By Jussara Mangini | Agência FAPESP – FAPESP ended 2021 with a committed portfolio of approved and ongoing projects and scholarships worth of 706.5 million in Purchase Power Parity ($ PPP). This result evidences its efforts to stimulate a return to normal in research activities in São Paulo state impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic owing to the impairment of operations at laboratories and in graduate studies programs in Brazil and abroad.
“2021 was a year of transition in which society and the academic and business communities slowly but steadily resumed their activities after the great catastrophe of the pandemic. FAPESP strove to stimulate the growth of research by means of its traditional funding strategies as well as innovative initiatives, pursuing results that have a direct application to society and an impact on public policy,” said Marco Antonio Zago, President of FAPESP.
According to its latest Annual Report, FAPESP disbursed $ PPP 400.5 million in 2021 to fund 19,692 research projects, for an increase of 3.5% compared with investment in the previous year.
Investment in research grants rose 15.6% in 2020. Investment in scholarships and fellowships fell 10%. A comparison with the level of investment seen before the COVID-19 pandemic shows that total disbursement in 2021 was 19.4% less than in 2019, with scholarships and fellowships contracting 23% and grants falling 16.4%.
Of the 19,692 ongoing projects, 6,823 were contracted for in 2021, after being selected from among more than 20,000 proposals submitted to FAPESP in the period.
With regard to the training of human resources for science and technology (S&T), FAPESP disbursed $ PPP 145.8 million for 11,469 regular, scientific initiation and master’s scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships in Brazil and abroad, encompassing training scholarships and fellowships not associated with grants as well as those awarded as part of the budgets of research projects. Although it corresponded to 36.4% of total disbursement in 2021, the above amount was 11.7% less than in 2020 and 25.3% less than in 2019.
To speed up the reversal of this trend, FAPESP took several measures to stimulate research careers, creating new types of scholarships and grants and launching a mentoring program for postdocs in all knowledge areas.
Investment in Research for Knowledge Advancement increased 24% in the same period, reaching $ PPP 222.8 million or 55.6% of total investment: $ PPP 174 million went to 5,338 long-term projects in the form of Thematic Projects, Young Investigator Grants and the 17 Research, Innovation and Dissemination Centers (RIDC), among other programs.
In 2021, FAPESP launched a process to select 18 new RIDCs, to be set up between now and 2026. It allocated $ PPP 48.8 million to Regular Grants for short-term individual projects led by researchers with PhDs.
Support for Research on Strategic Themes also increased 24%. This funding line encompasses programs through which FAPESP stimulates research on matters of vital importance to São Paulo state’s development.
The Bioenergy Research Program (BIOEN) issued a call for proposals in partnership with the São Paulo State Department of Infrastructure and Environment for projects relating to the use of urban and agroindustrial waste to produce bioenergy.
FAPESP also issued the second call for proposals to establish Science for Development Centers (CCDs), with results announced in August. This new funding line is for research focusing on São Paulo’s economic and social needs. CCDs are staffed by researchers affiliated with universities, government, and research institutions in the public sector and private enterprise.
Research for Innovation received $ PPP 34.2 million, equivalent to 8.6% of the total disbursed in the year and 12% less than in 2020. Out of this total, $ PPP 25.1 million went to the program Innovative Research in Small Business (PIPE) to support 1,346 projects conducted by 209 startups and small enterprises in 44 municipalities of São Paulo state. A new funding line called PIPE Knowledge Transfer was created to foster the development of innovative solutions via partnerships between companies and research institutions.
To the 13 Engineering Research Centers (ERCs) and Applied Research Centers (ARCs) established in partnership with nine companies and a social organization, FAPESP allocated $ PPP 7.2 million. In 2021, 203 research projects were in progress at these centers. Three new centers began operating during the year: one in partnership with Braskem for research in plasticulture, another with GSK to search for novel targets for immunotherapeutic drugs to treat tumors that do not respond well to existing treatments, and a third with Maria Cecilia Souto Vidigal Foundation to conduct studies of early childhood.
Also to foster innovation, FAPESP signed an agreement with the São Paulo unit of SEBRAE, a nonprofit that provides support services for micro and small enterprises, to invest $ PPP 59.4 million over a six-year period in some 150 firms under the aegis of PIPE, mainly with the aim of facilitating market access and development of proofs of concept. FAPESP also issued two calls for proposals under the FINEP Tecnova II program to support the development of innovative products or processes by companies.
FAPESP allocated $ PPP 1.7 million to the program Research in Partnerships for Technological Innovation (PITE), including co-funding of research projects to modernize the sanitation sector under an agreement with the São Paulo Basic Sanitation Corporation (SABESP).
Commemorations leading up to FAPESP’s sixtieth anniversary began with several initiatives launched during 2021. FAPESP officially began operating on May 23, 1962.
Among other initiatives, seven of 17 FAPESP 60 Years Conferences planned for 2021-22 were held in 2021, with experts from Brazil and abroad discussing strategic topics and engaging in well-founded reflection on the future. Commemorations of the anniversary also included publication of six digital installments of FAPESP 60 Anos – Ciência, Cultura e Desenvolvimento (“FAPESP 60 Years – Science, Culture and Development”), a book with ten chapters issued in a print edition on FAPESP’s anniversary in 2022.
FAPESP seeks to create and increase opportunities for collaboration between researchers at institutions in São Paulo state and other countries. In 2021, 249 partnerships for collaboration and co-funding were in progress with 190 foreign and 59 domestic organizations. Seven new cooperation agreements were signed and 34 joint calls with 21 foreign and 11 domestic organizations were announced.
Altogether, FAPESP allocated $ PPP 53.3 million to 2,554 collaborative research projects. FAPESP also took part in two international calls – with the Trans-Atlantic Platform (T-AP) for the Social Sciences & Humanities and with the United Nations – for collaborative research projects to develop solutions to mitigate the social effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and contribute to public policies oriented to the recovery from the resulting economic crisis.
In 2021, FAPESP took an important step to consolidate its sustainability agenda by launching an initiative known as Amazonia +10 in partnership with the National Council of State Departments for ST&I Affairs (CONSECTI), the National Council of Research Foundations (CONFAP) and nine other state research foundations. The aim is to support scientific and technological research on the forest and interactions between nature and society as contributions to sustainable and inclusive development of the Amazon region.
FAPESP continued to fund research projects on SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, and continued to support the development of technologies for diagnosis and treatment, as well as vaccines against the disease. It supported the fifth and last phase of EPICOVID-19 BR, a nationwide survey analyzing the prevalence of infection by SARS-CoV-2, and Project S, a study conducted by Butantan Institute in Serrana, São Paulo state, to assess the impact of the CoronaVac vaccine in the fight against COVID-19.
The #VacinaSim campaign was launched to combat anti-vax rumors in videos posted to Agência FAPESP’s social media channels. In each post, researchers and opinion formers emphasized the importance of vaccination to control the disease and urged the public to trust science and the available vaccines.
The interest of the general public in science seen in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, and media attention in Brazil and worldwide to informational content produced by FAPESP’s science diffusion outlets persisted in 2021: more than 38,000 news stories were published on research projects supported by FAPESP, for an increase of 20% compared with 2020. Most were published by Agência FAPESP and Pesquisa FAPESP magazine. The visibility achieved by FAPESP’s diffusion outlets was enhanced by recognition: for two years in a row, Agência FAPESP was elected the best news agency in 2021 and also in 2022, in a contest for prizes known as Prêmio Einstein +Admirados da Imprensa de Saúde e Bem-estar (“Most Admired in the Media on Health and Wellbeing”) and awarded by Jornalistas&Cia and the Albert Einstein Jewish-Brazilian Charitable Society (SBIBAE).
FAPESP’s 2021 Annual Report is at: fapesp.br/publicacoes/report2021.pdf.