It’s time to collect

Researchers get ready to demand that the states pass on what is defined in law

Some seven years ago the Research Support Foundations (FAPs in the Portuguese acronym) were established in only ten Brazilian States. Today they are organized in twenty-two states. This network is beginning, although still with major differences among them, to consolidate its relationship with the Ministry of Science and Technology (MST) and is preparing to support regional scientific development.

Nevertheless, its major problem is that, in the majority of cases, the state governments do not comply with their constitutional obligations and do not pass on to the foundations the resources laid down by law. This is not the case with FAPESP, since the re-passing of 1% of the states tax income revenue is regularly transferred. In the other states, the scientific communities are now mobilizing themselves to guarantee budgets compatible with the requirements of research and the demands of companies for innovation.

For example, the Research Support Foundation of the State of Minas Gerais (Fapemig) is negotiating the conversion of a debt of some R$ 300 million into shares or participation in state government companies. This value corresponds to the accumulated difference of the percentage of 1% of the tax revenue of the state that has not been awarded since 1986 when the foundation was established.

Last year, from a budget forecast at R$ 91 million, Fapemig received only R$ 25 million. “New grants have been frozen, as well as project scholarships for researchers spontaneous demands that had already been approved. We only have money for daily costs material”, says José Geraldo Freitas Drumond, Fapemig’s president.

In Pernambuco, the scientific community is also beginning to draw up a request asking the Accounts Tribunal for a definite interpretation of the law that regulates the funds transfer by the state government to the Support for Science and Technology Foundation of the State of Pernambuco (Facepe).

In 1988, the state constitution established this value at 1% of the tax revenue, but the law enacted the following year excluded from the calculation the values relative to 25% of the Tax upon the Circulation of Merchandise and Services (ICMS), 50% of the Tax upon Motor Vehicle Owners (IPVA), as well as resources from conventions and pits own incomes, reducing the Facepe budget to a tenth of what it would have been. “We are living with the following situation: the law that regulated the re-passing is constitutional but it needs to be reformulated and the state has to re-pass on to Facepe what is due”, says Fernando Machado, Facepe’s director of Science, Technology and Innovation.

The mobilization of researchers
Throughout the country researchers linked to the FAPs are beginning to mobilize themselves in order to guarantee access to the resources constitutionally established and to consolidate a national system of science and technology in the country. “We need to strengthen the FAPs, which are responsible for the operation of this system”, says Francisco Romeu Landi, FAPESP’s director-president, and president of the FAPs Forum. As well as the effective re-passing of resources, underlines Landi, the main demand of the foundations is financial and administrative autonomy, and respect towards the mandate concerning their trustees and directors. “The substitution of these positions should not coincide with elections”, he explains.

The expectation is that the MST will intercede with all of the state governments to make them comply with the legal transfer of resources in such a manner as to overcome situations considered “dramatic” such as that of the Research Support Foundation of the State of Rio Grande do Sul (Fapergs). The Foundation, which should be able to count upon 1.5% of the state’s tax income something around R$ 94 million in current values, has never received more than 30% of that value.

“We’re presenting a proposal for the government to study, suggesting a fixed level for the outlays, even if it is inferior to the legal percentage”, says Carlos Nelson dos Reis, the Foundation’s scientific director. The strategy is to guarantee a budget of R$ 40 million, in such a manner as to be able to cover “some programs”, as Reis remarks. “But, up until the present moment, we haven’t had a reply.”

In order to secure a better flow of resources to the Carlos Chagas Filho Research Support Foundation of the State of Rio de Janeiro (Faperj) and to guarantee compliance with the law, at the end of last year Rio de Janeiro approved a constitutional amendment altering the transfer percentage of 2% which was never complied with to 1% of the tax revenue. This year, the Foundation hopes to have the greatest budget execution in its history: R$ 120 million.

The researchers are also mobilizing themselves to achieve better structuring of the foundations themselves. For example, in Ceará the transfer corresponding to 2% of the state’s gross revenue is complied with, “even allowing for some contingencies”, as the scientific director of the Ceará Research Support Foundation (Funcap) says. The problem is that these resources, which sum up to something in the range of R$ 27 million have, since 2001, had to be shared with 41 centers of formation in technology. “We’re striving to manage that all of the percentage is spent on research”, explains Souza, guaranteeing that this proposal is very well received within the state.

Pressure and dialogue
The directors of the Foundations that were consulted recognize that the state governments suffer from a lack of resources. “In Rio Grande do Sul, the government has had to delay the payment of salaries”, justifies the scientific director of Fapergs. “Research, nevertheless, must be the priority. In 2003, we received R$ 12 million and we had to cut everything. We only maintained the grants, events and assistance for congresses, we wanted to open tenders for other projects, but it wasn’t worth even trying.”

In Minas Gerais, the state government is operating with a deficit of R$ 1.7 billion, Drumond recognizes. “But we’re now in the second year of the government and it’s time to resolve the state’s financial situation”, he emphasizes. The scientific community, he says, “make pressure” and asks that 40% to 50% of the budget be complied with. “We’re worried about the counterpart of the state in the conventions signed with the MST, such as the Pronex, for example. The state must not stop complying with this obligation”, he observes.

For the president of the FAPs Forum, little by little the academic communities of various states are beginning to understand that “pressure and dialogue” will be necessary in order to increase the resources destined towards research. “Both academics and entrepreneurs have to become more aware, as in the end they’re the main people interested in innovation”, he says.

Federal Agencies
For a large number of the Foundations, the agreements with the Studies and Projects Financier (Finep) and the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) signed last year in the face of budgetary difficulties had the effect of an emergency solution. This was the case with Facepe. Here, the Finep agreement, signed in the area of the Program for Research Support in Companies (Pappe), will add on a further R$ 15 million to the budget over the next three years. Another program, the PPP, guarantees a furtherR$ 7 million, again for the next three years.

And a partnership between the state and the Inter American Development Bank (BID), for the program named Promata, for research support, technological development and diffusion in the Rainforest Zone, will bring a further R$ 8 million to guarantee the best use of goats and sheep production, and of family agriculture. “But, even then, the situation is complicated, since research over the counter is jeopardized, in spite of the good partnership projects”, stated Facepe’s director of Science, Technology and Innovation.

Also this year Faperj is striving to expand the agreements signed with the MST last year, in order to double the resources to be applied in programs such as the Support for Centers of Excellence (Pronex), the Support for the Infrastructure of Sciences, Technology and Innovation for Young Researchers (First Projects), the Proteomic Network and the Rio Innovation Program, launched in partnership with Finep. “The proposal is to obtain match-ups to the same value applied by Faperj”, affirmed Pedricto Rocha Filho, the Foundation’s director-president.

Besides complementing the budget with sums from the federal government, some FAPs are looking for new origins of resources. “We intend to look for partnerships with international institutions and with the cities in the interior of the state, explains Rocha Filho. In Pernambuco, the possibility of creating “regional sectorial funds” is being considered by bringing together companies that have business in the state in sectors such as, for example, sugar/alcohol or plaster, in order to finance research projects; according to what Facepe’s director revealed.

Strategic partnerships
In spite of the budgetary problems originating from the non-compliance to the legislation on the part of state governments, the representation of the FAPs in the country is growing significantly. When the Forum of the FAPs was established in 1997, there were no more than ten”, the president of FAPs Forum explains. Now, there only remains to organize foundations in the states of Roraima, Rondônia, Amapá and Espírito Santo. “It has been significant growth”, he recognizes. The new Foundations, such as that in Bahia for example, were born with considerable muscle.

In 2001, the law that established the Research Support Foundation of the State of Bahia (Fapesb) forecast that in the first year of operation the foundation would be able to count upon 0.6% of the state income. This percentage will grow gradually until it reaches 1% in 2007. “This year the forecast budget is some R$ 25.8 million”, says Alexandre Pauperio, Fapesb’s director general. He celebrated the fact that last year the state complied with total transfer of the due revenue.

The result, different from Rio Grande do Sul, is that research in Bahia “is going through major expansion”, as he says. For example, in 2004 the number of requests for grants tripled in relation to the previous year. The resources also allowed the Foundation to create more than three modes of support: research productivity, technical support and science and technology management in strategic projects.

Within the fourteen modes of support offered, the most sought after was that of scientific initiation, with 451 candidates disputing just 70 grants. “But this is still not enough”, underlines director general Pauperio. The agreements signed with the CNPq and the Finep have injected a further R$ 9 million into last year’s budget. This year the expectation is to widen the agreement in order to guarantee a greater volume of support from the federal agencies.

S&T indicators
As a consequence, the picture of the situation with the Foundations contains good and bad news. The first piece of good news is that over an eight-year period it was possible to create and implement a system of support for state research throughout almost all of the country and to stimulate regional investigation. The second is that in the expectation of seeing the model working and making advances in research, the researchers themselves have begun to mobilize in order to press their claim that the states must transfer the resources due to them.

Agreements with the MST, by way of the CNPq and Finep programs some of them with demands for equal matching of state financing, were also positive, mainly for the foundations of the Northeast states since they had promoted a gearing up of project developments mainly in the innovation area and in the formation doctorate degrees.

“The actions of cooperation between the MST and the states will allow for the consolidation of the state systems, making them a decisive element in establishing new FAPs and thus securing an increase in the transferred revenues”, is written in a document made out by the foundations of the Northeast that was delivered to the Minister of Science and Technology, Eduardo Campos. But for the effective operation of the system, they says that the minister must give priority to their regional projects and to strategic state projects.

Also, they are requesting the implementation of a single system integrated with information and science, technology and innovation indicators. “With this it would be possible to create a way of making comparisons on performance, shortages and as well the evolution of the work of the FAPs and their regional demands”, details Acácio Salvador Véras e Silva, president of the Research Support Foundation of the State of Piauí (Fapepi).

Therefore, for the president of the FAPs Forum a national system on innovation is urgently needed. “The current system is centralized, supported at the CNPq and the Finep. The resources need to be distributed in a better way, since it is the local operators who know the clientele”, he observed. “One needs to think on partnerships of groups of organized research, with groups of organizations. Instead of de-centralization we should be thinking on integration.”