This paper analyses the role of national research funds in promoting scientific production in emerging economies. The study focuses on the impact of the Chilean National Science and Technology Research Fund (FONDECYT). The analysis uses data drawn from international sources of bibliometric information combined with the administrative records of the program's executing unit. To measure the program's impact, we implement a regression discontinuity (RD) design on principal researchers who applied for funding between 1988 and 1997 considering as outcomes both quantity (publications up to 2002) and quality (citations up to 2005) of their scientific production. Our results show significant and positive impact in terms of publications, but no impact in terms of quality of scientific production in the proximity of the program's threshold ranking.