[RIO DE JANEIRO] An unprecedented scheme launched by Brazil's Science and Technology Ministry on 6 September to fund innovation activities has received an overwhelming response from companies seeking to benefit from it.
As many as 900 companies filed 1,075 proposals to the ministry by the closing date of 24 October — representing BRL1.87 billion (US$866 million) worth of funding requests.
This is more than six times the size of the fund available — US$139 million for a period of three years.
"It was a very good surprise. As a new support mechanism with a short time to receive proposals, we didn't expect the scheme to receive so many projects," Odilon Marcuzzo, president of FINEP (the Studies and Projects Fund) which is responsible for the scheme, told SciDev.Net.
It is Brazil's first public tender to companies offering support for research and development of innovative products and processes. The successful applications will be announced next month.
Proposals must be related to HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, semiconductors and software, nanotechnology, biotechnology, biomass or renewable energy, or the aerospace sector.
In line with the 2004 Brazilian innovation law (see 'Brazil adopts innovation law'), companies will have to cover a proportion of a project's costs, which varies according to company revenue.
For instance companies with a gross revenue under US$1.1 million must provide five per cent of a project's total cost. Those with a revenue exceeding US$27million will have to provide between 50 and 60 per cent of the costs.
Of all the proposals submitted, more than half were from software and semiconductor companies.
Surprisingly, small and medium companies — with less than U$5 million in gross revenue — accounted for 84.2 per cent of the projects.
This is noteworthy, Marcuzzo said, as the ministry expected most applications to come from large companies, which are thought to be more involved in research activities.
"It can be used as a good justification for us to request more money to the program," he said.
Brazil launched two other schemes to boost innovation activities in companies earlier this year.The first earmarked US$70 million for small and medium companies associated with regional partners. The second, launched this month, will assign US$28 million to subsidise researchers' salaries in companies (see 'Brazil boosts technology research in companies').