Four decades of research

The State of São Paulo Research Foundation was founded in 1962. However, the idea of creating a foundation along the lines of FAPESP goes back much further than that. It was an idea first sketched in 1942, with the setting up of the University Research Funds for National Defense, immediately after Brazil entered the Second World War.

These funds proposed to support the universities contribution to the victory of the democratic forces, through research and training programs, and up until December 1946, they invested the equivalent of US$ 60,000 in the sector, quite a sum for those days.

As the country returned to democracy, following the Second World War, the idea for a research foundation, began to take on real substance. The 1947State Constitution, in response to the proposal of an influential group of academics and researchers, declared in its article 123: "Support for scientific research will be provided by the State by means of a Foundation, organized along lines to be established by law."

The same article included even then the precise resolution to make of FAPESP, in the coming years, an extraordinarily robust institution: "Annually, the State will contribute to this Foundation, as special income for its private administration, a sum not less than half of one per cent of its ordinary receipts."

The fundamental step had been taken, but there was still a long way to go before the Foundation was to become a substantial reality. Consequently, in October 1947, deputy Caio Prado Júnior proposed a bill for the creation of the São Paulo Foundation for Scientific Research, in order to comply with what the Constitution had laid down.

A few days later, another deputy put forward a substitute bill in which it was established that the funds provided for in the State Constitution would be transferred to the University Research Funds. Scientists, who from the start had been committed to the creation of the Foundation, immediately requested that the Legislative Assembly, in drawing up the regulations for the new institution, should request that the University of São Paulo (USP) set up a commission, to listen not just to specialists from all the areas of science, but also to "representative individuals of every entity, class and complexion interested in the subject, both within and outside the universities".

In 1948, the Executive sent to the Legislative Assembly a bill outlining the creation of the Research Foundation, and the deputy who had authored the University Funds substitute bill withdrew it. Many years and discussions later, in 1959, Governor Carlos Alberto Alves de Carvalho Pinto created a commission comprising USP and the Finance, Agriculture, Education and Health secretariats, to undertake the necessary studies that would allow the Foundation, as laid down in the Constitution, to be organized and commence operations. This commission was to heed suggestions not just from academics, but also from the State of São Paulo Federation of Industries (Fiesp).

Thereafter, developments gathered pace: the first draft of the bill for the creation of the Foundation was aired in 1959 (noticeably this draft already limited Foundation spending on administrative costs to a maximum 5 per cent of its budget); shortly afterwards, the bill was fully accepted by the Legislative Assembly and, on October 18, 1960, Governor Carvalho Pinto sanctioned State Law n° 5918, which authorized the Executive to set up the State of São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP). Having completed every detail of the installation process, the Foundation was officially established via Decree n° 40132, on May 23, 1962.

FAPESP commenced operations from a few rooms in the laboratory building of the University of São Paulo's School of Medicine. By August 1962, it had purchased the 14th floor of the Pasteur Building, at 326 Paulista Avenue, where it continued to operate until 1977, when it moved to its present headquarters.

As soon as the Foundation's activities began (in May 1962), the government granted the new institution a US$ 2.7 million endowment, a respectable sum nowadays, and even more so 40 years ago.

Wise management converted these funds into profitable assets, thus fulfilling a legal requirement - which guarantees the stability of the regular funding lines for promoting research, and allows for the creation of special and technological innovation programs, intended to boost new areas of research or to ensure that specific difficulties within the State of São Paulo research system are overcome.

In 1989, the new State Constitution raised the percentage set aside annually by the State for the Foundation from half of one per cent to one per cent of its total ordinary income, and established that this should be handed over monthly.

When it created FAPESP, the São Paulo government's aim was clearly to endow the State of São Paulo with an agency for supporting research that would be independent, efficient and agile in its decision-making. The Foundation has grown, and has never ceased to be the instrument for fostering research that it was intended to be.

From its earliest days, it was established that FAPESP ought to be run by specialists who were highly qualified and deeply committed to the social goals of scientific and technological research - and such has been the case over the 4 decades of FAPESP's existence.