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Ministry of Science and Technology to increase grants in strategic areas

ctmsp releaseUranium ultracentrifuges produce fuel for Angra I and IIctmsp release

The minister of Science and Technology, Sérgio Rezende, will present to the National Council on Science and Technology, in May, the work plan of his ministry for the 2007-2010 period. “For the first time in the history of the Ministry of Science and Technology (MST) we produced a four-year plan. This is unprecedented, largely because of the uncertainty surrounding the availability of funds and lack of administrative continuity”, explains the minister. “Now the plans for spending the National Scientific and Technical Development Fund (NSTDF) are being executed”. In 2007, the Fund’s budget should equal 70% of the sector funds revenue, which totals R$1.4 billion, “and  no arguments with the economic area”, he stresses. Next year, this percentage will rise to 80%. “By 2010, we will get 100% of the funds’ resources. Estimating growth of 4% a year, one can say that between 2007 and 2010 we will have R$7.8 billion in the NSTDF.”

The plan is still in its final stages, but it is believed that it will have four strategic units: System Expansion and Consolidation; Technological Innovation in Firms; Research and Development in Strategic Areas; and Popularization of Science and Technology. “For each one of these strategic units we will have major lines of action”, he explains.

For the expansion of the National Science and Technology System the plan foresees regulation of the NSTDF through a bill submitted to Congress on April 24. “Part of the sector funds’ resources will be separated from their source to be used more broadly”, the minister informs.

The number of grants offered by development agencies will also rise from the current 65 thousand to 90 thousand by 2010. “We want to increase the share of technological areas and strategic sectors, prioritizing fields such as microelectronics, nuclear energy and agribusiness, among others.”

Issues connected with  climate and climate changes head the list of MST priorities. “We have already launched a network for research into climate change. We want to do this together with FAPESP because this network will be based in the National Institute for Space Research (INPE – Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais), which is in São Paulo. We are discussing the establishment of a Center for Research into Climate Change at INPE. Its task would be to coordinate a network of universities to train human resources in this field.”This network would be expected to focus on the following themes: Earth System Science, Energy and Coastal Zones, Biodiversity, Health, Public Policies, the Amazon Region, Cities, Water Resources, International Negotiations and Clean Development Mechanisms”, details the minister. Each theme will be coordinated by one research institution.

Biofuels are part of R&D in strategic areas. “We already have a research network in the biodiesel area and soon we will announce another in the ethanol field. We are discussing with FAPESP the creation of a benchmark reference center that would be both the core and coordinating element of this network. It will be a small center, with only a few people and some research. We will enter into some agreements with FAPESP, of which the most important ones will concern biofuel, ethanol and the climate change field.”

Still concerning the strategic areas, the Ministry of Science and Technology is expected to reactivate the Brazilian nuclear program. The intent, states the minister, is to strengthen the National Nuclear Energy Commission (CNEN – Comissão Nacional de Energia Nuclear) institutionally, replenishing its staff; to complete the first phase of the Brazilian Nuclear Industry’s Uranium Enrichment Plant in Resende; and to resume prospecting for uranium, among other measures. “We also plan to implement a national policy for radioactive waste, by creating the Brazilian Waste Management Company, building permanent storehouses for low and medium activity waste and building the prototype of the final storehouse for fuel used in nuclear reactors.”