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A vocation for research

São Paulo laboratories reach the levels of the best in the world

In 1994, when FAPESP implanted the Infrastructure Program, it broke with a tradition: that a development agency must finance exclusively scholarships and research assistance, but not the renovation and modernization of laboratories, that is to say, infrastructure. The results of the program have demonstrated that FAPESP’s judgment had been correct. Right from the beginning of the Infra program FAPESP set aside a total of R$ 505,215,402.68 for the financing of 4,474 projects for the modernization of the infrastructure presented by various research areas in State and Federal universities, and State, Federal and Municipal institutes all located within the State of São Paulo.

In 1995, during the first phase, the Infra I financed 849 projects, divided into two modules, one of general infrastructure and the other of vivariums units. In 1996, during Infra II, 1,261 projects were approved, this time in five modules: special multi-purpose equipment, local information technology networks, libraries infrastructure, FAP-Livros (Books) – destined for the purchase of a large quantity of library books – and general infrastructure. In 1997, during Infra III, the FAP-Books module was excluded – which became autonomous – and 1,044 projects were approved and set into the four remaining modules.

In 1998, during Infra IV, the module of the financing of multi-purpose equipment was incorporated into the permanent development channels of FAPESP, being therefore excluded from the program, and two new modules were added to support museums and archives. During that year, 1,053 projects were approved. A new phase of FAP-Books was also carried out, there being approved 191 projects. Infra V, launched during 1999, was divided into two very large modules: one for the treatment of laboratory chemical waste and the other for information centers, including libraries, museums and archives. During this phase, 76 projects were approved and 86 found themselves under analysis. The investments have already totaled R$ 8,125,698.06.

Since last year, the magazine Pesquisa FAPESP has been periodically publishing a series of special supplements with reports on the diverse areas of benefited research. The first Special Supplement, published together with issue 63 of the magazine Pesquisa FAPESP , presented the results of the investments of the Infrastructure Program in revitalizing libraries, museums and archives. The second Special Supplement that accompanied edition No 64 of the magazine, demonstrated the investments and the impact of the implantation of the information technology networks on São Paulo scientific production.

The third Special Supplement, which circulated with edition No 66 of the magazine, brought reports about the results of the support of the program on the laboratories in the areas of Agrarian and Veterinary Sciences, Biology and Health. In this supplement the focus of attention is drawn to the areas of Physics, Chemistry and Engineering Laboratories as well as the area of Human Sciences.

In tables 3, 4 and 5 the financial resources handed out for the research laboratories are presented. Besides computing the program resources into the module of general infrastructure support, data and the values of the investments of the multipurpose equipment module were also incorporated, since they had been destined to these very same research laboratories, and data and values of the module for the treatment of chemical waste, yet another phase in the modernization of the laboratories.

In all, for these three modules, the program destined some R$ 329.5 million for the support of 2,751 projects of reform and modernization of the laboratories of the universities and research institutes located in the State of São Paulo, throughout all of the areas of knowledge.

Engineering, Physics and Chemistry

In the areas of Engineering, Physics and Chemistry, the total invested resources exceeded R$ 124 million. Besides the University of São Paulo (USP), the State University of Campinas (Unicamp), the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar) and the São Paulo State University (Unesp), benefits were distributed through the Infrastructure Program to State and Federal Research Institutes such as the Technological Research Institute (IPT), of the State Secretary of Science, Technology and Economic Development, the Energy and Nuclear Research Institute (Ipen) and the National Laboratory of Synchronized Light (LNLS) of the Ministry of Science and Technology (MCT). In the area of Human Sciences, 168 projects benefited with a total of resources in the order of R$ 16.7 million.

In a similar manner to what had happened to the laboratories in the areas of Agrarian Sciences, Biology and Health, the laboratories in the areas of Engineering, Physics Chemistry and Human Sciences, had also deteriorated badly before the Infrastructure Program was brought into existence. During more than two decades, the working conditions in the laboratories of the public São Paulo universities and institutes had been presenting serious limitations to the researchers’ work. Equipment was lacking as well as adequate installations. There was an excess of cracks, leaks and even termites.

For example, in the Nuclear Physics Laboratory of USP in São Paulo, a 40-meter high tower which houses the Pelletron accelerator, built some 30 years previously, ran the risk of cracking . At Unicamp, the four departments of the Gleb Wataghin Physics Institute, suffered from constant interruptions in the electrical energy supply. FAPESP’s Infrastructure Program, during its diverse phases, destined some R$ 32.1 million to support renovation proposals in 235 projects in the area of Physics. A good part of these resources were used in the substitution of the electrical and hydraulic networks and the cooling system, regulating energy supply to the research demand and allowing for the installation of modern equipment.

In the chemistry laboratories the situation was no different. Resources to the order of R$ 37.8 million from the Infrastructure Program aimed at 262 projects, were fundamental so that the laboratories could operate in greater safety. Today, they are equipped to develop state of the art research with refractory ovens, nanosensors, synthesis of pheromones or biosensors, if only to cite a few examples.

The traditional São Paulo schools and institutes of engineering also had their research activities jeopardized due the very poor quality of their installations. One of the major problems was the lack of space and the frequent oscillation of the electrical energy, which ended up burning out computer boards and filaments, and causing considerable losses. The Infrastructure Program approved the proposals for the reform of 544 projects, and destined R$ 54.2 millions to the financing of the modernization of the installations and equipment.

This supplement, which is circulating together with issue 72 of the magazine Pesquisa FAPESP , brings reports from Silvia Mendes, Maria Aparecida Medeiros and Marcelo Tamada. The editing of this supplement is by Claudia Izique, and the layout and arts by Luciana Facchini.