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[SANTIAGO] Eight Chilean scientific centres of excellence have won new funding to strengthen and expand their activities.

The funding, awarded by the National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT) was announced earlier this month (7 December).

The successful centres were chosen from 33 proposals made to the Basal Financial Programme, launched by CONICYT this year to foster centres of excellence whose activities on research, capacity-building and technology transfer aim to have an impact on the country's competitiveness and development.

The eight centres will receive funds for ten years, with an additional 9 billion Chilean pesos (US$18 million) from the Innovation Fund for Competitiveness divided between them in the first year. The exact proportions will be decided in January.

Five of the centres are part of universities and three are independent research centres. Research areas include ecology, biotechnology, oceanography, astrophysics, technological development and mathematical modelling. 

Pablo Valenzuela, director of the Science for Life Foundation, says the funds would provide a financial boost for "all our programmes related to biotechnology, biomedicine, training of doctorate and post doctorate students, and business development programmes in our Technology Park".

Silvio Pantoja, surrogate director of the Centre for Oceanographic Research in the Eastern South Pacific (COPAS), told SciDev.Net that the funds will enable his institution to contribute to the sustainable development of the south-austral zone in southernmost Chile through research on aquaculture, a monitoring and forecast oceanographic system, and development of hydroelectric power.

Mary Kalin Arroyo, director of the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity, says her institute will use their share of the funds to work on "modelling the impact of climate change in the Chilean wine industry and will also search for economically sustainable activities for the new Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve".

The winning projects were selected by an international panel of nine experts, with at least two specialists in the area of each initiative.