This paper examines empirical evidence of the technological capabilities of firms in the industrial pole of Manaus, in a developing area of northern Brazil. It also investigates the links these firms have with supporting organizations of the innovation system such as universities, research institutes or business incubators. Firms capabilities are classified by type and level of development, and we also identify the nature of the links between them and the supporting organizations. The paper draws on a sample of 75 organizations from Manaus: 46 firms (in two sectors: electro-electronics and motorcycle and bicycle industries, and their major suppliers) and 29 research-oriented support organizations. The evidence was collected through extensive fieldwork at both the industry- and firm-level as well as from first-hand accounts. From the study we find that all the sampled firms have progressed beyond basic operational capabilities. At the time of the fieldwork, several firms possessed a high level of innovative capabilities in diverse technological functions. Many of these firms possessed a high level of innovative capabilities in diverse technological functions. Many of these firms have actively established a variety of informal, human resource-based and even research-based links with innovation supporting organizations. These findings oppose prevailing generalizations and assumptions that, as a consequence of globalization and outward-looking industrialization regimes, firms in southern Latin American economies lack technological capabilities. Furthermore our evidence does not support the view that there is a prevailing weakness in the innovation system in this region. Although this study does not explicitly examine technological development over time, we believe it offers an alternative (and more optimistic) view of the industrial reality in this developing area of Brazil. This view, which differs from existing conventional (and myopic) standpoints, could potentially support the design of more realistic industrial strategies.