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The future, in partnerships

A form of convergent work

Francisco Romeu Landi

FAPESP has commemorated its 40 years. In spite of having already been considered in the Constitution of 1947, when its Birth Certificate was written out by the Constitutional Assembly, it was only in 1962 when the then Governor Carvalho Pinto, by promulgating Decree Law No 40,132 on the 23rd of May, recognizing its adulthood, gave it the conditions to come into operation.

One needs to highlight the battle fought by the scientific community and the perception of various lucid politicians, capable of dreaming future promissory events. This partnership was the first step in making dreams reality. Thus we can say that this partnership was the beginning, the starting point for FAPESP and for many other partnerships that have come to be signed among various authors, especially over the last few years.

The idea of a partnership is an idea in ascension, whether it be because we possess a vastterritorial extension that demands forms of decentralization of the Science and Technology System without, nevertheless, losing the common point of view, or whether it be that this is a good route for the gearing together of emergent research groups with others more organized. Partnership is a path through which one works in a convergent manner, searching for common thought and constructing the future that is desired. Partnerships are coming forward, more and more, as a mature form of work that manages to administer projects of large dimensions that for the solitary researcher would find difficult if not impossible.

Nonetheless, all the forms of partnership must bear in mind – and must respect – the political, economic, social and cultural differences that a country such as ours possesses.Thepoliticians-researchers-university personnel partnership , similar to that which originated FAPESP, is the one responsible for the laws that create the organs of teaching and research. It is a pointed partnership, made not of a coming together of actions, but principally one of creation, of the realization of a dream. This partnership has an important aspect, as yet little explored, of bringing together the visions of specialists with the comprehensive concerns that the politicians bear. However, it cannot be contaminated neither by the exaggeration of a determined focal point, nor by the lack of human greatness that every statistician must possess.

More recently a new form of partnership has begun to be established, with the opening up of our economy and the need for an improvement in competitiveness:the entrepreneurs-researchers partnership . The need for products of better quality and price was an important stimulus so that the idea of innovation would leave the academic compendiums and take to the streets. This form of partnership almost always has a bias towards outsourcing. Gradually, nevertheless, one can perceive the structuring of an effective partnership, with the creation of their own laboratories in the companies and the designation of people capable of interfacing the relationships between universities and research centers. The various development agencies that already possess programs of incentive towards this form of partnership are growing. In FAPESP's case there are two such programs: Partnership for Technological Innovation (PITE), created in 1994, and Small Business Innovation Research (PIPE), established during 1997.

Some variations have also been structured. The ConSITec – Sectorial Consortiums for Technological Innovation is a FAPESP program to stimulate the creation of consortiums formed by the partnership of an entrepreneurial sector with one or more research institutions. In the end, we are dealing with anentrepreneurial sector and researchers partnership . As well, it is interesting to note a recent agreement signed between the Technological research Institute (IPT) and the Brazilian Association of Composite Plastic Materials (Asplar), with 110 associated companies, to incubate a research center – the Composite Technology Center (Cetecom) – which one day could turn itself independent.

Finally, in spite of being uncommon in Brazil, it is worth while referring to the existence ofpartnerships between companies in which a group of companies contract or participate in research that interests a group of companies as fundamental for developments that are more specific and different – or not – among themselves. One might here remember the Italian model of research with companies that associate themselves, in the form of a cluster, through which a group of companies of one region – sometimes more than one hundred – come together around a common product (for example in ceramics and in shoes). Each one is specialized in an activity, but the steering plan is approved in block by the banking system and for this reason produces the obligation of productive and innovative work in partnership.

Some years ago, FAPESP's Thematic Projects introduced an “interesting novelty”:the partnership of researchers with researchers , and in this way multidisciplinary projects were created. The novelty was deepened by the Genome-FAPESP Program, which stimulated and intensified the same partnership: it stopped being carried out only between some researchers to take place between dozens of laboratories and research centers, entering into a new dimension. With this program, introducing the novelty of a virtual network by using the Internet. In a similar manner, the Biota-FAPESP today brings together in a network more than four hundred doctorate researchers working with the same standards of classification, with the objective of obtaining the classification of the São Paulo biodiversity.

The Millennium Institutes broadened even more this vision, once there is the possibility of a partnership between researchers of different states, thepartnership between states . With this there is also the introduction of a partnership of greater importance, which is that of theemerging research groups with structured research groups . It is also true that the interstate relationship was already present in some previous research projects with various institutions. For example, this is the case of the Sugarcane Genome for the sequencing of expressive genes of the sugarcane plant, responsible for the plant's resistance and for its level of sucrose.

Within this project there was established, via the respective research foundations, a partnership between the States Pernambuco-São Paulo and Alagoas-São Paulo. In this case, we were dealing with ahorizontal partnership between states , because it was done in a manner independent from central government. It is worthwhile calling the attention to the fact that the horizontal partnership between the states can be done between states that have the same common regional problem or also between distant states and with different economical structures.

Curiously enough, a form of partnership that was tested only a few times, but is now beginning to be consolidated, is theUnion-states partnership . The Program of Technological Platforms created by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MCT) aims at the identification of regional problems such as the corresponding research coming from the Administration Chambers, with local and Federal presence. Thus theregional partnership has been born. One can note that it is also dealing with a process of decentralization, another interesting novelty in our culture. A more advanced example is that of the Ministry of Health, which decided to decentralize including the decisions of priorities, attributed to the FAPs – Research Support Foundations.

This ministry recently signed a agreement with the Research Foundations of the North and Northeast towards this end and intends to broadened it throughout the country. Through this agreements, the Secretaries of Health of these States and the respective FAPs have established priorities and the Ministry of Health the operational directives. This model is extremely interesting because it makes it possible for the local development agencies – the FAPs – who better understand the regional characteristics, their researchers, their laboratories, their problems, to make better decisions than a centralized and distant organ, away from the battle field.

Thepartnership between countries , which has always existed, in spite of being of an incipient form and with more force in one direction than another, is beginning to pass through changes thanks to the improvement in communications and the stronger Brazilian presence on the international scenario of science and technology. One can say that these two conditions have already opened up the pathways for an effectivepartnership between international institutions . In this sense one can highlight the Brazilian project for the sequencing of the bacterium that causes Pierce's disease, which attacks the Californian grapevines, which occurred at the request of the US Department of Agriculture and of the Californian Vine Growers Association.

The physical presence and the growing number of work proposals together with the development agencies and the universities, on the part of foreign countries, constitutes a confirmation of this tendency and a greater Brazilian presence on the world stage.