Beyond Borders: Similarities Between Brazil and the U.S.

 Since its founding 60 years ago, FAPESP has supported 320,000 research projects at São Paulo institutions in many sectors, contributing to the state's national leadership in scientific output. The Foundation's impact on higher education and research has far-reaching implications for Brazil's science and technology scene. FAPESP-developed projects have frequently spurred national-scale initiatives.

In the late 1990s, the FAPESP Genoma program, which brought together 192 experts in a virtual network of 60 laboratories to sequence the DNA of multiple creatures, sparked a number of similar efforts around the country. In 2000, the year Nature published the results of the genome sequencing of the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa, the Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) established a nationwide network for the Brazilian Genome Program, which included 240 scientists from 18 states and was initially tasked with cracking the genome of Chromobacterium violaceum, a bacterium with important biotechnology applications. 

Beyond Borders: Similarities Between Brazil and the U.S.




"CNPq not surprisingly chose biochemist Andrew Simpson, the FAPESP program's DNA coordinator, to head the federal initiative," says physicist José Fernando Perez, who was FAPESP's scientific director from 1993 to 2005. He recalls receiving a phone call from Wanderley de Souza, Rio's then-Science and Technology Secretary. "He said the governor of Rio de Janeiro was impressed by our program and was proposing a partnership." A relationship was created with Jesus Ferro, a researcher from São Paulo State University (UNESP) in Jaboticabal, and one of the scientists heading the FAPESP Genoma program, to develop a DNA library for their counterparts in Rio.

See also: - Diversity in science - FAPESP has an extensive bibliography about its history.


Another example is the FAPESP Technological Innovation in Small Businesses (RISB, or PIPE in Portuguese), which began in 1997. Like the FAPESP Genoma program, RISB was inspired by a US project. It followed the concept of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program, which was established in 1982 to channel funds from US research organizations to promote creative small enterprises. RISB was in its fifth year when the Brazilian Funding Authority for Studies and Projects (FINEP), a federal agency, created a similar project called the Research Support for Businesses Program (PAPPE). In São Paulo, the federal initiative took a different format. According to an agreement between FAPESP's Science Board and the then-chairman of FINEP, Sergio Machado Rezende, PAPPE sponsored only Phase 3 RISB projects—those that had already received FAPESP money, were in an advanced stage, and were nearing commercial application. In other states, FINEP also supported early-stage projects.
While the Foundation does not have a mission to directly sponsor scholars and institutions in other states, the effects of its activities have transcended borders. In 2008, FAPESP conducted a survey to profile its scientific initiation, master's, doctorate, and post-doctoral award recipients from 1992 to 2002. The majority of past grant recipients (70.3% to 83.8%) remained in São Paulo, but many also worked in other states or countries. Former grant recipients were located in 24 states, with a focus on healthcare, crop research, and veterinary science. "For many years, FAPESP-funded researchers and higher education institutions in São Paulo accounted for 70% of PhD researchers in Brazil," stated FAPESP Chairman Marco Antonio Zago in an essay published in the journal Estudos Avançados. From 1996 to 2017, São Paulo completed 67% of PhDs, accounting for 44.3% of the total. So you might conclude that FAPESP has indirectly aided the establishment of federal universities in all states of Brazil."
FAPESP has financed São Paulo-based researchers with research interests beyond the state, and collaborated with scientists from other states and globally. For example, FAPESP has been the single largest donor of Amazon research, with 895 projects and 1,612 awards, many of which are tied to the Foundation's specific programs. "The Amazon has always been a key research interest for us, given the region's importance to Brazil and the world," says physicist Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, who chaired the FAPESP Board of Trustees from 1996 to 2002 and was scientific director from 2005 to 2020. In 2014, he spoke at a symposium in Washington about the findings of research initiatives on Amazon tropical forests. "The Amazon is part of the scope of two of FAPESP's flagship programs," he says, referring to the Research Program on Biodiversity Characterization, Conservation, Restoration, and Sustainable Use (BIOTA) and the Global Climate Change Research Program.
But perhaps FAPESP's most significant contribution to Brazil's scientific and technology environment was that it served as a model that other states' research funding agencies then imitated. Granted, it took several years for FAPESP's pioneering concept to spread to other states. Rio Grande do Sul established the first counterpart funding agency (FAPERGS) in 1964, with Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro following suit in the 1980s. Brazil presently has such foundations in 26 of its 27 states (all save Roraima), however the majority of them were established in the 2000s, frequently under provisions of their respective state constitutions. "FAPESP helped to structure many of these foundations," explains Brito Cruz.
On December 15, 1997, then-Gov. Mario Covas unveiled the first companies selected for the RISB program in Bandeirantes Palace.

São Paulo State Public Archives


In addition to dealing with official concerns, FAPESP participated in conversations about other methods to research funding in these states. Flávio Fava de Moraes, FAPESP's scientific director between 1985 and 1993, recalls a watershed debate in the state legislature that sent ripples across the country. The Foundation pushed to boost FAPESP's state tax allotment from 0.5% to 1% under São Paulo's 1989 Constitution. Fava and Alberto Carvalho da Silva (1916-2002), then chairman of the FAPESP Executive Board, advocated for increased funding in São Paulo's science community. They visited Palácio dos Bandeirantes, the state government's seat, to lobby for the change.

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