this paper explores the notion of competences to innovate taking a productive chain perspective. this notion has been applied to study innovation in a very large perspective as in the case of french industrial studies or in a sectoral perspective. the originality of this paper is to deal with the concept of competences to innovate looking not only at a singular economic segment, but examining the interrelation that exists between actors that are in the same productive chain. in this way, it tries to contribute to the understanding of innovative capacity looking at the firm's internal attributes and extending those attributes to analyze the way innovation occurs in a productive chain. this paper analyses the innovation capability of the plastic productive chain studying the plastic packaging and the petrochemical in brazil.