Relative Rise of Regional Science Funder

Despite a prolonged economic recession that has played havoc with public spending budgets of all kinds, Brazil’s leading research council outside the federal sphere managed to hold its funding for science projects steady in dollar terms.

In 2016 the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) invested R$1.13 billion in almost 25,000 research projects, valued at US$533.9 million when measured by purchasing power parity (PPP). This compares with the 2015 value of US$ 557.7 million measured by the PPP yardstick.

FAPESP, which is funded by tax revenues from São Paulo state, has managed to maintain spending on research just as the federal government in Brasília has cut its science budget by almost 40 percent. One consequence is that in relative terms, the importance of FAPESP on the national research funding stage has risen.

FAPESP by the numbers. Extract from Annual Report 2016

FAPESP by the numbers. Extract from Annual Report 2016

You can read an article here to see how national budgets have been affected. A report published in April by Nature showed the newly-merged Science Ministry MCTIC’s funding at just R$ 2.8 billion, equivalent to US$898 million – a R$ 2.2 billion cut from the 5 billion reais of funding that the government had originally proposed.

Data from the FAPESP annual report published in August shows that, despite São Paulo State’s own tax revenues falling sharply due to the two-year recession, the institution’s budget was protected. The report is available at fapesp.br/en/publications/2016report.pdf.

“FAPESP was able to maintain its commitments and the pace of its research funding despite the economic problems Brazil faced in 2016,” José Goldemberg, the President of FAPESP, told journalists.

During 2016 FAPESP approved 10,480 new projects in the year, up 4% compared with 2015, linked to 5,491 fellowships in Brazil, 1,162 fellowships abroad, and 3,827 research grants.

One of the report’s highlights is a noticeable shift toward funding innovation in business, and support for start-ups. The Innovative Research in Small Business Program (PIPE) programme had its best year since its inception in 1997, with 228 new projects approved, or more than four per week. Investment in applied science (when measured by PPP) rose from US$16.1 million in 2015 to US$26 million in 2016.

The pivot towards applied science in São Paulo means that PIPE (a first by Brazilian research-funding agencies offering non-repayable grants for early stage projects) has become a bellwether for innovation. “The program has made an enormous contribution to scientific, technological and economic development in São Paulo State, stimulating the establishment of companies that prosper and create jobs and wealth,” said Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, FAPESP’s Scientific Director.

International research partnership research  continues strong in São Paulo.  Data from 2016  FAPESP Annual Report.

International research partnership research continues strong in São Paulo. Data from 2016 FAPESP Annual Report.

Growth of cooperation with the business sector was further strengthened by the establishment of Engineering Research Centres. A noteworthy addition in 2016 was the Centre for Applied Research in Human Wellbeing & Behaviour. This was established as a partnership between FAPESP, cosmetics firm Natura, the University of São Paulo (USP), the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP), and Mackenzie Presbyterian University. Hosted by USP, the centre is dedicated to multidisciplinary studies on human behaviour for an aggregate investment of US$ PPP 18.7 million over a ten-year period.

Certainly, FAPESP has had to cut its cloth to suit more adverse times. Participation in or organization of scientific meetings has been slashed, while the number of foreign researchers awarded postdoc fellowships was also down. The amount disbursed for regular fellowships was down 6%.

Overall, 39.5% of the total disbursed (R$1.137 billion) went to fellowships in Brazil and abroad, 34.1% to research grants, 14.3% to special programmes such as Young Investigator Awards and eScience, and 12.1% to technological innovation programmes.

You can read a summary report of the FAPESP annual report by Brazilian journalist Fabrício Marques by clicking here

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