On January 4, at the Palácio dos Bandeirantes, (Headquarters of the government of the State of São Paulo) FAPESP launched the Sector Consortia for Technological Innovation (ConSITec) in order to expand interaction between the research community in the State of São Paulo and the business sector. The program will bring together, in consortia, for a minimum period of three years, FAPESP researchers associated with universities and research institutes and groups of at least three companies, with common technological interests. “The consortium is a demand of the community and is intended to encourage the association of research groups with business groups”, said José Fernando Perez, FAPESP’s scientific director. It is expected that these associations will bring together companies from a given sector or service companies, and they may include federal agencies. The proposal instructions allows the Foundation to support a single consortium in each technology sector.
FAPESP and the companies involved in the project will share the cost of the basic structure of the consortium, such as, for example, setting up and modernizing the laboratories focusing in technological research. The Foundation may also finance, separately, technological research projects submitted individually by members of the groups in the consortia.
The Foundation’s participation in financing the infrastructure of the consortium will not be more than 50% of the planned investment and will be limited to R$ 200,000 a year for the first three years. The purpose of this support is to supplement the money put up by the companies and enable the consortium to manage its research program in partnership with other sponsors. The total amount of FAPESP money allocated to infrastructure support will be around R$ 3 million, and this may rise to R$ 10 million when added to the money for financing research, estimates Perez.
The groups of companies must, in turn, invest a minimum of R$ 50,000 a year in the consortium, in the form of association fees, in order to constitute a support fund for the projects. The minimum contribution for associations formed by small companies may be reviewed. In this case, the disproportion of FAPESP’s contribution will be compensated throughout the first three years of the contract.
The activities of the consortia will be appraised for quality and the results of the research produced. Each of the projects submitted individually will be monitored by FAPESP’s scientific advisors or by development agencies that finance individual projects undertaken within the scope of the consortium. “One of the criteria for measuring the success of each consortium will be its ability to generate research”, warns Perez.
The initial financing may be extended for a further three years, but, in this case, FAPESP’s contribution to the consortium will be capped to R$ 100,000 a year. It is expected that, by the end of the sixth year, the consortium will have become self-sufficient. In exceptional circumstances, this period may be extended still further.
Research groups from one or more research institutes, willing to participate in sharing the cost of the consortium will be able to take part in the ConSITec Program, as well as groups of companies that commit themselves to collect the association fee stipulated in the proposal instructions. Proposals submitted to FAPESP must include information on the technical focus of the consortium, the reason for forming it, the history of the team’s accomplishments , a description of the installations, among other things, in addition to a commitment to delay publication until a patent application is filed and the intellectual property policy with regard to both non-exclusive licenses exempt from royalties and exclusive licenses with royalties is established.
The proposals will be evaluated by the criteria FAPESP normally uses: business relevance, definition of a research program, the degree of interaction between the research and the company, tuning with the goals of the ConSITec, and the degree of commitment by the research institutions to the consortium. The assessment of each of the projects will be announced six months after receiving it. This partnership model, bringing scientific research closer to companies, was praised in an editorial in the Folha de S. Paulo, in January 8, 2001, under the title of “Network Economy”.
The ConSITec program is backed by the success of the Technological Innovation in Small Companies (PIPE) and of the Partnership for Technological Innovation (PITE) programs. The PIPE, launched in 1997, finances research into the innovation of products with the potential to bring in economic return in small companies. A hundred and thirty-three projects are already underway and another 94 proposals are being examined. The PITE has been using a fund since 1995 to finance research projects ordered by a single company. Fifty projects have already been approved in various fields.