On September 14, FAPESP announced the ten projects that were classified as part of the Research, Innovation and Diffusion Centers Program or in the Portuguese acronym – the Cepids Program. The new centers will receive annual funding of about R$ 15 million for the purpose of developing multidiscipline research on the cutting edge of knowledge. This research will be of an innovative nature and generate know-how which can be transferred to various levels of government as support for public policies and to the private sector where it will contribute to the development of new technologies and for the incorporation of new companies. The Cepids will also be required to promote educational activities.
At the ceremony announcing the projects, Governor Mário Covas and the secretaries of State for Health, José da Silva Guedes, for Labor, Walter Barelli, and for Science, Technology and Economic Development, José Aníbal, and interim president of FAPESP, Paulo Eduardo de Abreu Machado. Rectors, councilors and directors of FAPESP, representatives of the universities and research institutes, and the coordinators and research teams of the ten selected Cepids filled the Foundation’s auditorium. In his speech, Mário Covas described the research workers as the “pioneers of knowledge” and, “in the name of the people of São Paulo”, thanked them for their work. “Today, economic and social development will only be possible based on science and technology”, he stated.
The Cepid Program, which was inspired by the US model adopted in 20 National Science Foundation Science and Technology Centers, establishes a new paradigm for scientific research, in the words of José Fernando Perez, scientific director of FAPESP. “The greatest challenge for scientific and technological policy, and the challenge of the Centers, is to propose an integrated vision of research activity with the transfer of the know-how to both the public and private sectors as well as the educational area”. The ten Cepids, that cover various areas of research, have the task of developing partnerships with organizations responsible for the implementation of public policies and also with business as well as stimulating the formation of small businesses that will incorporate the results of the research. “All the centers either already have a relationship with business or a clear potential for this. Business is a necessary partner but does not have the tradition of investing in research”, said Perez.
Besides the classic programs for graduation and post-graduation, the centers will also be responsible for developing activities in the area of basic education such as courses and training for high school students and teachers. “In all the centers, education already has an innovative character .”
The Cepids, said Perez, bring together the three main guidelines of FAPESP: multidiscipline research, represented by thematic projects – with 270 already up and running; the transfer of know-how through the program for Public Policies with 60 projects in progress and two that involve technological innovation – Technological Innovation in Small Companies, with 120 projects, and the Partnership for Technological Innovation with 50 projects. And finally there are the educational programs, such as the Public Teaching and Pro-Science.
FAPESP will support the activities of the centers for a maximum period of 11 years. “This is the first credit line for the funding of long term research”, Perez pointed out. The contracts may be renewed in the fifth and the eighth year of the program and always for a further three-year period. “After that, either the centers will have fulfilled their mission or will be able to operate by themselves”, he declared, mentioning as an example the Biotechnology Center that became a department of the University of Washington in Seattle, USA.
The activities of the centers will be monitored by a permanent outside committee which must be consulted on any decision taken by the centers’ teams. Evaluation reports will be annual, with the report at the end of the third and sixth years being of a far reaching nature and critical to the continuation of the funding.
All the centers are linked to a research institute which acts as counterpart. The latter will have the responsibility for payment of salaries to research workers and support personnel, will allow the use of its installations, equipment and the research development infrastructure.
The announcement for the selection of the Cepids was published in 1998 and ended up becoming a challenge for the scientific community of São Paulo. The dispute for grants was intense: 112 preliminary projects were submitted, and were evaluated according to the three paradigms of the program: research, innovation and diffusion. “It was the most intensely sought-after program in the history of science in the country”, guarantees Perez. Of all the proposals, 30 projects were selected as semifinalists. All were submitted to a selection board of 150 international consultants, specialists in various areas of research. This stage in the selection process narrowed the list down to the ten projects chosen as finalists. A still more detailed examination of the latter was made which included an analysis covering everything from the leadership capacity of the project coordinators to on-site visits. “We had planned to select five or six proposals, but given the excellence of the projects and the enthusiasm of the evaluators, we were forced to increase the numbers”, Perez revealed. The 20 projects which were not selected all rose, in some way, to the proposed challenge “ So much so, that FAPESP is offering the possibility of these projects being resubmitted in the form of thematic projects which will carry the advantage of having the blessing of the specialists.”
“The Cepids are proof of the excellence of the public university ”, said Jacques Markovitch, rector of the University of São Paulo and president of the Council for the Rectors of the State of São Paulo. “Research and human resources are the basis for any government effort in scientific progress”, he concluded.
Research and the market
In his speech, Secretary José Aníbal emphasized the importance of the integration between scientific research and technological innovation to achieve economic development. “In the new economy, products which are not innovative cannot compete in the market”, he said. He added that the State of São Paulo government in partnership with Sebrae, is setting up a guarantee fund to support productive sectors, among which those that invest in technological innovation. “The fund will guarantee up to 80% of the bank credit loans drawn upon by the companies. The resources will come from the National Development Bank (BNDES) and will be fronted by Nossa Caixa Nosso Banco (the São Paulo State Bank)”, he said.
The ten approved projects
• Center for Sleep Studies
• Center for Structural Molecular Biology
• Center for Applied Toxicology
• Multidiscipline Center for the Development of Ceramic Materials
• Center for Metropolitan Studies
• Center for Studies of Violence
• Center for Research into Optics and Photonics
• Center Antônio Prudente for Research and Treatment of Cancer
• Center for Research of Cellular Therapy
• Center for the Studies of the Human Genome