centre for Entrepreneurship Education could be reorganised to improve its ease-of-use, and enhanced with more information and educational materials to attract and inspire would-be entrepreneurs. Third, there is an issue about the capacity of educational institutions to provide the physical and curriculum space to deliver entrepreneurship education together with other courses. Schools already teach many important subjects to students, and this may lead them to question the value of entrepreneurship education over other subjects they must teach.

To address this last issue the notion of infusing entrepreneurship into existing education programmes, rather than adding additional courses and contents, has gained traction. In the United States, the Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education has disseminated its National Content Standards for Entrepreneurship Education to state-level education departments across the country. The objective is to offer information and examples on entrepreneurship education activities that can be delivered in existing courses by teachers from any discipline (see Box 5.13).

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Box 5.13. International learning model – National Content Standards for Entrepreneurship Education, United States

Description of the approach

States like Nebraska and Michigan in the United States have adopted the National Content Standards for Entrepreneurship Education, which was created by the Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education. There are 15 standards divided into the three broad areas of entrepreneurial skills, ready skills, and business functions.

Standards are matched by a toolkit which intends to persuade schools about the importance and benefits of entrepreneurship education at each level of the education system, to explain how to nurture an entrepreneurial spirit, and to offer a complete curriculum including examples of exercises. The aim of the standards is to create lifelong learning that starts as early as elementary school and progresses through all levels of the education system.

Examples of activities are:

  • Our Town USA: A classroom activity in which students brainstorm what types of business are needed in their community.

  • Biotechnology: In groups, students create their own biotech companies, including setting a vision and electing a CEO.

  • Real-World Science Entrepreneurs: Business people and entrepreneurs speak to students about science-related companies and organisations.

  • Logo Design and Marketing: The goal is to develop a logo and create attractive flyers, posters, or web pages to promote the games of the school’s baseball team.

Factors for success

Important factors for success include:

  • By providing sample exercises for teachers to use in their classrooms, it becomes easier for schools to infuse entrepreneurship education into existing courses.

  • The toolkit and examples provide teachers with innovative and refreshing activities that they can try with their students, and plant the seed for new ideas for exercises to try and share with other teachers.

Obstacles and responses

Infusing entrepreneurship education into the existing curriculum requires strong buy-in by educational institutions and teachers.

Relevance for Brazil

Brazil’s entrepreneurship education system is strong, but it is limited in outreach by the voluntary participation of education institutions. Adopting activities such as those presented in this example can help develop entrepreneurship education within existing courses and, thereby, strengthen its outreach.

Sources for further information

Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education’s National Content Standards for Entrepreneurship Education (including teacher resources):; Nebraska Department of Education’s implementation of the standards:

copy the linklink copied!Programmes for workforce and managerial skills development in SMEs

The development of managerial and workforce skills are both key determinants of the ability of SMEs to survive and grow. Both skillsets influence the so-called “absorptive capacity” of the firm, i.e. its ability to absorb knowledge from external sources to improve products and services.

Sistema S is a key player in upgrading managerial and workforce skills in SMEs  

Sistema S (see Chapter 4 for a description) is mostly in charge with managerial and workforce training at the firm level in Brazil, notably SENAC (Serviço Nacional de Aprendizagem Comercial; National Service for Apprenticeship in Trade), SENAI (Serviço Nacional de Aprendizagem na Industria; National Service for Apprenticeship in Industry) and IEL (Instituto Euvaldo Lodi). These organisations directly emanate from national business associations: SENAI and IEL are spin-outs of the National Industry Confederation (Confederação Nacional da Indústria, CNI), while SENAC stems from the National Trade Confederation (Confederação Nacional do Comércio de Bens, Serviços e Turismo, CNC). This should in principle allow the training offer to be more closely aligned with business demands, although consultation with the private sector could be further strengthened in order to receive more timely and detailed feedback on existing skills needs.

SENAC caters to skills upgrading in the trade sector   

SENAC is the main organisation involved in the delivery of management and workforce training in the trade and services sectors which, as seen in Chapter 2, accounts for a very large share of the Brazilian economy. According to a recent report published by SENAC (2017), 57% of SENAC graduates work shortly after having completed their courses. Furthermore, in 2017 alone, more than half a million women (approximately 65% of total SENAC enrolments in vocational education) gained new career opportunities through SENAC courses.

The Commercial Professional Learning Programme has been SENAC’s flagship initiative since its inception in 1946 and helps young people enter the labour market as apprentices. In 2017 alone, this programme trained more than 75 000 people. The SENAC Gratuity Programme (Programa SENAC de Gratuidade, PSG), born out of an agreement with the federal government, represents two-thirds of SENAC’s revenues. PSG offers free vacancies in initial and continuing technical education courses for low-income people. In the first ten years of operation, PSG prepared more than 2.1 million Brazilians (SENAC, 2017). SENAC also runs a distance learning education programme in the form of the SENAC’s National Distance Education Network, which includes more than 200 options in terms of free courses, graduation courses and post-graduation courses. In addition, SENAC mobile units visit the country to provide vocational education for residents living in places without fixed school units; in 2017, 262 municipalities and more than 18 500 Brazilians were reached in this way.

To improve the contents and methods of professional education, SENAC has engaged in sectoral fora, whose objective is to learn the reality of occupations from different perspectives and map, at the national level, the main demands, trends, and technological innovations that will influence different professional profiles in trade, services and tourism. This has led to the formulation of Programa Comércio (Trade Programme), which aims to reposition SENAC’s courses with a view to improving business competitiveness.

Overall, SENAC plays an important training role in a sector that accounts for a very large share of national employment. SENAC’s course offering is also large and diversified, both in terms of contents and delivery methods. Finally, sectoral fora are expected to help SENAC design courses that are well-informed and meet local labour market demands.

SENAI plays an important role to upgrade skills in manufacturing  

SENAI is the main training organisation that caters to manufacturing. SENAI operates a corporate university, 25 Innovation Institutes and 61 Technology Institutes across Brazil. The SENAI corporate university is mostly in charge of courses for managers, teachers and technicians, while the Technology and Innovation Institute provides technical services to Brazilian manufacturing companies. Since its inception in 1942, SENAI has trained approximately 74 million Brazilians through both face-to-face and online courses aimed at both existing workers and individuals who want to start a career in industry. Similarly to SENAC, SENAI also runs distance learning education programmes and mobile units that reach out to remote communities. SENAI also acts as a consulting body for individual companies interested in custom-tailored services. Some of the most relevant SENAI initiatives are as follows:

  • SENAI 4.0: this programme supports the introduction of Industry 4.0 technologies in the Brazilian business sector, i.e. the use of automation and data-exchange technologies in manufacturing.

  • Skills Certification Programme: through this programme, SENAI formally evaluates and certifies professionals who have significant work experience in a trade, but who do not have a formal diploma in this trade. In doing so, participants become more attractive in the job market.

  • Inova SENAI: this programme offers awards to SENAI students, teachers, technicians, and consultants who have developed innovative projects in technology management.

  • PSAI (Programa SENAI de Ações Inclusivas): PSAI develops competencies for people with disabilities through the adaptation of curricula, courses, and books, and through improved accessibility through special labs, adequate classrooms, and community engagement.

  • Notice of Innovation for Industry: In collaboration with SEBRAE and SESI (Serviço Social da Indústria, Social Service of Industry), this programme finances up to BRL 400 000 in grants for the development of innovative processes, products and services in manufacturing companies.

SENAI plays an important role in skills upgrading in Brazilian manufacturing. Two programmes, in particular, stand out. SENAI 4.0 covers the key area of Industry 4.0 that is especially important to productivity growth in SMEs that are close to the technology frontier. Through this initiative, SENAI offers any company the possibility to undertake an online assessment of its level of technology maturity; provides fee-based consulting services to individual companies; and organises vocational courses from beginner level (between 20-60 course hours) through to postgraduate level (300-360 course hours). As seen in Chapter 2, there is a large productivity gap between SMEs and large firms in manufacturing, calling for policy initiatives that can help bridge this gap. A second SENAI initiative worth being flagged is the Skills Certification Programme, which supports the social inclusion of disadvantaged people through the formal recognition of the skills they have acquired on the workplace.

Going forward, the distinction between the work of SENAI and IEL (see below), especially in the area of management training, is not always straightforward, which may result in a duplication of courses and programmes. While this is per se not a problem – companies should be able to choose the most efficient solution when faced with different alternatives – the fact that the work of both organisations is paid through wage levies means that this overlap has consequences for nonwage costs, which are high in Brazil (see Chapter 3).

There are some overlaps in the offer of programmes between SENAI and IEL   

The Institute Euvaldo Lodi (IEL), which similarly to SENAI emanates from CNI, mostly focuses on management training in medium-sized and large companies. The main programme of IEL is the Entrepreneurial Mobilisation for Innovation programme, which offers tailored advice to individual companies through an IEL network of private sector consultants. In addition, IEL runs two major programmes for entrepreneurs and business executives: the Business Education Programme helps entrepreneurs to develop competencies in business management, finance, marketing, logistics, legislation and leadership, while the Executive Education Programme provides senior executives with training on modern business management.

Other IEL’s initiatives targeted at innovation include Industry 2027 and Lean Office IEL. Similarly to SENAI 4.0, IEL’s Industry 2027 supports Brazilian enterprises in adopting advanced manufacturing technologies, while Lean Office IEL focuses on streamlining the whole business administration process.

IEL’s activities are noteworthy, especially because they cater to medium-sized companies which are largely missing in the SME policy debate in Brazil. Nonetheless, as noted earlier, some of IEL activities are very similar to those of SENAI, resulting in strong similarities between programmes. Stronger synergies could be built between these two institutions when it comes to management training, especially since they both emanate from the National Industry Confederation.

SEBRAE supports management training in its specific constituency   

SEBRAE also operates management training programmes for its constituency. Given the nature of SEBRAE’s target group (MPEs), management training focuses on basic topics such as how to manage a team, law compliance (e.g. employment, health and safety at work laws) and accounting and financial management.

Brazil could benefit from rationalisation in the offer of management training and from more leadership training   

Brazil features a large range of skills development opportunities at the company level, especially with respect to management training, whereas opportunities for in-company workforce training are more limited. This is not unique to Brazil, to the extent that workforce training is often the responsibility of the Ministry of Labour or the Ministry of Education, which tend to focus on other constituencies than SME workers, notably the unemployed and labour market entrants.

Organisations in Sistema S – notably SENAI, SENAC and IEL – are the main providers of management training in Brazil, which has led to the existence of similar programmes run by different institutions. This would not be a problem per se to the extent that market demand could determine which programmes survive and which ones do not. However, the fact that Sistema S is mostly financed through wage levies has implications for nonwage labour costs which, as seen in Chapter 3, are high in Brazil. Rationalisation in the offer of management training could bring benefits not only through reduced payroll costs but also through the design of larger and better-informed programmes. It would also make sense for large national programmes to be assessed through more rigorous evaluation methods, which has so far rarely been the case. Finally, there is scope for better organising the information about existing programmes through the creation of a single interactive web portal that gathers information from different ministries and organisations part of Sistema S.

A final point is that while there are many management training courses, there are much fewer opportunities for leadership training in Brazil. The two are not exactly the same thing: a manager formulates plans, creates efficient organisational structures, and oversees day-to-day operations, whereas a leader challenges the status quo, creates visions of the future, and inspires organisational members to want to achieve the leader’s vision. As it stands, Brazil’s portfolio of management training is strong on managerial skills and includes some leadership development, but the latter could be expanded significantly. Good leadership development programmes are experiential in nature, include intentional and unhindered self-reflection, and nurture vision setting (Rowland, 2016). Content covered in leadership development programmes can include topics related to enhancing managerial competencies, building professional networks, and clarifying a vision.

copy the linklink copied!Women’s entrepreneurship programmes

Brazil’s performance in women’s entrepreneurship support is mixed  

Women represent 31% of the entrepreneurial population in Brazil, taking into consideration both employers and self-employed in the formal and informal sectors (SEBRAE, 2016). However, women represent about 47% of micro-entrepreneurs under the Micro Empreendedor Individual (MEI) regime, suggesting that women-owned enterprises are on average smaller than men-owned ones.

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Women’s Entrepreneurship report (GEM, 2017), Brazilian women open 2% more companies than men, and female entrepreneurs have more years of education than male entrepreneurs. Nonetheless, women-led companies are less innovative and less profitable (Kelley et al., 2017). For example, Brazil has a very low number of women-owned growth-oriented businesses; it has been estimated that if women were to start growth-oriented businesses at the same rate as men, 5.8 million more jobs would be created in two years (Aidis et al., 2015).

The performance of Brazil with regard to supporting women’s entrepreneurship is mixed. The most recent Female Entrepreneurship Index report published by the Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute (GEDI) (Terjesen and Lloyd, 2015) analysed 77 countries and scored each one from 0 to 100 on the environment for women’s entrepreneurship in each country. Brazil earned a score of 31, where scores below 50 indicated the need to reduce obstacles to women’s entrepreneurship, and was ranked 60th among the 77 countries. Brazil scored the highest on the ratio of total female entrepreneurial activity and performed quite well on other indicators such as equal rights in the perception of opportunities, women’s willingness to start businesses, attitudes towards women in leadership and decision-making positions, and labour force gender parity. However, Brazil scored low on female entrepreneurs who are offering new products, the percentage of female-owned businesses that are active in technology sectors and employ new technologies, and the percentage of high-growth female-owned businesses that intend to employ at least ten people and grow more than 50% in five years. Brazil scored the lowest of all countries on the percentage of female-owned exporting businesses. The findings from this report show that while Brazil shows progress on equal rights and positive perceptions about women in leadership and entrepreneurship, the Brazilian environment features barriers to women interested in growth-oriented entrepreneurship, notably in technology-based entrepreneurship and export activities.

SEBRAE and Rede Mulher Empreendedora are the two main institutions involved in women’s entrepreneurship support   

Brazil has begun to recognise some of the country’s deficits in women’s entrepreneurship and has taken the challenge head-on. SEBRAE and Rede Mulher Empreendedora (RME, Female Entrepreneur Network) are the two main institutions involved in fostering women’s entrepreneurship. In July 2018, for example, SEBRAE joined UN Women and the UN Global Compact and committed to the “Women’s Empowerment Principles”, which are intended to promote women’s full participation in all sectors and at all levels of the Brazilian economy (SEBRAE, 2018b). In addition, SEBRAE is conducting its own internal audit to understand if the agency is a woman-friendly workplace. The RME is an organisation that supports women’s entrepreneurship in Brazil through a network of more than 300 000 women business owners, classes, networking events, mentoring, advertising for women’s businesses, and partnerships with other institutions that aim to encourage women entrepreneurs. The RME has recently started a 24-month programme, funded by Google (Ela Pode, She Can), which hopes to reach 135 000 women. Participants can expect to receive: the “She Can” designation, logistical and professional support, networking opportunities, and presentation of the company name, logo, and website on the RME website. SEBRAE and RME have also partnered together, along with Women of Brazil (Mulheres do Brasil), to launch in 2019 the country’s most comprehensive initiative to boost women’s entrepreneurship with a budget of BRL 10 million across 11 states. The two-year National Project for Women’s Entrepreneurship is based on the following pillars: capacity-building (soft and hard skills), business networks and intelligence.

In addition to SEBRAE and RME, another institution involved in the support of women’s entrepreneurship in Brazil is the National Secretariat for Women’s Policies, which is housed within the Ministry of Woman, Family and Human Rights. The focus of this government department is mostly women’s safety and rights across society, but also pays attention to equality and equity in the workplace and the job market, with women’s entrepreneurship being a subcomponent of this line of action.

Women’s entrepreneurship needs to be encouraged more proactively through the development of a four-pronged strategy   

Moving forward, apart from the main efforts led by SEBRAE and RME, most institutions in Brazil do not seem to be doing very much to support women’s entrepreneurship. There is a perception among most government entities that special initiatives for women are unnecessary, if not discriminatory against everyone else because all products and programmes are designed for everyone, including women and other minority groups. However, a lack of exclusion does not build an inclusive culture where women feel welcome, supported, and encouraged, and enjoy equal opportunities to those of men. In a study of 17 countries, GEDI noted that gender-blind business support measures fail to support women’s business development as much as they support men’s business development (GEDI, 2013).

One of the most significant contributions that Brazil could make in support of entrepreneurship is improving the country’s encouragement of women’s entrepreneurship through an inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem. The academic literature on the topic shows that when it comes to many aspects of the entrepreneurial ecosystem women do not have equal access to resources and support, nor can they expect equal opportunities for success. Government policies and regulations can strongly influence the attractiveness of entrepreneurship for women. Similarly, normative expectations of women in society tend to place responsibilities related to the household on women rather than men, which can indirectly mark entrepreneurship as a less-desirable career choice for women (Brush et al., 2018).

For Brazil to have a profound impact on women’s entrepreneurship, there needs to be a genuine, concerted, and long-term effort around four dominant goals: creating a culture of inclusiveness, involving the majority, developing specialised products and programmes, and highlighting female role models (see Figure 5.4).

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Figure 5.4. Entrepreneurship supportive ecosystem for minorities
Figure 5.4. Entrepreneurship supportive ecosystem for minorities

First, building a culture of inclusiveness is important in all of the Brazilian ministries, throughout Sistema S, and among national financial institutions. This will involve setting diversity and inclusion as core organisational values, including by actively recruiting women and minorities and creating opportunities for them to grow into leadership positions. The more women are visible in senior leadership positions, the more natural it will become for Brazilian institutions charged with entrepreneurship promotion to understand and overcome the challenges that women face.

Second, majority involvement refers to the inclusion of men in the support of gender equality and women’s access to business opportunities. It is difficult for a minority group (like women in the world of entrepreneurship) to gain real traction and be recognised and respected by the masses without the support of the majority, such as male entrepreneurs, male leaders and male family members. offers tips for men who want to support women in their workplaces and reap the benefits of doing so: men who work collaboratively with women and leverage the full talents of their teams have also been found to outperform their peers (see Box 5.14).

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Box 5.14. Seven Tips for Men Who Want to Support Equality, by

Empirical research has shown that women face gender-specific challenges in their pursuit of leadership and influence. For example, success and likeability are positively correlated for men (successful men are “confident” and “strong”) and negatively correlated for women (successful women are “aggressive” and “bossy”), male performance is often overestimated compared to female performance, and women are interrupted more in meetings, given less credit for their ideas, and have less overall influence. To combat these inequities, offers seven tips for men who want to support gender equality:

  • Challenge the Likeability Penalty: When you hear a woman referred to as “bossy”, ask for clarification on why this was said and question if the reaction would be the same if a man had done the same.

  • Evaluate Performance Fairly: Make sure gender bias in evaluating performance is understood by all of your team members. Set specific and measurable criteria for excellent performance, and communicate these expectations clearly and in advance.

  • Give Women Credit: Make sure women get the credit they deserve and look for opportunities to highlight their accomplishments. Also, challenge women when they say they or other women are not ready or are not qualified, and encourage women to go for new opportunities.

  • Get the Most Out of Meetings: Encourage women to sit in visible positions in meetings, assert that you would like to hear a female colleague finish when she is interrupted, openly invite women to contribute to the conversation and make sure to give credit for ideas to the deserving individual.

  • Share Office Housework: Pay attention to who gets tasked with service and support work, volunteer to do some of the note-taking, event organising, and new hires training, or propose someone else who could benefit from collaborating with different co-workers and developing new skills.

  • Make Work for Parents: Be careful of assuming that mothers will not be willing to take on challenging assignments or travel, be vocal about the time you spend away from work with your family, take paternity leave and/or advocate for it in your company, and breakdown the biases linked to motherhood and fatherhood.

  • Mentor Women and Offer Equal Access: Take an active role in making sure that women receive the same high-quality mentorship that men tend to have, including a sponsor who advocates and opens doors for them.

Third, examples of women-specific entrepreneurship programmes will include, among others, export and supplier diversity programmes, targeted financing products, and business development policies that do not discriminate against women. In the specific context of Brazil, one striking element is the lack of access to finance for women entrepreneurs. For example, in terms of credit disbursed to entrepreneurs under the MEI regime, the average loan size for men is BRL 80 600, almost 20% higher than for women (BRL 67 500). Moreover, men account for 69% of MEI loans, compared to 31% for women, although women represent 45% of MEIs. Finally, although women have lower delinquency rates than men (3.7% vs. 4.4%), they pay higher interest rates on their loans.10

Clearly, the mere fact that all bank products are available for everyone without discriminating against one gender or the other, has not resulted in women taking out loans as much as men. In the whole credit market, this might be the result of the sectors in which women are more likely to operate or of an average lower growth propensity of women entrepreneurs. However, the fact that within the same MEI regime, which gathers similar-sized companies, male entrepreneurs have received a disproportionate share of loans and bigger loans than women, suggests the existence of some form of gender discrimination in the Brazilian credit market.11

Special funds and financing products for women could help tackle this problem. Diversity and inclusion training will also be needed in financial institutions in order to get around the hidden biases of bank loan officers. For growth-oriented women entrepreneurs, venture capital (VC) and angel investment need to be rebalanced, by recruiting more women investors and advisors and creating VC funds that are led by women and specifically designed for investment in women-owned businesses (Halabisky, 2018). Business incubators and accelerators specifically meant for women can also help dissociate women’s entrepreneurship from its necessity-driven stereotype, that is, that women only start a business to complement the income of a male breadwinner (see Box 5.15).

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Box 5.15. International learning model – Enterprise-Works’ Accelerating Women and Underrepresented Entrepreneurs (AWARE) Programme, United States

Description of the approach

Through their 4 000 m² facilities, Enterprise-Works supports female and underrepresented entrepreneurs who want to launch and grow technology-based businesses. Women who participate in Enterprise-Works have developed new proprietary products and successfully secured funding, including government grants and big-business contracts. In a gender-biased venture capital reality, where the vast majority of investment goes to male entrepreneurs, Enterprise-Works’ in-resident entrepreneurs have introduced female venture capitalists to female entrepreneurs, and mentored junior entrepreneurs on pitching ideas, hiring employees, and negotiating deals.

Factors for success

The three main factors which have underlain the success of this initiative are:

  • A dedicated in-resident entrepreneur who is familiar with the needs of entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups.

  • Team-based mini-grants for proof-of-concept.

  • Mentorship, training, and networking opportunities.

Obstacles and responses

The two most challenging aspects of launching a programme like AWARE are the grant writing and winning process, and the institutional and human capacity to implement the programme. Grant writing is a learned skill that takes time to develop. Many universities have Development Offices or other places where grant writing professionals can assist not only with writing proposals but also with strategising what should go into the proposal. If the grant is awarded, the university must be able to implement the programme, including building out space, hiring staff, etc. When grant funding runs out, a sustainability plan or an exit strategy should be prepared.

Relevance for Brazil

SEBRAE, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communication and the new Ministry of Economy can all house incubator programmes for women and underrepresented groups in entrepreneurship, or grant resources for these initiatives to the private sector.

Further information

More information on the AWARE programme is available on the institutional website:

Several articles on incubator and accelerator best practices and example programmes can be found at the following web links: Incubators and Accelerators Open Doors for Female, Immigrant, and Underrepresented Entrepreneurs:; 31 Top Accelerators and Incubators for Women:; Accelerators Focusing on Women-led Start-ups:

Educational programmes to help women develop business leadership skills must address not only general business issues but also gender-specific issues. The general view is that there is value in mixed-sex settings in which men and women sit together in the same programme. However, research has also found that in mixed-gender programmes, women tend to suppress the gendered aspects of their experiences and deny gender differences, in an effort to be taken seriously, which in turn restricts their transformational learning process. In contrast, participants in women-only programmes tend to develop greater confidence, sense of control, broader and deeper networks, enhanced skills, and self-awareness. Women-only programmes, therefore, support transformational learning by providing a psychological “safe” space that protects female participants from gender pressure. In addition, gender-sensitive pedagogy is consistent with a relational learning style that women tend to prefer (e.g. see Debebe et al. 2016). In order for business leadership development to have a deep change in women’s beliefs and actions, a combination of mixed-sex and women-only programmes would, therefore, be recommended.

An example of a women-only business training and development programme, WomenX Pakistan, is described in Box 5.16.

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Box 5.16. International learning model – WomenX Pakistan

Description of the approach

WomenX Pakistan is a World Bank-funded programme that supports women entrepreneurs by enhancing their business acumen and leadership abilities, helping them expand their professional networks, and assisting them with identifying growth opportunities. Through the resources and networks garnered from the WomenX programmes, graduates from across Pakistan stay connected, share information, exchange ideas, and expand their customer base. WomenX Pakistan has supported growth-oriented women entrepreneurs in five major cities of Pakistan.

WomenX delivers its programme to selected participants in two phases. Phase 1 is spread out over 4-months with 16 days (once a week on Saturdays) of in-class business training (e.g. operations management, entrepreneurial accounting, business law, marketing, taxation, and more) and soft skills development (e.g. leadership, negotiations, communications, and organisational behaviour and human resources). Phase 1 also includes peer-to-peer coaching sessions and monthly networking events.

Upon completing Phase 1, approximately half of the participants are invited to participate in the 5-month Phase 2, which offers more tailored business guidance and mentorship from industry leaders. Participants in Phase 2 receive one-on-one coaching, business clinics, peer-to-peer coaching, and networking opportunities.

Factors for success

The WomenX Entrepreneurship Programme enables participants to:

  • Boost productivity and sales, hire staff, and access new supply chains.

  • Identify profitable new business opportunities, develop a business expansion plan, and expand to new markets (local, regional, and international).

  • Design marketing strategies that are effective and affordable and implement operational accounting systems.

  • Nurture communication, management, and leadership skills.

  • Earn a certificate from some of the most prestigious universities in Pakistan.

Obstacles and responses

Pakistan is a patriarchal society where women’s participation in the economy is not sufficiently valued. WomenX was therefore delivered through partnerships with top-notch educational designers and programme implementers, and the best universities in each region of the country. WomenX also recruited expert consultants from outside of Pakistan for guidance and feedback. The strategy of enlisting experts and high-quality institutions made the programme expensive and reliant on World Bank funding but enabled the delivery of a truly high-quality programme to Pakistani women.

Relevance for Brazil

SEBRAE is Brazil’s leading source of programming for women entrepreneurs. That said, SEBRAE’s efforts with RME are embryonic and just beginning to mature. Examples like WomenX could help Brazil avoid reinventing the wheel and adapt programmes and practices that others have already successfully implemented.

Further information

The website of the programme:

Finally, in the specific context of Brazil, it would make sense to bestow more influence on the National Secretariat for Women’s Policies within the Ministry of Woman, Family and Human Rights. Currently, the majority of funding for women-targeted programmes goes to local municipalities and civil societies, which do projects that are in line with the Nation Plan of Policies for Women, but without the Ministry having control over the budget and/or who receives the funding. When projects are of low quality, this secretariat loses influence and resources. In addition, the home where the National Secretariat for Women’s Policies is housed has changed several times in the last years, causing changes in mission and management and jeopardising its organisational efficiency.

The fourth and last element of the entrepreneurship supportive ecosystem for minorities concerns the power of role models. Women need to see examples of other women entrepreneurs who have navigated the obstacles of being a woman while developing and growing their businesses. Having someone to look up to and learn from can result in increased resilience and belief in one’s ability to be an entrepreneur (Bullough et al., 2014).

Women entrepreneurs who have been successful usually appreciate being recognised for it and relish in the gratification of helping other women to do the same. This makes role modelling one of the least expensive mechanisms of the supportive ecosystem model (Figure 5.4). Role models do not typically receive compensation for serving other women entrepreneurs, and access to role models can be provided through activities that would already be in place in any high-quality programme, such as networking events, mentoring, and guest speaking opportunities. Examples of everyday women entrepreneurs are likely to leave a stronger impression than famous people because aspiring women entrepreneurs can identify with them on a more personal level.

copy the linklink copied!Entrepreneurship programmes for other target groups

Entrepreneurship programmes for other target groups are generally small-scale   

Brazil also supports entrepreneurship development in other underserved minorities, such as migrants/refugees and Afro-Brazilians. SEBRAE is the leading organisation in entrepreneurship programmes for migrants and refugees, whereas the privately-run Feira Preta Institute is committed to encouraging entrepreneurship among Afro-Brazilians. Some of SEBRAE’s programmes include:

  • The Entrepreneur Refugee Project (Projeto Refugiado Empreendedor), which promotes entrepreneurial culture among refugees and asylum seekers to enable their social and economic inclusion in the country.

  • The Dekassegui Entrepreneur (Dekassegui Empreendedor), which fosters the entrepreneurial culture of Brazilian migrants living outside of the country (e.g. Japanese Brazilians).

  • Arvore, a voluntary return and reintegration programme for Brazilian migrants.

With respect to Afro-Brazilians, the Feira Preta Institute operates targeted business accelerators and incubators. This Institute also organises the largest annual Afro-Brazilian trade fair in São Paulo, where Afro-Brazilian entrepreneurs from different sectors convene to sell their products and services.

On the whole, entrepreneurship support for underrepresented groups is small-scale in Brazil, although policies that promote inclusive entrepreneurship have the potential to level the playing field for minority groups and reduce poverty through job creation (OECD/European Union, 2017). In order for Brazil to understand how minorities and underserved populations perceive the current national entrepreneurship ecosystem, the government should collect data on the ethnic make-up of the people who apply for and take out loans – and what interest rates they are paying – as well as the ethnic make-up of the people who apply to entrepreneurship education programmes. Data should also be made available on the gender and ethnicity of those who are starting businesses and on the size of those businesses. Good data will cast light on the conditions of minorities in entrepreneurship and highlight where improvements can be made, taking into account that the support conceptual framework presented in the section on women’s entrepreneurship – culture of inclusiveness, majority involvement, specialised policies and products, and role models – can be easily applied to other underrepresented groups (see Figure 5.4).

copy the linklink copied!Conclusions and policy recommendations

This chapter has looked at Brazil’s targeted programmes for SMEs in different policy areas. Brazilian programmes to encourage SMEs’ access to finance mostly consist of loan subsidies, although there has been in the last two years a rapid process of convergence between market interest rates and the average interest rates of BNDES, the main source of SME finance in Brazil. Conversely, loan guarantees only cover about 1% of new SME loans, leaving a lot of scope to enhance their diffusion. In the area of equity finance, BNDESPAR, a subsidiary of BNDES, is the main institutional player in seed and early-stage equity finance. However, there is a lack of follow-on finance in Brazil, which is especially important for SMEs ready to scale up.

Most innovation policy spending goes to large companies in Brazil, notably through R&D tax credits (e.g. Lei do Bem and Lei da Informática) and certain direct credit programmes (e.g. Plano Inova Empresa). Thus, targeted SME innovation programmes comparatively run on smaller budgets, although some of them are promising and could be expanded. On example is Brasil Mais Produtivo (BMP), which supports productivity growth in manufacturing where the productivity gap between SMEs and larger companies is especially marked.

Other programmes could benefit from some adjustments. ALI and PROCOMPI, both of which see the involvement of SEBRAE, appear to be overstretched, trying to cover a large number of companies through thin budgets. Furthermore, in the case of ALI, the profile of local innovation agents could be strengthened by adding staff with industry experience. On the other hand, BNDES MPME Inovadora and FINEP Inovacred work with larger SMEs, targeting a group of companies (mid-sized firms) that is otherwise broadly overlooked by Brazilian SME policies.

National legislation supports the participation of micro and small companies, as defined by Lei Complementar 123/2006 (MPEs), in public procurement. However, there is a gap between legislation and implementation, as only 15% of the volume of government contracts is assigned to micro and small enterprises. This gap is more likely to be bridged by concrete actions than by new legislation, such as strengthening existing training for SMEs on tendering for government contracts, increasing the capacity of procurement officers to design bids compliant with preferential treatment for MPEs, and reducing late payments of government contracts. Brazil could also use public procurement as a demand-side policy to encourage innovation in SMEs, similarly to what is increasingly done in OECD countries. The federal government could pilot a public procurement programme where it asks for innovative goods or services from small businesses going through a competitive tendering process.

The entrepreneurship education ecosystem of Brazil has good reach and content. However, there are some challenges to overcome with respect to including underserved and/or underrepresented individuals in a more explicit way and infusing entrepreneurship skills into existing traditional courses to reach more students.

Workforce and managerial skills are critical to business survival and growth. Skills upgrading at the firm level is mostly undertaken by Sistema S, including SENAC, SENAI, SEBRAE and IEL. SENAC offers a comprehensive portfolio of courses aimed at services and trade, which tend to receive positive student evaluations. SENAI is responsible for skills development in manufacturing, including through two major flagship initiatives on Industry 4.0 and skills certification for disadvantaged individuals. IEL also targets the industry sector, with some of its programmes similar to those of SENAI. More generally, while opportunities for management training abound, leadership training is much less available.

Finally, Brazilian women tend to own fewer and smaller enterprises than men, with the last factor that is also the result of the prevailing sectors in which women entrepreneurs tend to operate. In terms of policies, there is a common perception in Brazil that special programmes for women entrepreneurs are not needed since all programmes are open to everyone. However, a lack of explicit exclusion is often not enough to build a culture of full inclusion in which women enjoy the same opportunities as men. This is also true for other underrepresented groups in the entrepreneurial population, such as Afro-Brazilians, migrants and refugees.

copy the linklink copied!
Policy recommendations on federal programmes for SMEs and entrepreneurship

Debt finance

  • Continue to reduce the interest rate subsidy in government loans and expand the use of government-backed loan guarantees to further strengthen access to finance for SMEs.

  • Introduce non-financial forms of support in public development banks, based on evidence that combining financial support with technical advice improves the performance of supported companies and/or partner financial institutions.

  • Pull ahead in the ongoing trend by which BNDES lending has increasingly shifted from large companies to SMEs. Consider launching a credit line for start-ups, as done by other countries such as the UK (Start-up Loan Programme).

  • Strengthen the role of the National Programme for Productive Microcredit (PNMPO) as a gateway to other government programmes relevant to micro-enterprises and own-account workers.

  • Make microfinance more widely available across Brazil, given its current predominance in the Northeast and under-utilisation of available funds.

Equity finance

  • Ensure that government-backed VC funds also provide follow-on equity finance and not just seed finance, with a view to ensuring that promising start-ups and high-growth firms continue to receive adequate support for scale-up.

  • Consider the establishment of a dedicated equity fund for “hard-tech” ventures, i.e. companies working on unproven technologies with higher levels of risks but also higher levels of possible returns.

  • Develop a venture-debt capital market to support investments in innovative ventures in need of follow-on capital.

SME innovation

  • Increase innovation support for SMEs through targeted measures with the aim to reduce the productivity gap with larger firms, including programmes that encourage collaborative innovation.

  • Expand Brasil Mais Produtivo to narrow the large productivity gap between SMEs and large companies in industry. At the same time, increase the cost-sharing requirement of the programme to self-select stronger companies, making an exception for companies in lagging regions.

  • Strengthen the profile of local innovation agents by hiring more people with industry experience.

  • Increase the budget of the ALI and PROCOMPI programmes or alternatively reduced the number of companies attended to reduce the current overstretch of these two programmes.

Public procurement for SMEs

  • Scale up existing training programmes for micro and small companies on how to bid for government contracts and for procurement officers on how to design calls that are compliant with existing preferential legislation in public procurement.

  • Launch a pilot initiative supporting SME innovation through public procurement in which the government demands innovative products or services from small businesses going through a competitive process.

Entrepreneurship education and management training

  • Strengthen the inclusion of disadvantaged groups and groups underrepresented in the entrepreneurial population into the existing offer of entrepreneurship education courses.

  • Consider infusing entrepreneurial skills in traditional school and university courses to further strengthen the outreach of entrepreneurship education.

  • Streamline the offer of management and workforce training at the firm level, mostly undertaken within Sistema S, with a view to creating critical mass, improving training quality and reducing nonwage costs for employers.

  • Establish a shared and interactive web portal pulling together information on existing management training programmes across Sistema S with the aim to ease selection and access by firms.

  • Expand leadership development opportunities across Brazil, which are typically experiential in nature and include competency-building, self-analysis, vision setting, and networking opportunities with other leaders.

Women’s entrepreneurship

  • Make sure that women’s entrepreneurship policies are not limited to ensuring that mainstream programmes are available to everyone, but also include initiatives specifically targeted at women.

  • Ensure that women’s entrepreneurship policies aim at the following four objectives: i) create a culture of inclusiveness; ii) involve men in gender equity efforts; iii) develop specialised programmes for women; iv) showcase role models of women entrepreneurs.


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← 1. As of August 2019, the total credit approved by BNDES Crédito Pequenas Empresas was BRL 500 million.

← 2. An increased focus on loan guarantees versus loan subsidies should not be detrimental to start-ups, which find it more difficult than established SMEs to receive bank loans and for which credit subsidies might continue to be the best credit policy option.

← 3. Privileged sectors in the Portuguese 200M Fund are life sciences, biotechnology, IT, tourism and activities under the scope of Industry 4.0.

← 4. The private debt market is a category of capital providers that engages in debt rather than equity finance. This category uses private investment partnerships as the main investment vehicle, adopting many legal and institutional features from the private equity market.

← 5. Additional information on Plano Inova Empresa is available in Portuguese on the websites of BNDES and FINEP: and

← 6. The new government has recently changed the governance of the programme which, as of mid-2019, has a strategic committee including representatives from the following Ministries and agencies: Ministry of Economy (coordinator); Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovations and Communications; Ministry of Mines and Energy; ABDI; SENAI; SEBRAE; BNDES; and EMBRAPII.

← 7. Additional information on FINEP Inovacred is available at the following website:

← 8. Additional information on SEBRAE’s PNEE is available at the following website:,0c54be061f736410VgnVCM2000003c74010aRCRD#0.

← 9. Additional information on SEBRAE’s Reference Centre for Entrepreneurship Education is available at the following website:

← 10. Data on access to finance by MEI users are provided by SEBRAE, based on a survey conducted by the Brazilian Central Bank in 2016.

← 11. Microcredit is probably an exception, as it has been reported by many organisations that women entrepreneurs are overrepresented in microfinance in Brazil. While this is positive, microcredit is not adequate for women entrepreneurs who would like to grow their business.

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