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Page Background

of the €1bn of EU Structural Funds secured for science and research,

and Portugal generally.

Orchestrating this alignment, in close collaboration with other funding

agencies in Portugal and with regional co-ordination centres, is 2015’s

biggest challenge, since the groundwork carried out this year will lay the

foundations for regular and consistent funding calls over the next six-

year period. FCT acknowledges the importance of this work in ensuring

a steady flow of funding that will underpin the smooth, uninterrupted

progress of research and innovation in Portugal.

Flying start

The EU’s R&I framework programmes are a vital source of funding for

Portugal’s science and innovation base; therefore a large effort has been

put into preparing the research and innovation-based business

communities for Horizon 2020.

Building on steady progress in participation of Portuguese researchers

and businesses over the last couple of years of the Seventh Framework

Programme (FP7), the Portuguese Government has set ambitious targets

for Horizon 2020. The goals are: to secure at least 1.5% of the total

Horizon 2020 funds available in calls (approximately €930m over the

seven-year period, which would mark a break-even with the Portuguese

contribution to the Horizon 2020 budget, up from 1.15% break-even in

FP7); to improve the success rate of Portuguese SMEs so that they may

secure at least €200m; to double the number of European Research

Council grants to at least 72 by the end of 2020; and to set a foothold

in the European Institute of Innovation and Technology.

Halfway into the second year of Horizon 2020, the assessment is

enormously positive. By the end of 2014, Portuguese researchers,

research teams and businesses had secured €140m of the

approximately €8bn awarded in Horizon 2020 calls – a 1.75% success

rate. Considering that Portugal’s contribution to the Horizon 2020 budget

was €120m in 2014, the country is significantly above the break-even

point at present.

The good news extends to most of the other objectives mentioned above.

Researchers based in Portugal obtained a record-breaking 17 new ERC

grants, adding up to €31m. On the other hand, Portuguese SMEs

secured only €16m in the 2014 calls, revealing a weak point that needs

concerted action if Portugal is to reach the €200m target by the end of

Horizon 2020.

co-ordination departments that are keen to

maintain this funding scheme within the new

multiannual funding framework.

Cultivating careers

Providing the basis for a career structure has

become one of FCT’s priorities and is the

ultimate aim of the FCT Investigator

Programme, launched in 2012. It provides five-

year contracts for the most talented and

promising researchers, across all scientific

areas and nationalities. The programme

supports both outstanding postdoctoral

researchers who wish to make the transition to

independent researcher, and assists already

independent researchers with a proven track

record who wish to establish leadership in their

research fields.

Just under 600 researchers have been

selected for the programme, in three calls: the

majority (83%) have the opportunity to stay in

Portugal and pursue their careers thanks to the

programme, whilst 16% of those selected have

or will come to Portugal from abroad. More calls

are in the pipeline in order to reach the goal of

‘populating’ Portuguese R&D units with 1,000

FCT investigators by 2016.

Centres of excellence

Most scientific research in Portugal takes place

in R&D centres funded by FCT, via large five-

year grants. Funding for each centre is

established after international peer review in

which fairness, rigour and transparency are key

factors. The review of R&D units that began in

2013 could probably be considered the major

programme carried out by FCT in the past

years, for its breadth, scope, and above all for

the impact it has on the 2015-2020

institutional landscape in Portugal.

At the time of writing, the review process was

very near completion and the outcomes are that

257 units, of the 322 that were assessed,

secured funding to a total of €77m a year. Of

these, 11 units were considered to be

international references (scored as ‘exceptional’),

and 52 units to be of exceptionally high quality

(scored as ‘excellent’). Together, these ‘centres

of excellence’ secured 66% of total funding to

allow them to carry out their strategic work

programmes over the next six years.

The start of a new EU multiannual financing

framework brings new challenges for the

Portuguese R&I system as a whole, and for

FCT in particular. Existing and new funding

schemes will have to be executed according

to the rules and guidelines that direct the use

H O R I Z O N 2 0 2 0 P R O J E C T S : P O R TA L



N AT I O N A L F O C U S : P O R T U G A L

With nearly 100 PhD

programmes, 2,500

studentships have

been awarded by FCT

since their inception