A short country profile for science and technology
3. The National S&T System
. National policies for science, technology and innovation
. The Universities are a cornerstone of the S&T system
. Science and Technology (S&T) and Research and Development (R&D)
. Other actors in the scientific landscape
5. S&T Cooperation Roadmap: 2010-2011 226 KB
3. National National S&T System
The government of President Piñera has 21 state ministers, nine of whom are women.
The Ministry of Education is in charge of education and scientific and technological research. Felipe Bulnes is the Minister.
The National Commission of Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT) is overseen by the Ministry of Education, but has a public budget of its own allocated to it.
The Innovation Council for Competitiveness has been set up in 2006 as an advisory body to the President of the Republic on the future policies on science, technology and innovation. The Council is chaired by Fernando Flores Labra. Among the members are the ministers of Industry, Economy, Education, Public Works and of Agriculture, the President of CONICYT and the Executive Vice-President of CORFO (Chilean Economic Development Agency).
The mandate of the Council is to propose to the President an updated national strategy to promote innovation and competitiveness, in view of grounding policy in the areas of science, technology and innovation. This process is on-going and may also lead to new forms of organisation and national institutions.
A first volume 'Hacia una estrategia nacional de innovación para la competitividad' has been published. It focuses on the diagnosis and the bases for a national strategy. A second volume has been published and handed to the President with a focus on implementation and lines of action to take in January 2008. They are now estimated in need of review.
A country profile is available on the ERAWATCH website. Click here to consult it.
Chilean universities are widely recognized as being among the best in Latin America. Before the education reforms of 1980, Chile had eight universities: two universities run by the state and six private ones, although all received most of their funding from the state.
The state universities are
The private universities were
The University of Chile, the nation's largest and most important university, has the authority to oversee the quality of professional training programmes in important fields, such as medicine, in the other universities.
The attention paid by the Chilean administration to new models of science education for upgrading educational opportunities is noteworthy. Initiatives such as the Programa Amigos de la Ciencia, which teaches science to children from impoverished backgrounds and encourages them to pursue scientific studies at the secondary level, are taken as examples by United Nation organisations.
The CONICYT “Comisión Nacional de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica” (National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research), was created in 1967 as an advisory body to the Government in S&T matters. CONICYT is today the main national body for S&T for formation of human capital and basic research. It acts as the coordinating entity that works jointly with the Chilean Science and Technology community, by promoting and strengthening scientific and technological research, the training of human resources, the development of new areas of knowledge and productive innovation. CONICYT is politically overseen by the Ministery of Education, but has its own budgetary endowment. The president of CONICYT is Dr. José Miguel Aguilera Radic.
CONICYT has been designated as the Government organisation in charge of implementing and overseeing the Agreement on Scientific and Technological Cooperation signed in 2002 with the European Commission on behalf of the European Communities. In 2011, CONICYT adopted the evaluation criteria and definitions of categories in use in the 7th European Research Framework Programme across the board to standardise application and assessment processes of its different funding schemes. For both, the Chilean scientific and technological community and Chilean industry, this Agreement represents an opportunity to participate on an equal footing in the creation and development of the international dimension of the European Research Area alongside great centres of excellence and European companies. More information on CONICYT below or click here.
The two main research funds are the FONDECYT and the FONDEF.
FONDECYT, the Fondo Nacional de Desarrollo Científico y Tecnológico (National Fund for Scientific and Technological Development), was created in 1981 in order to introduce a competitive funding mechanism. Its mission is to promote and develop research across all disciplines by financing high level research projects through different programmes of competitive public tenders. From its very beginning, FONDECYT has contributed significantly to basic science and technological research.
The Programme has thus until 2007 financed approximately 9,000 projects. More than 10,000 researchers have participated with a scientific production of more than 10,000 published scientific papers, 7,000 of which in ISI journals. About 18 thousand conference presentations are attributed to this effort as well as some 5,000 doctorate, masters' degree and undergraduate theses. In total, more than 50,000 scientific papers have been developed within the framework of FONDECYT projects, contributing to the economic and social development of Chile by consolidating a knowledge chain covering all steps from the creation of new basic scientific and technological knowledge to its application in productive and social circles.
Overall, FONDECYT and its Superior Councils have significant support from the research community for professionalism, integrity and commitment. The FONDECYT programmes have strengthened the Chilean capacity for research and instilled a culture of open dissemination of research through publications in refereed journals. Its emphasis is on academic excellence. More information here.
The FONDEF Programme was created in 1991. It was designed to provide a means of enhancing R&D related to national needs in conjunction with liberal market policies. At that time, government recognized the need for greater S&T capacity in universities and technological institutes, as well as the positive externalities in public support of programmes. FONDEF was also charged to increase the participation of companies in research.
It co-finances universities and non-profit research and development institutions with the private sector. There is annual public bidding for projects oriented towards the creation of relevant technological businesses and with a high socio-economical impact.
The projects awarded by FONDEF have resulted in the creation and improvement of products, processes and services, as expected. Its results have contributed to an increase in exports with added value, as well as the development of new markets.
FONDEF has been encouraging the internationalisation of its projects. Today, 30% of the initiatives financed have international participation. Ex post assessments based on project results, suggest very good return on investment, the creation of more than 50 new companies and productive units, the development of patents, 272 new products and other achievements. The Tohá Water Purification System is an example of a new process, which is applied in the treatment of domestic and industrial waste water. Its advantages are high efficiency in removing organic matter and pathogens for low investment and operating costs. More information here.
The FONDAP (Fund for Advanced Research in Priority Areas) runs an interesting programme to promote the development of Centres of Excellence to encourage the work of researchers in teams on subject areas where the national scientific community has reached a high level of development. These centres are organized within a non-profit institution with proven experience in scientific research and a commitment towards postgraduate education, at PhD level, in a given disciplinary area. The Centres operate within the legal framework of a legal entity –the responsible institution- which hosts them. Other institutions may contribute and become associated.
The EXPLORA initiative (The National Programme for the Dissemination and Valuation of Science and Technology) was created in 1995 by CONICYT to contribute towards the creation of scientific and technological cultural awareness in people, particularly school children, through non-formal educational actions, as a drive for development. More information here.
CONICYT is also very active in supporting the regional dimension of R&D within the country, in particular in relation with environmental issues. In March 2004, its Regional Programme launched the creation of the Regional Consortia for Cooperative Research and Development, within the framework of the Bicentennial Programme in Science and Technology. Four new centres have been recently awarded. This now extends the Programme to ten regions. "From the desert to the Antarctic" is the motto of the programme.
The Centre for Research on Man and the Desert: Integrating Past and Present (CIHDE), with headquarters in the First Region, is aimed at constituting a worldwide scientifically important pole for multidisciplinary research of desert zones, as well as a source of social and economic development in the region. The Centre is inserted within the Strategy for Development of the Tarapacá Region and looks for fostering the technology transfer and research. It is also intended to diversify the regional productive basis through a sustainable economy, by strengthening agriculture and tourism, promoting an increase in the efficiency of using the water resources, and developing the rural world.
In the II Region, the general aim of the Scientific Technological Mining Research Centre (CICITEM) with its headquarters in Antofagasta is to contribute to the materialisation of a Regional Mining Cluster and promote the development of the Region through mining research.
In Region IV, the Centre for Advanced Studies in Arid Zones (CEAZA), is intent on studying the impact of climatic oscillations on the hydrobiological cycle and biological productivity in the southern and central arid zones of Chile (headquarters in the IV Region of Coquimbo). The institution is to support the decision-making process in planning the different productive and development areas in arid zones, generating models to manage the water and biotic resources and incorporating new species into the productive activity of the Region. In a wider context, it will become an entity for scientific and technological advisory and operation of the International Centre of Water for Arid and Semiarid Zones in Latin America and the Caribbean, directed by UNESCO.
The Centre for Research in Silvoagricultural Biotechnology (CIBS) will provide the agricultural and silvo-agricultural industry of the VI and VII regions with scientific and technological capacities, particularly biotechnological capacities of high level, which are essential for the growth of these areas of great economic importance for the country. The objectives of the research carried out by the Centre include, among other issues, the genetic improvement of fast growing forestry species, the prospection of native tree and shrub species, the selection of grapevines for vinification, the development of biopesticides, molecular methods for the early diagnosis of phytopathogens as well as the application of biotechnology in medicinal plants.
In Coronel, Region VIII, the Centre for Advanced Research in Polymers (CIPA) is intended to become an international research centre in the area of polymer science.
The goal of the Agro-Aquaculture Nutritional Genomic Center (CGNA) is to establish a Centre of Excellence, as a platform for top research related to the agro-food chain. This centre will provide outputs to contribute to the improvement of agriculture and aquaculture both in the IX Region as well as nationally.
In Region X The Research Consortium on Nutrition, Food Technology and Sustainability of the Aquaculture feeding process (CINTASPA) aims at creating new knowledge and top technology to support and enhance the sustainable development of aquaculture industry both nationally and internationally.
Located in the Region of Aysen, Region XI, the geographic area of Patagonian Ecosystem Research Centre (CIEP) will concentrate its research on southern Chile, between Puerto Montt and the southern border of the Aysen Region. The general objective is to develop scientific research of excellence oriented towards the identification and characterisation of the structure, processes and interactions between fluvial, lake, estuary and ocean (coastal sea and adjacent ocean) basins and systems.
The mission of the Centre for the Study of Quaternary Fuego-Patagonia and the Antarctic (CEQUA) in Region XII, is to create an international multidisciplinary research centre, focused on the study of the natural environment quaternary evolution in the southern end of South America and the Antarctic, particularly the establishment of the large ice floes, its withdrawal and later biotic and human colonisation. The general purpose of the Centre is to form a critical mass of young researchers capable of characterising the past, present environment and likely future development of the region. This environment has unique characteristics, since Fuego-Patagonia is an important natural laboratory to understand the processes of glaciation and deglaciation which occurred in the last 2 million years.
Apart from CONICYT and its programmes, the national system is based on the universities, the technological institutes and private firms. The research-funded universities are the principal sites for basic and applied research in Chile. Because of this, these centres stimulate a huge amount of interest among young Chileans who are pursuing research studies. Recent reforms undertaken by the Ministry of Education with some support from the World Bank led to a review of research activities, a rise investment in research infrastructure and in researcher salaries. The problem of the aging, both of its research system and of its university faculty, is today widely acknowledged in Chile and additional reforms are on-going. Becas Chile is being used as one of the key instruments in rejuvenating the researcher base with international experience.
The main technological institutes are the Corporación de Investigaciones Tecnológicas (INTEC), the Instituto Forestal (INFOR), and the Instituto de Fomento Pesquero (IFOP); these three are part of the CORFO organisations The other institutes are the Fundación Chile, the Instituto Nacional de Investigación Agropecuaria (INIA), and the Centro de Investigación Minera y Metalúrgica (CIMM). Although most do some research, their attention is really and properly focused on problems of development and adaptation, in contrast with the FONDECYT emphasis on basic discovery.
Several European research organisations have set up collaborative centres of excellence in Chile or are in the process of doing so. Among these are Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, INRIA and VTT.