Government unveils plan to boost science investment

Argentina's government has launched a research and development strategy that could result in R&D investment rising from 0.65% to 1.65% of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2020.

The document, Innovative Argentina 2020, was presented by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Minister of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation Lino Barañao on 12 March.

It includes plans and projections for R&D in six strategic sectors: energy, industry, health, agribusiness, social development, and environment and sustainable development.

To increase research spending to 1.65% of GDP, private sector investment will have to be boosted from 26%-50%, according to the plan.

To facilitate this, the Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation has created several funding instruments to finance public-private projects. One is the Argentine Sector Fund, or Fondo Argentino Sectorial (FONARSEC), which aims to finance projects designed to use knowledge for social and economic benefit.

Other projections show that it may be possible, by 2020, to increase the number of researchers in the country, from almost three to five per 1,000 economically active adults.

Ruth Ladenheim, secretary of planning and policies at the ministry, told http://SciDev.Net that the National Scientific and Technical Research Council, or CONICET, "will create 720 new positions for science and technology researchers, and 3,900 new fellowships for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers will be made available".

Argentina's previous medium-term plan on science, technology and innovation ended in 2010. At that time, the ministry started work on the new plan, including holding roundtable discussions with 300 researchers in 2011.

Carlos Abeledo, director of postgraduate studies on science policy at the University of Buenos Aires and former CONICET president, said: "The new plan advances on the previous one by not only saying what things should be done but also saying how these things can be achieved.”

He added that it was interesting that the new plan promoted the decentralisation of public and private investment, which has traditionally gone to the biggest cities.

"However, it is a huge challenge because it implies creating favourable conditions to develop human resources and infrastructure in distant regions," he added.

Karen Hallberg, a professor at the Balseiro Institute and a CONICET researcher at the Bariloche Atomic Centre in Patagonia, said that the scientific community generally backed the plan.

"This plan improves policies implemented so far and it projects an increase in the human resources, science and technology budget," she said.

However, Hallberg said the links between the scientific and technology sectors, the government and industry needed to be improved to ensure maximum impact and smooth progress in less-developed regions.

* This story by Laura García, “Argentina unveils plan to boost science investment”, was first published by Sci.Dev on 28 March. It is reproduced under a Creative Commons licence.