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In the right tone

To the sound of Villa-Lobos, FAPESP completes 40 years and wins a present that strengthens its capacity for financing research

EDUARDO CESARAbout a thousand people listened to the performance by the São Paulo Symphony OrchestraEDUARDO CESAR

On June 8th, FAPESP celebrated its 40th birthday in the São Paulo Hall of the Júlio Prestes Cultural Complex. It won an unexpected present from the federal government: an area with 550,000 square meters in the western region of the city of São Paulo, currently occupied by the Company of Marts and General Warehouses of the State of São Paulo (Ceagesp). “Maybe the time has come for the federal government to give FAPESP even more stability”, said President Fernando Henrique Cardoso at the end of the ceremony, announcing the decision to transfer to the Foundation the area that was handed over to the National Treasury by the government of São Paulo, while Mário Covas was in office, with the purpose of repaying state debt.

The original idea, claimed the president, was to transfer this asset to the University of São Paulo (USP), whose campus is located in front of Ceagesp, on the other side of the Pinheiros river. “Today, my proposal is for this asset to reach the university via FAPESP”, the president explained. A working party has already been created, made up of representatives of the two institutions, and under the coordination of the Ministry of Planning, to consummate the transfer of the area. “This can result in very large funding for FAPESP”, the president foresaw. The value of the land is difficult to calculate, by virtue of its ample possibilities for use.

With the transfer settled, FAPESP will carry out a study to identify the best way of making good use of the area, since, because of its strategic location, it is going to call for “a complex urban operation” in the assessment of José Fernando Perez, the Foundation’s scientific director. “It has to be an innovative enterprise, from the technological point of view, to add value to the asset and, at the same time, to recover the region”, Perez explains. The expectation is to have a project consolidated by the end of 2003, when the transfer of Ceagesp to an area close to the Mário Covas Ring Road is scheduled.

Bold challenges
At the celebration, the more than one thousand guests watched to a presentation by the Symphonic Orchestra of São Paulo, which, conducted by maestro Roberto Minczuk, performed the National Anthem, Bachianas Brasileiras nº 4, and at the insistence of the audience, the Trenzinho Caipira (Country Train), from Bachianas no. 2, by Heitor Villa-Lobos. Founded in 1953, the orchestra is of an international quality and is an important asset of the state. Present at the ceremony, besides the President of the Republic, were the First Lady, Ruth Cardoso, Governor Geraldo Alckmin and the First Lady of the State, Maria Lúcia Alckmin, Ministers of Science and Technology Ronaldo Sardenberg, and of Education, Paulo Renato de Souza, the President of the Legislative Assembly, Walter Feldman, the Secretary for Science, Technology, Economic Development and Tourism, Ruy Altenfelder Silva, as well as deputies, businessmen, scientists and representatives of the academic community.

The Foundation’s scientific director, José Fernando Perez, commemorated the gift. “It is a creative and innovative manner to finance research and technological development, very compatible with FAPESP’s way of working”  he said. He recalled that article 3 of Law 5918, which created the Foundation, provided for the institution to build up a profitable capital. He emphasized that the present comes at a “more than appropriate” moment, in that it is the Foundation’s intention to “support more and more bold ventures” which requires greater capacity for financing. The partnership with USP, which now receives 45% of the Foundation’s investments, he warrants, is automatic. “The initiative for integrating the academic community may become feasible at the same time that the Foundation is building up assets that provide a yield”, he argued.

Illustrious grant holder
During the commemorations, FAPESP’s president and the current rector of the State University of Campinas (Unicamp), Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, retrieved the history of the Foundation since 1947, when a group of researchers presented the Legislative Assembly with a proposal for its creation. In the first year, he recalled, FAPESP gave a grant to the then Professor Fernando Henrique, from USP, for the conclusion of the research published in his book Os Empresários Industriais e o Desenvolvimento Econômico do Brasil [Industrial Businessmen and Economic Development in Brazil]. “A few months later, he asked for the grant to be topped up because of inflation”, he joked.

In his speech, Perez emphasized the modern character of the Foundation and its capacity for reconciling traditional ways of working and, at the same time, inducing the advancement of strategic research and stimulating the country’s system for innovation.At ease amongst his peers, President Fernando Henrique spoke off the cuff. He called attention to the fact that the Brazilian research support institutions, like FAPESP – conceived in the 40s, but actually created in the 60s -, and the fifty-year-old institutions like the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) and the Coordination for the Perfection of Higher Level Personnel (Capes), are contemporaries of the National Science Foundation (NSF), of the United States, and France’s National Council for Scientific Research.

“It is not just now that we are in the lead. 60 years ago, we were trying hard to create a favorable environment for scientific and technological development”, he explained. He stressed Brazil’s capacity for institutionalizing science, and stated that technology and the dissemination of new knowledge will make it possible for society in Brazil to guarantee a better quality of life and to reduce the levels of inequality.