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[BUENOS AIRES] The Argentinean secretary of science, technology and productive innovation, Tulio del Bono, has announced that the Fund for Scientific and Technological Research (FONCYT) will award US$24 million in grants for research next year. The figure is 20 per cent higher than last year's sum.

FONCYT aims to finance 500 projects through its Scientific and Technological Reseach Projects (PICT) programme. The funding will be available to institutions and research projects nationwide, either as one lump sum or spread over three years for longer projects.

Individual researchers, teams of scientists and networks of research groups may all apply for the funds. Proposals will be approved according to their novelty, their social relevance, and the researchers' qualifications.

"One thousand three hundred projects will be proposed this year," said Carlos Cassanello, who is responsible for FONCYT's evaluation system. "The maximum amount allocated to those approved will be US$96,000."

FONCYT has identified high priority topics, such as biotechnology, information technology, fisheries science and health research, but scientists will also be free to apply for funds in all areas of science and technology.

Last year's PICT programme funded 400 projects developed by 1,100 scientists in 46 public and private institutions. Most of these projects were in the fields of biology (23 per cent) and medicine (21 per cent), followed by social sciences, chemistry and physics.

The two institutions that got most PICT grants in 2003 were the Argentinean National Council For Science And Technology, CONICET (30 per cent of the approved projects), and the University of Buenos Aires (21 per cent). 

The closing date for this year's PICT programme is 30 November. The PICT funding is provided by the National Agency for Promotion of Science and Technology, which administers FONCYT.

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