Brazil offers millions in loans to firms that innovate

Brasilia, Mar 15 (EFE).- The Brazilian government announced it will offer 32.9 billion reais ($16.5 billion) in loans over the next two years to companies using technological innovation to improve their competitiveness.

"I believe that (the Brazilian economy) will grow in proportion to the measures we adopt in search of greater competitiveness," President Dilma Rousseff said during an event held at the Planalto presidential palace to present the Company Innovation Plan.

Details of the plan were explained by Science and Technology Minister Marco Antonio Raupp, whose office will be responsible for evaluating the projects under consideration.

Raupp said the government loans will benefit above all companies in the industrial, agricultural and service sectors, and that they will be provided by the BNDES state development bank and the Savings and Loan Bank for Studies and Projects, or Finep.

The 12-year loans will go exclusively to projects of technological innovation and modernization, with annual interest rates of between 2.5 percent and 5 percent.

The minister said the government is considering another 3.5 billion reais ($1.8 billion) for similar projects in the area of telecommunications, though this will depend on talks currently underway with companies of the sector.