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[SANTIAGO] A Chilean government fund announced on 20 July that it had allocated about US$21 million to 61 research projects that are developing technologies to meet the country's social and economic needs.

The grants were awarded by the Chilean Fund for the Promotion of Scientific and Technological Development (Fondef). 

They will support research in sectors key to the country's development, such as education, forestry, mining, agriculture, information and communication technologies and health.

"This year around one-third of the projects are related to fishing and aquaculture," says Juan Pablo Vega, head of project evaluation at Fondef.

"This includes [research into] biotechnological tools to replace chemicals or artificial products in this industry, and improving or introducing new species, such as red abalone, halibut and soft shell crabs."

The projects will receive between US$173,000 and US$570,000 each to spend over one-and-a-half to three years. 

Most of them will be run by universities and the remainder by other non-profit research institutions. Nearly three-quarters of them are based outside the capital Santiago.

Fondef was founded in 1991 to improve Chilean research and development, and to boost the productivity and competitiveness of the country's major economic sectors.

Since its creation, it has helped set up more than 50 companies.

Fondef is managed by the National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (Conicyt). In order to encourage public-private partnerships, its grants are only awarded to public research projects that have financial or managerial support from the private sector.