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Ongoing investment

2015 FAPESP Annual Activity Report highlights establishment of applied research centers and an increase in the number of scholarships abroad

Relatório_Graf 1In 2015, FAPESP invested R$1,188,693,702 in science and technology research in the state of São Paulo. Despite the drop in state tax revenue and, consequently, in the volume of funds transferred funds to the Foundation as established by the state constitution, research investments were 3.1% higher than in 2014, in nominal terms. The data are part of the 2015 Annual Activity Report, scheduled to be released at FAPESP headquarters September 14, 2016 together with an exhibit of works by artist Paulo Pasta that illustrate the document and this article.  The full set of annual activity reports dating back to FAPESP’s 1962 founding are available at

The Foundation’s 2015 revenue was R$1,350,088,934. Of this total, 77.4%, or R$1,045,335,370, were passed on by the state treasury in a transfer equivalent to 1% of São Paulo state tax receipts. The remaining 5.5% (R$73,996,678) came from the Foundation’s financial resources and 17.1% (R$230,756,885) refer to other sources of funding such as that obtained from agreements with institutions for joint funding of research studies in which FAPESP oversees the disbursement.

One new feature of the 2015 Annual Activity Report is the chapter that describes the São Paulo system of science and technology, composed of 62 entities whose mission targets research activities. It includes universities, private institutions of higher education, public and private research institutes and 14,787 companies that engage in innovative activities.  In 2015, the state had 74,000 researchers and accounted for the publication of 21,783 scientific papers. A total of R$27.5 billion was invested in research and development in the state during the year.  The companies were responsible for 57.2% of this sum, while 22.7% came from the state government, 17.7% from the federal government and 2.4% from private institutions of higher education (see table).

Of the total funds invested by FAPESP, 52% were directed to Application-Driven Research, 40% to Advancing Knowledge and    8% to Research Infrastructure in the state. “Activities devoted to applications are dominant; this includes an especially intensive portfolio in Health, Agriculture and Engineering,” wrote FAPESP President José Goldemberg, and Vice President Eduardo Moacyr Krieger. The Foundation funds various categories of applied research such as that which stimulates innovation in small businesses and the partnership between business and universities to jointly generate knowledge and new technology as well as studies that contribute to the formulation of public policy.  Also included here are research programs that target specific topics such as bioenergy, global climate change, biodiversity and applied science such as that in huge databases.

One highlight of 2015 was the establishment of three Centers for Collaborative Applied Research, involving sizeable partnerships among businesses and universities or research institutes, each with a contract of up to 10 years to develop advanced research activities.  Every R$1 invested by FAPESP mobilizes an additional R$1 from the company and R$2 from the university or research institute.  The pharmaceutical multinational GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is a partner in two of these new centers.  Investments on the order of R$88.4 million will made, R$34.6 million of which be shared equally between FAPESP and GSK. An additional R$53.7 million will be invested by the institutions that host the centers. “Our objective in the future is to release a product proudly discovered in Brazil,” said GSK President Cesar Rengifo in a November 2015 interview with Agência FAPESP.

Relatório_Graf 2Sustainable chemistry
One of the centers, which targets sustainable chemistry, is headquartered at the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar) and seeks to discover pharmaceutical inputs and develop their sustainable production.  Another goal is to find sustainable solvents, reagents and raw materials, since over a third of carbon emissions from the GSK supply chain is attributed to these materials.  The second center, designed to identify molecular targets that enable the development of drugs to treat inflammatory diseases is based at the Butantan Institute.

The third center, for research and innovation in natural gas, is a partnership involving the British Gas Group (BG)-Shell with the São Paulo Polytechnic School (Poli) and Institute of Energy and Environment (IEE), both at the University of São Paulo (USP), in addition to the Nuclear and Energy Research Institute (IPEN). The center was conceived as a place to develop research on the applications and uses of natural gas, seeking to intensify its presence in the São Paulo and Brazilian energy grid, thus contributing to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.  “Our lines of research will aim at transportation and the use of natural gas, in addition to prospecting new inputs from it,” says Julio Meneghini, a professor at Poli-USP and center coordinator. The model for these centers, which receive long-term funding and address cutting-edge topics, has been adopted in initiatives with other companies such as automobile manufacturer Peugeot Citröen and the cosmetics company Natura.

The year 2015 also saw significant growth in support to the Innovative Research in Small Business Program (PIPE).  Every week, three research projects at small technology-based companies were approved in the state.  In all, 159 projects were contracted along with 77 associated scholarships, for a total of 236 contracts – a sum that totaled 182 in the previous year.  Counting the projects that were underway in 2015, 271 small and medium-sized business in 50 cities have been supported by the program.  The São Paulo capital city is home to 30% of these businesses.  The rest are in places such as Campinas (16%), São Carlos (15%), São José dos Campos (7%), Ribeirão Preto (6.5%), and Piracicaba (4%). PIPE sought to respond to specific demands for technology development in the state.  One 2015 example was a call for projects issued by FAPESP and the Brazilian Innovation Agency (FINEP) to select qualified companies to develop parts, process and services for Sirius, Brazil’s new synchrotron light source (see Pesquisa FAPESP Issue nº 234).

FAPESP has established and maintained a group of programs intended to support more audacious research studies that are competitive at the international level such as the Research, Innovation and Dissemination Centers (RIDCs), Thematic Projects, the Young Investigators at Emerging Centers Grants (JP), the São Paulo Excellence Chairs (SPEC) and the Centers for Collaborative Research. The 2015 investment for the latter was R$391.3 million.  The sum includes expenditures on multi-user equipment, scholarships and grants associated with projects under these programs, a new item that appears for the first time in the 2015 report.

With regard to research grants for thematic projects that can have a duration of up to five years and frequently involve teams with several researchers, FAPESP invested R$152.9 million in the projects and nearly R$100 million on items associated with these projects: R$62.6 million on scholarships in Brazil, R$14.1 million on scholarships abroad and R$20.8 million on other grants.  In total, the 482 ongoing thematic projects received R$250.6 million.  In 2015, 82 new thematic projects were contracted. There are also projects associated with SPEC, funding that brings high level scientists from other countries to Brazil to head up projects at state institutions. In 2015, eight projects received a total of R$6.2 million.  The 17 RIDCs received R$66.1 million.  The goal of these centers, which receive funding for up to 11 years, is to generate world-class international multidisciplinary research in cutting-edge science.

Relatório_Graf 3The 326 researchers who benefit from the Young Investigators program received R$67.4 million. That program looks to attract young promising PhDs to settle in the state of São Paulo, to promote the establishment of laboratories and research centers that still lack a tradition of scientific research, or to implement new lines of study at established institutions. Health, biology, physics and engineering were the principal fields of research focus.  The program also seeks to attract highly qualified young foreign scientists, with international experience, who would work in cutting-edge research that is not yet covered by researchers in the state.  Nine ongoing projects in 2015 are being conducted by foreign researchers.

Some fields of knowledge in which the researcher community is more dense and numerous traditionally receive a larger number of projects, as is the case for health, which received 27.9% of the total investment, followed by biology at 14.9%, the human and social sciences at 10.3%, engineering at 8.6%, agronomy and veterinary sciences at 7.8%, chemistry at 5%, physics at 4.9% and astronomy at 3.1%.  In 2015, for the first time, interdisciplinary research studies received the third largest investment, with 10.4% of total spending.

Of the 26,445 ongoing projects in 2015, 40,6% were associated with researchers from USP, which received the largest volume of funding (R$576.3 million), while researchers from the state universities – Unesp and Unicamp – received close to R$156 million each.  Researchers from federal institutions based in São Paulo received 12.6% of the total, or R$149.5 million, particularly the federal universities of São Paulo (Unifesp), which received R$57.8 million and São Carlos (UFSCar), which received R$44.4 million.  During the year, R$65.6 million was spent on 1,316 projects at state research and education institutions – the Butantan Institute received R$15.2 million.  The remaining portion of the investment, R$35.9 million, was allocated to 2,117 projects at private and municipal institutes, companies and associations.

Requests by researchers on an ongoing basis
Just over 40% of FAPESP investments in 2015, equivalent to R$477.7 million, was directed to regular fellowships for research in Brazil and abroad, one of the funding lines through which the Foundation is able to satisfy requests by students and researchers at any time during the year.  There were 16,200 regular scholarships in effect last year, with 14,282 projects carried out in Brazil and 1,918 executed elsewhere. Over the course of the year, 5,448 new scholarships were awarded. Scholarships in Brazil received R$373.1 million. Two mechanisms received 81% of this investment:  post-doctorate (R$157.4 million) and doctorate (R$146 million).  Scholarships abroad received R$104.6 million.  Although they account for only 21.9% of disbursements on regular grants, funds directed towards mechanisms abroad saw a nominal increase of 32.9% compared to 2014, compensating for a decline in regular grants in Brazil, which received 7.6% less.

A significant portion of funds was directed towards the Foundation’s program for Scholarships for Research Internships Abroad (BEPE) for FAPESP grantees at the undergraduate through post-doctoral levels interested in foreign research internships of up to 12 months.  The 2015 figure was R$81.2 million. But it was the Research Scholarships Abroad (BPE) mechanisms at the PhD level, that recorded the biggest increase in disbursements: 52,1%. The human and social sciences fields led in terms of the number of current BPE projects at 142 (36%), and in funding volume (R$7.0 million or 30%). It also recorded the highest volume of ongoing projects at the master’s (80) and PhD (181) levels of BEPE grants.  Engineering had the largest number of BEPE grants at the undergraduate level, with 21 projects.  The field of health is featured in the number of direct doctoral and postdoc research internships abroad and received the highest amount of funds under the BEPE program.

The report also states that there has been progress in the support to international collaboration initiatives. There were 355 research grants and 1,185 scholarships in several programs promoting international cooperation. In all, R$139 million was invested, R$59 million in co-financing of research as a result of agreements between foreign universities and funding agencies – FAPESP ended the year with 142 signed cooperation agreements with institutions in 27 countries, 26 of which were signed in 2015 – and R$80 million in scientific exchange projects not associated with these agreements.