Brazil’s scientists are taking a decisive step to widen public awareness of their potential, stepping onto the very same stage where historic breakthroughs were announced by giants of science including Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and latterly, Stephen Hawking.
Since its foundation in 1660 London’s Royal Society has been one of the world’s most prestigious venues for sharing scientific thought. From 25th to 27th September the Society’s London headquarters will host a two and a half-day conference to highlight the benefits of scientific cooperation with São Paulo state, Latin America’s booming economic powerhouse.
The event will showcase the work of the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) and its links with universities and industry. The British Government’s Universities and Science Minister David Willetts will join UK and European policymakers to discuss the growing significance of international cooperation in modern science.
As Brazil’s leading regional research funding agency, FAPESP already has ties with leading UK and European research funding councils. But it is seeking to further widen its profile among Europe’s research community and among policymakers setting standards for collaborative research.
In London, FAPESP expects to announce new cooperation agreements with leading UK universities, while in the commercial field it will also ink a new joint research deal with a global energy multinational. At the same time as Brazil is stepping up to become a major energy producer thanks to offshore finds in the Pre-Salt field, the country is seeking to develop technology and knowhow in the fields of energy conservation, energy efficiency, and mitigation of greenhouse gas production through energy use.
The FAPESP Week London conference will explore international scientific cooperation between Brazil and its European partners in the fields of biodiversity, climate change, health sciences, bio-energy and nanotechnology.
The Final Programme will be published shortly on this site.
In each field, the conference will highlight existing cooperative research programmes between universities in Europe and Brazil, and present updates in scientific progress.
FAPESP has a state-sponsored annual budget of around US$ 500 million (£325 million), funding Brazilian and international scientists working with universities and research institutions in the state of São Paulo. The state is responsible for 50% of the scientific articles published yearly, as well 45% of doctoral level scientists graduating yearly in Brazil.
“It’s time for FAPESP to punch our weight in international circles, and we’re encouraging European researchers to see that a spell working with universities in Brazil can be a great career-boosting opportunity,” said Celso Lafer, FAPESP’s president. “Brazil is consolidating its BRIC status by evolving into one of the world’s leading knowledge-based economies – and we’re open to do research business with European universities and industry.”
Lafer, a former government minister who was one of the architects of the UN’s 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, has significantly raised FAPESP’s funding commitments and has also reached out to industry for alliances in key technology areas.
FAPESP has bilateral accords with all seven UK Research Councils and the British Council, as well as ties with 12 UK universities. It also has links to leading European research funding agencies, many of whose representatives will attend the London conference.
As well as the keynote speech from Mr Willetts, who visited the FAPESP headquarters in São Paulo last September during Prime Minister David Cameron’s trip to Brazil, case studies in cooperation will be presented by senior FAPESP officials, by British policymakers and their counterparts from several top European research funding councils.
There will be reports on high-profile investigations from Brazilian and UK senior research scientists, including the Royal Society’s foreign secretary and vice-president, Martyn Poliakoff. The Royal Society and FAPESP are on visiting terms: earlier this year Prof. Poliakoff was in Sao Paulo for a conference.
“Our goal is to display São Paulo as a global hub of high-impact, multidisciplinary science, and, to this end, we are attracting world quality researchers and visiting professors,” said Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, FAPESP’s Scientific Director. “Our universities are rising rapidly up the world rankings, while we’re seeing a big increase in the quality and quantity of impactful publications authored by Brazilian scientists. We might be near a tipping-point in global recognition of the impact of the leading-edge science now being made in Brazil.”
To achieve this goal, FAPESP is now focusing US$680 million of long-term firepower on 17 centres known as RIDCs (Research, Innovation and Dissemination Centers). In May 2013 FAPESP earmarked US$370 million of its own multi-year funding to these centres, and secured commitments worth another US$310 million from São Paulo’s six state-run universities.
Commercial partners include Boeing and Embraer, pharmaceuticals giant GSK, Peugeot Citroen and British Gas. The latter is helping to support the London conference.
The programme also includes en evening reception of the Brazilian Embassy, hoisted by the Brazilian ambassador HE Robert Jaguaraibe. There will also be an evening reception a the Royal Society of Arts, sponsored by The British Council.
FAPESP Week London is part of a global programme promoting Brazilian science; in 2012, similar events were held in the US, Canada and Spain, while earlier in 2013 a conference was held in Tokyo.
FAPESP currently finances 18,000 projects in all areas of knowledge. Over five decades it has financed 96,000 research projects and 112,000 fellowship. The Foundation is financed through its constitutional right to a share of São Paulo’s state tax receipts.
In parallel to the event, the Brazilian embassy will host a reception to launch the exhibition Brazilian Nature – Mystery and Destiny, a pictorial profile of the 1817-1820 journeys of discovery through the backlands to the Amazon forest, made by 19th century naturalist pioneers. As a counterpoint to the travels of German explorers Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius and his zoologist companion Johann Baptist von Spix, visitors to the Royal Society will see a special exhibition of drawings made in the Amazon region by the British botanist and collector Richard Spruce.