The financial execution of the FCT in 2021, 25 years after its creation, shows a new annual maximum of about €569 million, growing by 7% compared to 2020 and 50% since 2016, when it was €378 million, as shown in figure 1. The financial execution of FCT includes an R&D investment of 556 M € and an internal operating expense of about 13 M€.
The continued growth of FCT's execution has been based on a clear S&T policy based on the qualification and employment of qualified human resources and on the valorization and diversification of scientific institutions, thus resulting in an effective process of European convergence and attraction of centrally managed community funds (table 1).
The growth in recent years is associated with the following main programs (figure 2):
- Advanced training, with the doctoral Fellowships directly supported by FCT totaling 2330 new doctoral Fellowships granted in 2021, which represents an increase of 160% compared to the 895 new Fellowships supported in 2015. Meanwhile, the revision of the research regulation Fellowships updated the value of Fellowships in accordance with the evolution of the national minimum wage, which led to an increase in the value of Fellowships research in 2021. The Fellowships directly funded by FCT represent an annual investment of about 108 M€ and 19% of the total FCT investment;
- Scientific employment, through the funding of contracts for doctoral researchers, which has made it possible to gradually replace the Fellowships post-doctoral contracts and to strengthen the enhancement and internationalization of scientific employment. Scientific employment resulted in a profound change in the structure of FCT implementation, representing an investment of about 122 M€ in 2021 , tripling compared to 2015, and corresponding to 21% of the total investment. This investment has reinforced our institutional capacity and presence in European and international networks;
- Institutions, including multi-year support to R&D Units, Associated Laboratories, Collaborative Laboratories and S&T Infrastructures and Equipment, which represent an investment of about 111 M€ and 20% of the total;
- R&D projects, including support for R&D activities within the scope of projects supported by the FCT in all scientific areas, as well as the implementation of thematic R&D programs, such as the prevention and combat of forest fires, the R&D Program for the Côa Valley, the R&D Program for Montesinho, the capacity building of public administration with Artificial Intelligence, the pandemic and Covid-19 projects, among others. In 2021, the investment in R&D projects was 129 M€, representing 23% of the total;
- International cooperation, with an investment of 54 M€ and 9% of the total, including participation in S&T organizations (e.g., CERN, ESA, ESO, EMBL, INL, AIR center, among others) and international partnerships, as well as the strengthening of the GoPORTUGAL - Global Science and Technology Partnerships Portugal program (includes the MIT Portugal, Carnegie Mellon Portugal, UT Austin Portugal and Fraunhofer Portugal programs) and the co-financing of the European programs Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe;
- Advanced computing, scientific culture and support to the community, including access to publications and communications, with an investment of 31 M€ and 5% of the total, including activities of the Ciência Viva Agency, access to the B-On Library and the Science, Technology and Society Network (RCTS), the implementation of the INCoDe.2030 program, the Advanced Computing Strategy, ACT2030, and the installation of the "Minho Advanced Computing Centre, MAAC", as well as the funding of FCT's information and communication systems.
FCT operating expenses are less than 3% of total investment, representing high efficiency of public spending when compared to other funding agencies and evaluation of science and technology activities. In 2021, operating expenses were 13 M€, corresponding to 2.3% of total execution.
The FCT was created in 1997 with a budget of about 100 M€, having grown until 2001, when it executed about 220 M€, and then between 2005 and 2010, when it reached about 480 M€. Subsequently, the total executed value decreased to about € 380 million in 2015 and 2016, having, in the meantime, grown again and reached a maximum of € 569 million in 2021.
Figure 1 - Compared evolution of FCT financial execution between 2015 and 2021 (Source: FCT)
Figure 2 - Evolution of financial execution by area in 2015 and 2021 (Source: FCT)
Table 1. FCT financial execution evolution (Operating and investment), 2015 - 2021 (Source: FCT)