Brazil’s cash-strapped scientists will need to move fast not to waste a golden opportunity to access some of the EUR 80 billion in funding on offer from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 multi-year innovation funding programme.
Despite – or perhaps because of – the recent collapse in domestic funding from Brazilian government sources for science and technology (see accompanying article), the country has done little to tap external resources in proportion to its needs.
In fact, since Horizon 2020’s inception in 2014, Brazilian access to EU cash has fallen by 75% compared to the support it previously received from the Seventh Framework Programme for Technological Research & Development (FP7), which covered the 2007–2013 period.
Faced with a 44% collapse in domestic scientific research funding from the Brazilian federal government, researchers need to urgently update their knowledge of new EU processes and procedures.
And if the nation is to make up for lost time, Brazil’s science and technology resource managers will have to move smartly between now and this September, when EU member states will define priority research areas for the programmes to be launched in the next three years under the aegis of Horizon 2020.
The first opportunity comes this June, when Brazilian officials from the Foreign Ministry (Itamaraty) and the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation & Communications (MCTIC) are being invited to present their requests at a preliminary meeting with EU representatives in Brussels in June 2017.
Details of EU science partnership funding opportunities were provided by Alejandro Zurita, Head of the Science, Technology & Innovation (ST&I) division of the EU Delegation to Brazil. In April he briefed a conference organised by organized by the National Council of State Research Funding Agencies (CONFAP), EURAXESS Brazil, and hosted by FAPESP (São Paulo Research Foundation).
Zurita said action by Brazilian scientific support agencies is needed now to “make sure they aren’t overlooked in the main lines of our programmes for the next three years.” He promised to “guarantee future joint actions with Brazil or even specify that some calls for proposals include certain Brazilian entities, given the relevance of their research in the area.”
Part of Brazil’s problem is that while its economic progress may currently be stalled, a decade of solid gains has lifted the country into a more prosperous category where foreign donors expect a local counterpart to their financing of projects. The timing is unfortunate as in the migration from FP7 to Horizon 2020, Brazil has been upgraded to co-funding status precisely at the moment when its own resources have run out.
Luciana da Silva Santos, a European Commission Policy Officer responsible for managing ST&I cooperation with Brazil, told a FAPESP News Agency reporter that a reason for this sharp decline is a lack of information about the opportunities offered by the EU and the 2014 changes to funding rules.
“Until FP7 expired, Brazil’s participation was directly funded by the EU, but Brazil’s economic and social development has made it an emerging country, and co-funding by Brazilian institutions is now required,” Santos explained. “The same applies to the other BRICS,” she said, The BRICS countries are Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
With cutbacks to federal funding organisations linked to MCTIC such as CNPq and CAPES, the relative importance of other funding bodies such as members of CONFAP, is rising proportionately. Agencies such as FAPESP cannot take up all the slack, but will increasingly become a lifeline for beleaguered researchers. FAPESP already has its own Horizon 2020 co-funding agreement with the EU.
Along with FAPESP, the Minas Gerais, Goiás, Santa Catarina, Federal District, Espírito Santo, Paraná and Matto Grosso do Sul research funding agencies have already established guidelines for co-funding projects with Horizon 2020.
Ms Silva Santos stressed that individual Brazilian researchers remain eligible for EU funding from the European Research Council (ERC), which focuses on frontier research and large-budget projects, and from some lines of funding from the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA), a Horizon 2020 fund that provides grants to researchers at various stages of their careers and that encourages transnational, intersectoral and interdisciplinary mobility.
According to Ana Paula Rossetto, a consultant with Sociedade Portuguesa de Inovação (SPI) and project manager with Incobra, a survey of the Brazilian scientific community showed that the main obstacles to participation in Horizon 2020 were a lack of funding from Brazilian institutions and a lack of information about EU programmes.
Practical guidance on participation in these two European research and innovation funding initiatives was provided by Elisa Natola, MSCA Contact Point in Brazil, and Charlotte Grawitz, Country Representative of EURAXESS Brazil. Their presentations can be downloaded from fapesp.br/10800 (in Portuguese).
You can find out more by clicking on this link to read FAPESP Agency reporter Karina Toledo’s article, which also gives practical guidance on how researchers can apply.