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Ministry signs agreements with FAPs to foster regional research

On July 29, the Federal Government and the state of São Paulo signed an agreement for technical and scientific cooperation for a four-year period, to develop programs for fostering research in the state. This same partnership is being signed up with the other states, and it inaugurates the Ministry of Science of Technology’s (MCT in the Portuguese acronym) new strategy of sharing with the Research Support Foundations (FAPs) the financing of research support programs, among which those of Infrastructure for Young Researchers; Junior Scientific Initiation Scholarships; Support for Nuclei of Excellence (Pronex); and, in the case of some states, the Proteome Project. “The strategy is to integrate the FAPs with the national program for scientific and technological development”, explains Erney Camargo, the president of the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq).

In the case of São Paulo, the Ministry of Science and Technology (MCT), the Secretariat for Science, Technology, Economic Development and Tourism and FAPESP are signatories of the agreement, which provides for the implementation of projects in the total amount of R$ 43.28 million. In Bahia, the agreement will mean investments of R$ 14 million and, in Minas Gerais, R$ 7 million, just to mention a few examples.

“We are stimulating the creation of FAPs where they do not exist, as is the case of Acre, Roraima and Amapá, allocating resources in various regions of the country, and, at the same time, making the states comply with the requirement of handing over for science and technology a portion of the Value-Added Tax on Sales and Services (ICMS), established by the state constitutions”, Camargo explains. As it requires something in return from the states, this cooperation has already resulted in an expansion of the funds set aside for research in Amazonas, in Bahia, in Alagoas and in Sergipe.

Funds provisioned
In São Paulo, the funds for the agreement have already been provisioned. The announcements on the selection of projects have already been published in the official gazettes of the Federal and State governments and are available on the Foundation’s website. “This partnership is going to potentialize the programs that FPESP is already carrying out, since it is going to double investments in research”, says Carlos Vogt, the president of the Foundation.The Infrastructure for Young Researchers Support Program, according to the notice, is going to finance the installation, modernization or restoration of the infrastructure for research at the public teaching institutions. In 2003 and 2004, the planned investments, of R$ 5.2 million a year, will be divided between FAPESP and the CNPq.

The applicants must have been awarded a doctorate recently. All the capital items and running costs will be eligible for finance. Those interested have the time limit of September 22 for forwarding their proposals.For the Junior Scientific Initiation Scholarships Program, the agreement will offer a total of 500 scholarships in the amount of R$ 480,000. The secondary school pupils from the public network will be selected by FAPESP, which will also be responsible for accompanying the carrying out of the projects. Requests for a scholarship should be forwarded to the Foundation by the coordinators of research projects under way by September 22, using the e-mail address.

In São Paulo, the Proteome Project will be given R$ 2.4 million, with the funding shared between FAPESP and the Financier of Studies and Projects (Finep), by means of the National Fund for Scientific and Technological Development. The agreement will remain in force for 12 months, and it may be renewed for another year. The project will be coordinated by the Structural Molecular Biology Center (CeBiME), of the National Laboratory of Synhcrotron Light. It provides for the implementation of a network of scientific research that will give support for the continuity of genome projects already carried out, like those on Xylella fastidiosaXanthomonas citri, cancer and cattle, among other actions. The agreement is going to finance everything from upgrades of large equipment already available to the acquisition of furniture and small items of support equipment. The proposals should be sent to FAPESP by the end of September.

Pronex, the fourth program under the agreement, will enjoy a total of R$ 30 million to support consolidated research groups in carrying out their projects. Capital and running costs items will be eligible for finances, on the same lines as those provided for in FAPESP’s thematic projects, and the proposals may involve funds of up to R$ 1 million over a period of four years. The projects should be presented by September 22.

The first four programs financed by means of the agreement inaugurate a partnership that, in the assessment of the president of the CNPq, will be expanded “with experience”. Representatives of the northern region have suggested that the CNPq should finance regional development scholarships for young researchers, doctors and senior researchers from all over the country who want to set themselves up in the region.

The “host states” would offer a “trousseau” with equipment, consumables and running costs, and the CNPq would participate with a “dowry” worth up to R$ 50,000. “The proposal was accepted and extended to the regions of the Northeast and Center-West”, Camargo says. Alagoas, Sergipe and Bahia have now signed an agreement in the ambit of this new program. This flexibility has also made it possible for agreements to be signed in Paraná and in Santa Catarina to carry out studies and a diagnosis of the various areas of scientific production in the two states, to identify the most needy regions.

The new agreements are putting into practice the government’s intention of decentralizing science and technology in the country. “In some sectors, this idea was misunderstood and interpreted as being a sequestration of funds from the regions of the South and the Southeast”, Camargo laments. “Our intention is to bring other sectors to take part in the activities of the scientific community, and not to break the resources into fragments.” But the criticisms of the changes to Pronex which has started to rely on a contribution from the FAPs has an origin, according to him, in this misinterpretation. “Pronex was without resources, and passing them on was erratic”, he explains. The partnership with the states will make it possible to double the program’s resources and, in three years, to reach the R$ 100 million mark.

The CNPq’s resources, according to Camargo, have already been provisioned. The expectation is that the states will comply with the terms of the agreements. “If the states fail to do so, it will be up to the scientific community to mobilize itself.”