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Partnership Consolidated

Profile of FAPESP's investments in 2001 reinforces commitment to transferring knowledge to the productive sector and public bodies

Within the scenario of stable exchange rates that had been characterizing the Brazilian economy last year, FAPESP was able to consolidate its strategies for investment in research based, above all, on partnerships involving universities, research institutes, public bodies and the productive sector, as it is shown by the Report on Activities in 2001, issued in August. Programs that exemplify this are Partnership for Technological Innovation (PITE), Small Business Innovation Research (PIPE), Information Technology in the Development of the Advanced Internet (Tidia) and Public Policies.

This year, the financial and currency crisis that the country is going through led the Foundation’s Board of Trustees to adopt a series of measures to contain, in particular, expenditure on goods and services importation. The measures have now been announced in a letter sent by FAPESP’s scientific director to all the researchers who are receiving a benefit with a provision for imported items. “It is a question of preventive measures, taken by the Board so as to preserve the principle that has guided the policy for granting the institution’s benefits, that is to say, financial equilibrium, which has allowed it to act efficiently and responsibly in fostering research and in meeting the demand for excellence in the state of São Paulo”, explains Carlos Vogt, FAPESP’s president.

New programs
Amongst the new programs approved last year, two stand out: Information Technology in the Development of the Advanced Internet (Tidia) and the Integrated Hydrometeorology System of the State of São Paulo (Shiesp). The first program is mobilizing universities and research institutes around projects related to network engineering, optic fibers characteristics, software, web applications development, and it will be developed together with the private sector. And the second, in partnership with the Hydrometeorology Board (Cehidro) of the Secretariat for Science, Technology, Economic Development and Tourism of the State of São Paulo, will bring together research on water resources and will contribute towards the prevention of floods, reforestation programs and an assessment of reservoirs, among other aspects.

This strategy of supporting research by means of partnerships started to take shape in the 90s, with the launch of the PITE, PIPE and Research in Public Policies programs, implemented with the objective of transferring knowledge to private sector companies and public bodies. In 2001, the investments in PITE and PIPE amounted to R$ 17.37 million. Under the auspices of PITE, in fact, there were six new projects approved, amongst which the Eucalyptus Genome Sequencing Project Consortium (FORESTs), a partnership with the ONSA network, by means of the Agronomic and Environmental Genomes (AEG) project and a consortium made up of four companies, Duratex, Votorantim Celulose e Papel, Ripasa Celulose e Papel and Suzano de Papel e Celulose. The Research into Public policies program received R$ 3.53 million to carry out projects aimed at meeting tangible social demands.

The total sum of FAPESP’s investments in 2001 added up to R$ 599.48 million. In the year, 7,858 new projects were approved. It is true that 33.72% of this amount corresponded to committed funds that will only be released in future financial years. Accordingly, investments actually carried out last year added up to R$ 397.30 million.

The profile of these investments expressed the Foundation’s commitment to the development of basic research, the main objective of which is the advancement of knowledge, without losing from sight the demands of society. Of the total of approved projects, 58.65% could be classified in the broad category of basic research, receiving 69.08% of the investments. However, 83.65% of these same projects showed potential for a technological application or for contributing towards the formulation of public policies. For applied research, aimed fundamentally at results of a technological nature or public application, 30.91% of the funds were set aside. This classification took into consideration the regular research benefits and the thematic projects, as well as the benefits associated with the special programs Support for Young Researchers, Biota-FAPESP, PITE, PIPE, Public Schooling, Pro-Sciences, Public Policies and Genome FAPESP.

As in previous years, the projects with a spontaneous demand received the largest volume of funds. The payment of 4,030 regular grants was approved, which corresponded to investments in the order of R$ 311.48 million. Of this total, R$ 109.29 million was paid out last year. The regular benefits took R$ 195.38 million, equivalent to 49.17% of the funds, and the special programs were given R$ 92.61 million, or 23.30% of the total of the funds.

Regular grants
Last year, the Foundation adopted greater rigor in the assessment of proposals for the payment of grants, so as not to distort the proportion between the various modalities of investments, under the demand pressure. Between 1995 and 2000, the expansion of the postgraduate system and the reduction in the number of grants paid by federal development bodies produced a great increase in the number of requests for grants submitted to FAPESP. In this period, the number of grants grew at rates that varied between 64.89% and 7.06%, which last year called for a reduction in the number of new grants, in the light of the large volume of funds committed over the subsequent periods.

Of the total of the proposals approved, grants for doctorates took the largest slice of the investments: 71.95% of the total applied in grants. In the same period, there was growth in the number of projects approved for post-doctorate grants, and, for the first time, 25 direct doctorate grants were offered, which accounted for R$ 1.5 million. Also as part of the policy to encourage doctorate and post-doctorate studies in the country, FAPESP has been gradually reducing the number of foreign grants.

In 2001, FAPESP granted 3,102 new regular research benefits – a modality of support that covers assistance for the research project, the organization of scientific meetings, participation in scientific meeting in Brazil and abroad, assistance for publication, and support for the visiting researcher – in a total of R$ 195.38 million. These amounts include funds committed to projects already under way, approved in previous years. Also approved were 60 new thematic projects, related to research work carried out by large teams, with an average duration of four years, in a total of R$ 59.09 million.

Special programs
In 2001, R$ 92.61 million was set aside for the special programs sponsored by FAPESP. The Genome, Support for Young Researchers and Infrastructure programs received the largest percentage of investments.

The Genome Program used up half of the funds available in 2000, when the network and its laboratories were still being implemented. Two projects have been concluded: Human Cancer Genome and Xanthomonas citrii Genome, the bacterium that causes citrus canker. In the same period, there were the projects already under way, which were carried on: the Xylella fastidiosa Functional Genome, the sequencing of Leifsonia xyli subsp. xyli, which attacks sugar cane, and of the Xylella fastidiosa variety that attacks grapevines and which is being developed in partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture.

There was also the launch of the Schistosoma mansoni Genome project, to sequence the parasite responsible for Manson’s schistosomiasis. In addition, the laboratories were chosen that were to take part in the Clinical Cancer Genome project, as well as the research groups that currently make up the Structural Molecular Biology Network (Smolbnet), responsible for the study of the three-dimensional structures and functions of about 200 proteins, and the laboratories that make up the Genetic Diversity of Virus Network (VGDN).

Incentives for research
Since 1993, FAPESP has been carrying on the Support for Young Researchers Program, a line of finance for projects still not served by the usual development lines. The program has the objective of encouraging the formation of new research groups and of settling young doctors in the state of São Paulo. Last year, the program was able to count on R$ 15.53 million, which were invested in 37 new grants and 43 new research benefits. With the same intention of disseminating research and qualifying human resources, the Foundation invested, last year, R$ 3.08 million in the programs for Support for Public Schooling in the State of São Paulo and in Pro-Sciences. Another R$ 3.09 million was set aside to finance 395 new grants distributed under the auspices of the Program for Qualifying Human Resources in Support of Research. These amounts are intended for the training of staff of the intermediate and higher levels who work in laboratories.

Last year, the Foundation carried on with the Program for Supporting Infrastructure for Research in the State of São Paulo, started in 1995. Since then, FAPESP has now invested a total of R$ 504.32 million in 4,486 projects to modernize and to recover research laboratories. In 2001, R$ 11.37 million was set aside for financing 80 new projects, and for those already under way. The program has consolidated the foundations of the São Paulo research system, created the basis for the implementation of large projects of a cooperative nature, and made it possible for Brazilian researchers to take part in international projects like, for example, Pierre Auger, a cosmic ray observatory that is under construction in the south of Argentina.

Another highlight among the special programs is Biota, which last year invested R$ 6.74 million and approved nine new projects. In 2001, new launches included the Environmental Information System (SinBiota), which gathers together and integrates data collected in the various projects linked to the program, and theBiota Neutropic magazine, which publishes the results of research connected with the theme of conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity, linked to the program or not.

The Foundation is carrying on supporting the ten Centers for Research, Innovation and Dissemination (Cepids), created in 2000 to carry out basic or applied research at the frontiers of knowledge. Last year, they received investments of R$ 5.29 million.