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High hopes for Brazilian science funding windfall

Posted on behalf of Claudio Angelo

Brazil’s Ministry of Science Technology and Innovation (MCTI) has unveiled a four-year, US$250 million fund to develop the country’s software industry, and put forward a proposal to funnel an additional $750 million into broader research and development work.

Announced this week, the plans are an attempt by Marco Antonio Raupp, Brazil’s science minister, to make up for the 22% ($850 million) cut to his office’s 2012 budget, which dismayed researchers earlier this year (see ‘Brazilian researchers protest budget cuts’).

They’re also another example of how Brazil’s research funding priorities have changed in recent years. The ministry added “innovation” to its name last year, and Raupp wants the country’s postgraduates, whose number has more than doubled over the past decade, to work more closely with industry.

According to Virgílio Almeida, national secretary for information technology (IT) policy, the new fund has four main goals. It should stimulate companies to develop software relevant to key Brazilian industries such as oil and gas extraction, or agriculture, as well as software useful to the government, enabling departments to ‘buy Brazilian’. It will also provide seed funding for software start-ups, and support efforts to attract foreign companies to site IT R&D centres in Brazil.

The second plan, called Brazilian Innovative Science, is still awaiting approval from President Dilma Rousseff. It aims to complement Science Without Borders, a federal programme which pays for science and enginneering students to study abroad  (see ‘Brazil promises 75,000 scholarships in science and technology’). The proposed programme would help to ensure that returning scholars apply their new-found skills, in funded research positions for example.

Those funds, however, are dwarfed by a national stimulus package announced by Rousseff last week, which will see the country spend about US$66 billion on transport infrastructure.  Unlike countries such as South Korea, France and the United States, which have used stimulus packages to invest in science and technology, Brazilian researchers have yet to benefit from their government’s stimulus plans.


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