FCT financial execution in 2020 (provisional data as of January 6, 2021) shows a new annual maximum of about 533 M€, growing 4% over 2019 and 39% since 2015 (when it was 383 M€, as shown in figure 1). FCT financial execution includes an investment of 520 M€ and operating expenses 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 (figure 2) 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):
1. Advanced training, with the doctoral Fellowships directly supported by FCT totaling 2155 new doctoral Fellowships granted in 2020, which represents a growth of 118% compared to the 985 new Fellowships supported in 2015. Meanwhile, the revision of the regulation of Fellowships research in 2019 has updated the value of Fellowships according to the evolution of the national minimum wage, which will lead to an increase in the value of Fellowships research in 2021. The Fellowships directly funded by FCT represent an annual investment of about 91 M€ and 17% of the total FCT investment.
2. 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 valorization and internationalization of scientific employment. Scientific employment resulted in a profound change in the structure of FCT implementation, representing in 2020 an investment of about 126 M€, three times more than in 2015, and corresponding to 24% of the total investment. This investment has reinforced our institutional capacity and presence in European and international networks.
3. Institutions, including multi-year support to R&D Units, Associate Laboratories, Collaborative Laboratories and S&T Infrastructures and Equipment, which represent an investment of around 113 M€ and 21% of the total.
4. 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 preventing and fighting forest fires, Vale do Côa, empowering the public administration with Artificial Intelligence, projects within the scope of the pandemic and Covid-19, among others. In 2020, the investment in R&D projects was 108 M€, representing 20% of the total;
5. International cooperation, with an investment of 52 M€ and 10% 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 strengthening the GoPORTUGAL - Global Science and Technology Partnerships Portugal program;
6. Advanced computing, scientific culture and community support, including access to publications and communications, with an investment of 30 M€ and 6% 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 financing of FCT's information and communication systems.
The operating expense is less than 3% of the total investment, which demonstrates a high efficiency of public expenditure management, especially when compared to other funding agencies and evaluation of science and technology activities. In 2020, operating expenses were 13 M€, corresponding to 2.4% of total execution.
The FCT was created in 1997 with a budget of about €100 million, which grew until 2001, when it executed about €220 million, and then between 2005 and 2010, when it reached about €480 million. Subsequently, the total amount executed decreased to about €380 million in 2015 and 2016, having, in the meantime, grown again and reached a maximum of €533 million in 2020.
Figure 1 - Compared evolution of FCT Financial Execution between 2015 and 2020
Figure 2: Evolution of investment expenditures by area in 2015 and 2020
Table 1. Evolution of FCT financial execution (Operating and investment), 2015 - 2020