By Karina Toledo | Agência FAPESP – The main mechanisms for participating in Horizon 2020 — the largest European research and innovation funding program, which has been set up to invest up to €80 billion (R$270 billion) between 2014 and 2020 — were presented to the Brazilian scientific community by representatives of the European Union (EU) on March 8, 2017, at FAPESP’s headquarters in São Paulo, Brazil.
The event was organized in partnership with FAPESP, the National Council of State Research Funding Agencies (CONFAP), and EURAXESS Brazil.
EURAXESS – Researchers in Motion is a pan-European initiative delivering information and services to support researcher mobility and career development, while enhancing scientific collaboration between Europe and the rest of the world.
According to Alejandro Zurita, Head of the Science, Technology & Innovation (ST&I) division of the EU Delegation to Brazil, the meeting took place at a “key moment” because, in September 2017, EU member states will define priority research areas for the programs to be launched in the next three years under the aegis of Horizon 2020.
Zurita also said that Brazilian officials from the Foreign Ministry (Itamaraty) and the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation & Communications (MCTIC) can present their considerations at a meeting with EU representatives in Brussels in June 2017.
“If we have clear indications of Brazil’s priorities by then, we’ll be in a position to include some of these elements in our planning or at least to make sure they aren’t overlooked in the main lines of our programs for the next three years. In this manner, we’ll be able 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,” Zurita said in an interview with Agência FAPESP.
Data presented during the workshop showed that Brazil’s participation in Horizon 2020 fell by approximately 75% compared with its participation in the previous initiative – the Seventh Framework Program for Technological Research & Development (FP7), which covered the 2007–2013 period.
According to Luciana da Silva Santos, a European Commission Policy Officer responsible for managing ST&I cooperation with Brazil, one of the reasons 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.” The BRICS countries are Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
However, she 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.
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).
The funding lines available from FAPESP for collaborative projects with European research groups were presented by Euclides de Mesquita Neto, a member of FAPESP’s Adjunct Panel for Special Programs & Research Collaboration, who represented FAPESP Scientific Director Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz.
These co-funding mechanisms are governed by a cooperation agreement (fapesp.br/en/9801) signed in 2015.
Proposals must be submitted in English and have budgets that are compatible with FAPESP’s funding opportunities. However, Mesquita Neto noted that the Brazilian and European parties are not obliged to share funding equally (i.e., 50% each).
“A key concept in project evaluation is that the Brazilian researcher must play a significant role in both designing and executing the project,” he said.
FAPESP President José Goldemberg was represented by Luiz Nunes de Oliveira, a member of FAPESP’s Adjunct Panel for Special Programs & Research Collaboration. “There is palpable enthusiasm in this auditorium, and that is no accident,” Nunes de Oliveira said during the opening ceremony. “This is an opportunity that opens the door to Horizon 2020, a pan-European program, and therefore opens doors to internationalization.”
Representatives of the various state research funding agencies affiliated with CONFAP attended a second workshop held in the afternoon of March 8 in collaboration with Incobra, an international consortium funded by Horizon 2020 to foster ST&I cooperation between Brazil and the EU.
“Brazil is a country of many contrasts, but all of its states and regions share a number of major challenges, and this is a great opportunity to discuss these challenges with our EU counterparts,” said CONFAP Vice Chair Maria Zaira Turchi.
In addition to discussing priority research areas for the next three years, the meeting also sought to help state research funding agencies understand the opportunities for cooperation with the EU and align their funding mechanisms with those of Horizon 2020.
Along with FAPESP, the Minas Gerais, Goiás, Santa Catarina, Federal District, Espírito Santo, Paraná and Mato Grosso do Sul research funding agencies have already established guidelines for co-funding projects with Horizon 2020.
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 programs.
“Brazil is so big that it’s hard for us to maintain a presence in every state and university in order to get our message out there,” Santos said. “We hope that today’s events contribute to the Brazilian community’s fuller participation in Horizon 2020.”
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