By Jussara Mangini | Agência FAPESP – FAPESP disbursed 16.7% more to fund scientific and technological research in 2022 than in the previous year, according to its latest Annual Report. Funding was awarded to 8,720 new projects, up 27.8%. The number of active projects amounted to 20,709.
Investment in these projects totaled BRL 1.18 billion (about USD 458.4 million in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP)). Nominally speaking, this was 3% less than in the pre-pandemic period, and the number of newly contracted projects fell by 16.5%. The downtrend was partly due to a drop in funding applications, reflecting the impact of COVID-19 on research activities since the start of the pandemic: the risk of contagion and the introduction of social distancing restricted access to universities, research institutions and laboratories, particularly in 2020 and 2021.
“Overall, FAPESP continues to be a major driver of scientific and technological development in São Paulo State. With universities, research institutions, health bodies, innovative companies and startups, it is contributing to the resumption of creative and productive activities after the disaster represented by the pandemic,” says Marco Antonio Zago, President of the Board of Trustees.
In the year of its 60th anniversary, FAPESP increased funding opportunities by creating new programs and new partnerships and bolstered the future commitment of funding for medium- and long-term projects so as to channel the funds accumulated in the period into research and innovation activities in São Paulo State.
Investment in Research for Knowledge Advancement, a funding strategy that encompasses large-scale basic and applied research via Thematic Projects, Young Investigators, and Research, Innovation and Dissemination Centers (RIDCs), among others, accounted for 53.5% of total disbursement. Roughly a third went to scholarships and about two-thirds to regular research grants.
In 2022, FAPESP issued the first call for proposals under Project Generation, which supports early-career researchers who have a PhD or postdoc and are not yet gainfully employed. It also selected 111 projects in the first call for the Initial Project (Pi) program, which supports scientists hired at least eight years previously by universities or research institutions in São Paulo State; contracted for 54 new Thematic Projects; and issued the first call for selection of new RIDCs to be set up in the next three years.
Training of Human Resources for Science and Technology, which includes only scholarships not associated with research programs, accounted for 18% of total disbursement, a level similar to that seen in 2021. The amount of each of these scholarships was raised by 15%. Other scholarships for formation and training were booked under the strategies with which they were associated.
Support for Research Infrastructure, involving investment in laboratory modernization and equipment purchase or repair, accounted for 11% of total disbursement. Three calls were issued for acquisition of large-scale equipment totaling USD 174.4 million (in PPP) and will affect the 2023 results.
It should be noted that this funding strategy includes support for access to Research and Education Network in São Paulo (Rednesp), which interconnects dozens of higher education and research institutions in the state and abroad. Rednesp operates the SP Backbone, a high-speed fiber optic network linking the eight universities located in the state at 100 Gigabits per second (Gbps).
Investment in Research for Innovation remained at the same level as in 2021, accounting for 8.5% of total disbursement. About a third went to scholarships and two-thirds to grants associated with Engineering Research Centers (ERCs) and Applied Research Centers (ARCs), the Research Partnership for Technological Innovation Program (PITE), and the Innovative Research in Small Business Program (PIPE).
In 2022, FAPESP awarded PIPE funding to 224 innovative companies for 578 new projects. In addition, it launched two new subdivisions of the program. One was PIPE-KT focusing on knowledge transfer and funding for proofs of concept in research that originates in higher education or research institutions and is of interest to small enterprises, strengthening the links between academia, industry and markets. The other was PIPE Start, which targets potential entrepreneurs and startups that need basic knowledge of technological entrepreneurship. The aim is to support the process of designing and developing innovative products or processes when the technological solution or business model has not yet been finalized or validated.
Two initiatives relating to PIPE exemplify FAPESP’s efforts to increase entrepreneurship opportunities: simplification of the procedures for submitting initial projects; and the introduction of a new intellectual property policy to ensure that companies supported by PIPE have sole IP rights to the results of their funded research.
Three new ERCs began operating in 2022. One focuses on offshore innovation in partnership with Shell and is hosted by the University of São Paulo (USP); a second focuses on molecular improvement of plants in partnership with the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) and is hosted by the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP); and the third focuses on immuno-oncology in partnership with GSK and is hosted by the Albert Einstein Jewish Brazilian Charitable Society (SBIBAE).
Three other ERCs were established in 2022 and scheduled to go live in 2023. Smartness will conduct research on smart networks and services aiming at 2030, and will be installed at UNICAMP in partnership with Ericsson. The ERC for Aerial Mobility of the Future (Flymov) will enable researchers at Embraer to work with the Aeronautical Technology Institute (ITA), and Braskem will partner with UNICAMP and other institutions in research on agricultural uses of plastics (plasticulture).
Disbursement for Research on Strategic Themes also remained stable. This funding line covers investment in themes such as biodiversity (BIOTA), bioenergy (BIOEN), climate change (RPGCC) and public policy (PPP), among others. This strategy received 7% of total disbursement, with scholarships and grants again accounting for about a third and two-thirds respectively.
The highlights among calls for proposals included one issued by the FAPESP Research Program on Global Climate Change (RPGCC), which allocated USD 3.9 million (in PPP) to projects that provide analysis and future visions for a faster energy transition, especially in land-use change and agriculture; and another issued by the FAPESP Research Program in eScience and Data Science (e-Science), which reserved USD 8.1 million (in PPP) to support collaborative projects conducted by researchers in computer sciences and human and social sciences.
FAPESP also announced the results of a 2021 call for proposals that selected 17 new Science for Development Centers (SDCs), in addition to the 11 already implemented, whereby researchers affiliated with universities and research institutions join forces with managers of state and municipal government agencies in collaborative problem-oriented projects with social or economic relevance to São Paulo State.
In the same perspective, FAPESP launched PROEDUCA, a program that supports research on basic education and is implemented in partnership with the São Paulo State Department of Education. Its remit is to contribute to the improvement and development of public policies and innovative pedagogical approaches that facilitate learning and reduce educational inequalities. The first of three calls for proposals was issued in 2022.
Partnerships were strengthened during the year. FAPESP signed seven new research co-funding agreements, taking the total number of partnerships to 215 with 162 foreign and 53 Brazilian organizations, and held 38 joint calls with 19 foreign and 13 Brazilian organizations.
Under the aegis of a partnership between USP, the São Paulo State Government and France’s Institut Pasteur, FAPESP renewed and expanded its support for the Pasteur-USP Scientific Platform, a network of laboratories that will include Institut Pasteur’s Brazilian unit.
FAPESP played a key role in the implementation of the Amazon+10 Initiative, a partnership involving state research funding agencies (FAPs) led by CONFAP, their national council, and aimed at stimulating collaborative interdisciplinary research on sustainable development of the Amazon region. The first call was issued in June 2022 and mobilized more than 500 researchers in 20 states. All projects must have at least one principal investigator affiliated with an institution in the Amazon region. The number of submissions selected was 39, for investment totaling USD 16.2 million (in PPP). A second call will be issued in 2023.
FAPESP’s visibility in the media at home and abroad was high yet again: 53,008 news reports were published about it or the research projects and researchers it supports, for an increase of 3% compared with 2021. The information sources involved were Agência FAPESP, the newsletter FAPESP Innovative R&D, and Pesquisa FAPESP magazine.
FAPESP’s Annual Report 2022 also provides an overview of scientific production about COVID-19 in the years of the pandemic, outlines future plans for the funding of projects approved in the year, and includes a special insert on activities conducted to commemorate its 60th anniversary.
The report can be accessed at: https://fapesp.br/publicacoes/report2022.pdf.