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Revealing profile

Data on investment by FAPESP reveal the bond between the generation of knowledge and its application

In 2000, FAPESP invested R$ 550.7 million in incentives for scientific and technological activities in the state, through grants, benefits and special programs. The grants and benefits, which make up the regular line of incentives for research – the one that meets the researcher’s spontaneous requirements – took up R$ 363.5 million, or 66% of the funds. R$ 187.2 million, or 34%, was set aside for the special programs – which cover projects with special characteristics that call for specific handling. Individually, grants and benefits received respectively R$ 178.5 million and R$ 185.1 million, or 32.4% and 33.6% of the total invested.

Beneath the figures, there are some obligatory findings, and a few revelations. The first finding is that the freely defined projects continue to receive the largest volume of FAPESP’s investment. And the most important revelation is that high quality research, however it is classified – basic even, or in the fundamental areas of knowledge – always leads to a high degree of application of their results, sooner or later, as indeed the Foundation foresaw. One could quote Louis Pasteur: “there is no applied science; there are only applications of science”.

So it happens that no less than 72.9% of the funds for the investments made by FAPESP in the course of 2000 and up to April 2001 were applied in projects that have immediate or potential technological significance or immediate / potential significance for implementation of public policies. 27.1% of the funds were channeled into basic research, with the fundamental objective of the advancement of without any predetermined application for its results. This became apparent through the use of a new methodology for classifying approved research projects, which examines the profile of the investments in regular benefits for research, thematic projects, and benefits for research connected with the Support for Young Researchers and Biota-FAPESP projects.

The percentages relating to the amounts invested bear a relationship, as is to be expected, with the number of projects approved. The basic projects, centered on the advancement of knowledge, accounted for 22.7% of the total number approved during 2000 and up to April 2001. The projects with applicability – in technology or public policies -, many of which are at the same time basic projects, accounted for 77.3%.

It is interesting to note that this investment profile has already been noticed for some time now, according to a survey carried out by the Foundation. In 1999, 74.5% of the approved projects in the modalities under consideration had a component of immediate or potential application in technology or public policies, and 75% of the funds were channeled into them. In the year before that, the percentages were 79.2% and 75.7%, respectively.

There is another significant revelation in the numbers that shows that FAPESP has been going along the right lines. Following a proposal presented by Donald Stokes in his book, Pasteur’s Quadrant, Basic Science and Technological Innovation, which creates three categories for research – Bohr’s Quadrant, Edison’s Quadrant and Pasteur’s Quadrant – , half of the investments carried out by the Foundation in the course of 2000 and up to April 2001 in the benefits for regular research, thematic projects, and benefits for research in the ambit of the Support for Young Researchers and Biota programs fall into in this last category. That is, the category in which the results of research make a contribution towards the advancement of knowledge while, at the same time, having good prospects for practical application (see FAPESP’s table, The Quadrants).

New classification
All these are important details that, however, used to remain hidden, by the way that FAPESP traditionally classified the projects that were submitted, just classifying by the area of knowledge. This is a way of naming that fails to supply the necessary information to measure more precisely the extent to which the agency has been fulfilling its mission of providing incentives for the scientific and technological development of the state. Nor does it make it possible to visualize the contribution made to the development of research projects that are pertinent to the implementation of public policies.

To identify this profile of investment, the projects approved between 1996 and April 2001, in the modalities regarded as incentives, were classified by the coordinating bodies of the areas of the Foundation’s scientific directorate into four categories (the first, with four subcategories), in accordance with the Investment Profile table:

basic research (B)
– basic research, the objective of which is the advancement of fundamental knowledge on the theme under study (B/AK);
– basic / technological research, the main objective of which is the advancement of fundamental knowledge and whose results have a defined potential for application in technology (B/T);
– basic research/public policy, the objective of which is the advancement of fundamental knowledge and which have the defined potential for contributing towards the planning of public policy (B/PP);
– basic/technological/public policies, the main objective of which is the advancement of fundamental knowledge and which have the defined potential for application, both in the public sector and in the private sector ((B/T/PP).

technological research , applied research that has as its main objective the achievement of results of a technological nature (T);

research in public policies , applied research with the main objective of achieving pertinent results for the definition or implementation of public policies (PP);

Technological/public policies research , applied research whose results have the potential for technological application and, in addition, contribute towards the drawing up of public policies (T/PP);

The numbers brought to light by this new classification of projects led FAPESP’s Senior Board to determine that it should be used systematically, inparallel to the classification by area of knowledge. Its purpose is to measure the contribution that the state research system makes, through the research that it finances, to the scientific, social and economic development of the state of São Paulo. The new classification of projects will have no influence over FAPESP’s decision as to whether to support them or not, since it will be made only after the conclusion of the assessment process. It will merely reflect the respective demand, without being a factor in deciding priorities by the institution or its advisors.

Another significant finding brought up by the statistics relating to FAPESP’s activities during 2000 was the growth in the number of grants given and the amounts set aside for them. As shown by the Summary Table of the growth in FAPESP’s investments from 1999 to 2000, the number of requests for grants approved rose from 4,868 to 5,213, a positive variation of 7.1%. In terms of investments, these went up from R$ 168 million to R$ 178.4 million, an increase of 5.3%. The grants in the modality of incentives were the ones to show the biggest increase between 1999 and 2000, both in the number of requests approved and in the funds released.

As a comparison, regular benefits had an increase of 2.4% in the number of projects approved and 5.3% in the volume of funds received, while the special programs suffered a reduction under both headings: 14% less in the number of projects approved, and 5.8% less in investments. The demand for FAPESP grants and the number of concessions have been growing at high rates for several years. In 1996, FAPESP handed out 47.9% more grants than in the previous year; in 1997, the number grew 21.7%; in 1998, 20.7%, and, in 1999, 6%, according with figures published in FAPESP’s reports on its activities for 1999 and 2000.

A highlight of the grants awarded in 2000 was the share for the Engineering area (see the graph of Investments in grants in Brazil and abroad). For the first time, it received the largest volume of funds intended for grants: R$ 31.8 million, or 17.8% of the total invested in this regular line of incentives. The increase in grants awarded in this area shows a growing interest in professional qualification and in technological research, probably caused by a greater comprehension of the importance of innovation as a basis for economic and industrial development. Compared with the previous year, the expansion in grants channeled into the Engineering area was 7.8%.

For the special programs, FAPESP set aside R$ 187.2 million in 2000 (please see the Table of special programs). The visibility of the genome question in the media may lead one to believe that the major part of FAPESP’s investments goes to the Genome Program. The table shows that this is not true. The program received R$ 36.2 million in 2000, a significant amount, it is true, as it is not possible to create a new skill without considerable investments. Even so, this amount corresponds to 6.5% of the total invested by FAPESP in all its lines of incentives, which came to R$ 550.7 million.

Last year, FAPESP started the Research, Innovation and Dissemination Centers (Cepids) program, which should have a great impact on the dimensions, the dynamics and the organization of scientific and technological research in São Paulo. 10 projects for centers were approved, in the most varied fields of knowledge: from ceramic materials to the pharmaceutical use of animal toxins, from optics and photonics to metropolitan studies, and from cell therapy to the study of violence.

Each one ofthe ten centers is to draw up a multidisciplinary program of basic or applied research, at the frontiers of knowledge. In addition, its research should carry out innovation coupled with the transfer of knowledge: to the various levels of government, supporting the design and implementation of public policies, or to private enterprise, with the development of new technologies with commercial value and the creation of companies. The centers will also have the responsibility of interacting with the educational system, through activities involving students from secondary to post-doctorate education, and further education for teachers.

Finally, another important venture of the Foundation in 2000 deserves a mention, which was the implementation of the Program of Support for Intellectual Property (Papi/Nuplitec), with the mission of advising researchers in São Paulo on the process of registering and licensing the patents resulting from research supported by FAPESP. This initiative shows FAPESP’s concern and determination to act in an area that is vital for Brazilian scientific and technological development, and for putting to economic use the country’s investments in research. The results so far achieved (see the article on page 20) show that FAPESP is on the right path.

FAPESP´s quadrants
In 1997, right after the death of its author, Donald Stokes, the book Pasteur’s Quadrant, Basic Science and Technological Innovation was published. In the book, the author proposes a new taxonomy for activities in research and development. The book’s main merit is overcoming the false dichotomy between basic research and applied research.

This dichotomy was introduced into literature by the famous document, Science, The Endless Frontier, written in 1945 by Vannevar Bush, in which the very term basic research was the subject of a definition: research with the characteristic of contributing towards “the knowledge and comprehension on nature and its laws”. Both the definition and the resulting dichotomy, knowledge vs. application, remained for decades, with several variants, a point of reference for the general theory of the taxonomy of research and development.

Stokes’s proposal is simple. It is to attribute two coordinates to research. One gives the dimension of the advancement of knowledge that the research brings about. The second gives the measure of the application derived from it. It can therefore be seen that research may, at the same time, make a significant contribution to the advancement of knowledge and have great prospects for practical applications. The most famous example of this kind of research is what was carried out by Pasteur, which generated many advances in microbiology that had important practical applications. This is the example that explains the title of the book.

Attributing these two coordinates makes it possible to group research into three reasonably well-defined categories, as the first diagram shows: Bohr’s quadrant: basic research, without any immediate application being identified; Edison’s quadrant: applied research, with a view to technological development; or Pasteur’s quadrant: basic research with defined prospects for application.The taxonomy proposed by Stokes may be applied to the interpretation of the new classification of FAPESP’s investments. Category B can be associated with the basic research quadrant. Categories T, PP and T/PP, to Edison’s quadrant. And categories B/T, B/PP and B/T/PP, to Pasteur’s quadrant. With this association, we obtain the quadrants that represent FAPESP’s investment profile for 2000.

Visible diversity
Even a swift glance at the numerous examples of basic research projects financed by FAPESP shows with ease what one is talking about, when one arrives at a more refined classification for them, capable of revealing whether their potential for application is near to hand or distant. Yes, that is what it really is, because any quality research will have some pertinent application sooner or later.

A typical example of basic research committed to the advancement of knowledge (B/AK) whose potential for application seems very distant is the thematic project Theoretical Nuclear Physics (see Pesquisa FAPESP 64) , carried out by researchers from the Institute of Physics of the University of São Paulo, in collaboration with specialists from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and from the Technological Institute of Aeronautics. The project studies the movements of the particles of the nucleus of the atom, and has even produced a theory to explain the dynamics of these phenomena.

Then there is the development of a gene vaccine against tuberculosis (Notícias FAPESP 43), by researchers from the School of Medicine of the University of São Paulo (USP) in Ribeirão Preto, which is a good example of basic research whose results have a high potential for technological application (B/T). Later on, it will be possible to reach a conclusion on its application in public health as well, and so, in public policies, which would change its classification to B/T/PP. To arrive at the vaccine, the researchers had to find a way of stimulating the T CD8 lymphocytes, which are capable of destroying cells infected by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacillus; they know that these lymphocytes are only stimulated when the antigens are produced inside the cells, as it happens with viral infections.

To get to this point, a stretch of the DNA of the agent that causes the disease was inserted into a retrovirus manufactured in the laboratory by genetic engineering techniques. The cells infected with the recombinant retrovirus synthesized the antigens, stimulated the lymphocytes, and induced protection against infection by M. tuberculosis. In the experiments on animals, the vaccine, besides preventing infection, showed therapeutic activity in infected individuals, acting directly on the infection.

Then there is a thematic project on the methods of assessing the impact of the strategies for immunization against diseases that are transmitted directly (Notícias FAPESP 8), a good example of basic research with application in public policies. The research produced equations and a dynamic mathematical model applied to epidemiology, and concluded that, in the specific case of São Paulo, it would be possible to achieve excellent immunity from measles, mumps and German measles, in those days, by vaccinating the population in the age range of from one year to 10 years, and not the population up to 15 years old. This was done, and the Health Department of the State of São Paulo managed not only good resultswith immunization, but also an economy of about US$ 15 million in the vaccination campaign against these viral diseases, in 1992.

Technological projects and those for Public Policies do away with more detailed explanations. All those that are covered by FAPESP’s Technological Innovation programs PIPE and PITE) fit into the first group, and those under the Program for research into Public Policies fall into the second group.