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Raw materials to shape the future

Those who like prospective studies, or just enjoy dreaming about the future, will find a wealth of raw materials from which to imagine possible scenarios in the panorama of scientific research in São Paulo over the next ten years, given the new list of 17 Research, Innovation and Dissemination Centers (RIDCs) announced by FAPESP on May 14. Of course, there are always uncertainties and imponderable interventions— in addition to the possibility of economic and political changes—which would lead to unforeseen paths in the mists of what’s to come. But, with this proviso, the $680 million to be invested in these centers over the next 11 years, $370 million of which will come from FAPESP and $310 million will be provided in the form of salaries paid by the host institutions to the researchers and technical personnel involved, will without a doubt substantially contribute to the future structure and major thrust of scientific knowledge production in this state within a decade. This seems more than reason enough to me to make the RIDC program the cover story of this month’s Pesquisa FAPESP.

These centers focus on research in such diverse areas as neuromathematics and mathematics applied to industry, neuroscience and neurotechnology, the development of new drugs and cell therapies, inflammatory diseases and obesity, biomedicine, new glass and ceramic materials, optics and photonics, computational science and engineering, studies of metropolitan areas and studies of violence, to name a few, all being developed in the decentralized, exciting research environment in the state of São Paulo. This creates a rich, multifaceted profile for the state’s science and technology sector, in line with the major trends in international research, and simultaneously taking into account local idiosyncrasies that must be understood and overcome (such as the contemporary phenomenon of violence). All RIDCs must, first and foremost, work to remain at the cutting edge of knowledge. And, secondly, the centers must be intrinsically committed to creating knowledge, to generating innovations derived from this knowledge that can be effectively used by society, and to disseminating this knowledge and these innovations to society. This is the role of the RIDCs in the best policies to increase Brazil’s scientific culture.

This was already the philosophy of the RIDC program when it began in 2000, supporting 11 centers through 2012, with a total investment of almost R$260 million. Now the program is expanding with the support of one of the largest investments ever announced in Brazil for research programs financed by a research-sponsoring agency. Note that the RIDCs on the new list—nine new centers and eight continuing from the 2000 list, either unchanged or slightly modified—will initially hire 535 researchers from São Paulo and 69 other countries, a respectable team for a notable effort to increase and broaden the impact of Brazilian science developed in the state of São Paulo. More details are in the report by our Science and Technology Policy Editor, Fabrício Marques, on page 16.

I would also like to highlight the report by Assistant Policy Editor, Bruno de Pierro, in our technology section, on investments in research in sugarcane and ethanol that various private companies have been carrying out following a trend begun by Monsanto in 2008. I also recommend the impressive article on Paulo Vanzolini written by Carlos Fioravanti, our special editor, found on page 52.