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The importance of the autonomy of knowledge in moments of crisis

by Marcos Resende, Business Director, Atech

There is no doubt that the crisis caused by the new coronavirus pandemic has a lot to teach us. After all, it seems that it is during occasions of great difficulties when we face the most reflective moments that made us pay attention to issues that involve not only our daily life, our private universe, but also with open a broader vision of our surrounding world. It may seem quite obvious to say how much the collective impacts our lives, but with the new coronavirus we really noticed that, how it affects us in different spheres.

It is also usual to take our memories to past events and try to establish parallels between the current crisis and other critical moments, such as war or times of acute lack of a resource.

Currently, the main difficulties faced have been the shortage of resources in different sectors. Just like what happens in situations of war, it has been noticed the shortage of professionals in the health sector to support the daily activities, as well as the insufficiency of individual protection materials to those who are working in the frontline, and the absence of medical equipment.

A case that has gained notoriety in the Brazilian news was the one of artificial ventilators acquired by several states and were retained overseas. According to information published by the news vehicles, the company that sold the products to Brazil canceled the purchase without a clear reason, and those ended up being used in the fight against coronavirus in another country, which accepted to pay a higher value to the company that sold the equipment. This caused an unimagined repercussion in society and in the relations between the involved countries.

Due to this, there is a question that certainly went through the minds of many Brazilians: why is our country so dependent on technology input from overseas?

In situations like the one that happened with Brazil is when we realize the importance of knowledge and of production techniques for the development of some specific resources required to face the pandemic, or any other occurrence that restricts the country to a situation of unpredictable event.

If even for some countries with better autonomy of knowledge, the situation is not so favorable, imagine for those almost totally dependent on imported technological goods. Those are being compelled to develop or create alternative manners of fulfil this need and look for alternatives of local production at any cost, or will risk losing lives during the most severe moments.

However, the development of knowledge and critical technology for a nation is, in general, difficult and slow, and it involves issues of generation, transfer, absorption/adaptation, and use. In order for this to be put into action, a strategic vision shall be consolidated previously, during the moments of quiet and prosperity.

The strategic vision of the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) on the consolidation of critical knowledge for the operation of the air traffic and air defense management systems is a good example of the development of a specific technological autonomy for the country. Since the 1990s, this organization has been widely investing in this segment. First resulting in the development of the X-4000 air traffic control (ATC) system, which allowed the initial step for the technological independence and the consolidation of this knowledge in the country. Then, by 2011, a completely new world class SAGITARIO ATC System became operational. Both generations of theses ATC systems were developed by Atech, a national company that belongs to Embraer Group. Prior to X-4000 and SAGITARIO, the ATC system used by FAB was an imported “black-box”. As a consequence, each update or even smaller maintenance activities demanded foreigner technicians and equipment in a complete dependency on the knowledge of the country that owned that solution. SAGITARIO brought complete autonomy, modernity, flexibility and better use of the Brazilian professionals for the management of national airspace, in addition to the benefits directly related to our economy, becoming an export product.

Although the first air traffic systems used in Brazil were imported, Brazilian Air Force planned and started its independence journey many years before 2011, reinforcing the real value of the investment in training, development and maintenance of its own technologies. This project would not have been born without a strategic vision, planning and implementation policies to promote national qualification that developed a local strong defense industry.

In a globalization context, the link between knowledge, power, development and technology is responsible for the establishment of economic differences and commercial positions. Development countries like Brazil, which aim to be less dependent, shall concentrate in the establishment of strategies that elevate their technological autonomy, investing in its own solutions for specific problems, essentially the ones that have a close relation with key sectors of the local economy, as well as make effective and continuous efforts in research and innovation programs, incentives to national development, maintenance of critical knowledge, development of the industry and generation of jobs.

 

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