“Brexit Dividend” for Brazil science ties

There’s a faint yet distinct promise of a “Brexit Dividend” for scientists in both Brazil and the UK who have watched their budget allocations for research beset by uncertainty over the last 24 months – and for whom the future is fraught with anxiety.

The beneficiaries will be researchers working in applied science fields, as well as UK trade sectors being promised an additional £3 billion in export financing support for UK industry, announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) Philip Hammond on a visit to Brasilia 1st August.

UK  Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond in Brasilia with his Brazilian  counterpart Henrique Meirelles, announcing new  financial ties Aug 1. Photo UK Treasurty.

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond in Brasília with his Brazilian counterpart Henrique Meirelles. Photo UK Treasury via Twitter.

While the UK will not be permitted to strike new trade deals with third countries until it has formally left the EU, Hammond is one of a trio of ministers now touring the world in hopes of winning informal assurances of just such pacts. And closer scientific ties are one means of creating a positive climate. The UK’s status as a research and innovation centre – supported by investments – is certainly attractive to Brazilian policymakers.

So there’s promise that the growing network of relationships between UK academic funding institutions and their Brazilian counterparts, will bear new bear fruit as the two countries look toward each other.

Brazil’s science community is still reeling from last year’s 40% plus federal budget cut which, coupled with political uncertainties has triggered a minor brain drain. Such anxiety is mutual. UK scientists too have been deeply disconcerted by the prospect of being cut off from EUR 80 billion worth of budget in the EU’s Horizon 2020 budget. UK commentators have outlined gloomy scenarios for UK science, while post-Brexit immigration rule changes could have serious consequences for the 32,000 non-British academics working at UK universities, with negative consequences for the quality of UK research.

In parallel to Hammond’s visit, the UK’s seven research councils (RCUKs) are stepping up funding ties for visiting academics and post-doctoral projects working with Brazilian universities. Latest is new research focussing on anti-microbial resistance and insect pest resistance in agriculture, where Brazil is already world-beater in terms of export volumes. Topics will include understanding and managing resistance, including novel methods, for pathogen and pest control.

The UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) has issued a call for proposals, in conjunction with the UK government’s Newton Fund and their local funding partner in Brazil, the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP).

The call for proposals will be open to submissions in October 2017 with FAPESP specific guidelines for researchers in the State of São Paulo. A workshop at FAPESP’s HQ 5-6 October will provide opportunities for face-to-face networking and for new UK-Brazil collaborations to develop. Expressions of interest for workshop attendance can be send by the UK researchers to BBSRC until 29 August.

In the first phase, financing for visiting academics working with Brazilian counterparts will come through “pump-priming” proposals. Such grants will be for short-term projects of no more than 12 months awarded to a maximum of £80,000 in the UK (with matched contribution from FAPESP). BBSRC and FAPESP are looking to support around 10 pump-priming projects at the first stage.

You can find out more about the CFP and information about the São Paulo workshop by clicking here: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/funding/filter/2017-bbsrc-fapesp-awards-amr-insect-pest-resistance-in-agriculture/ .

For Brazilian scientists, such projects may not be of a scale to fill the space left vacant by the Brazilian federal government’s austerity plan. So too for their British counterparts, such enhanced opportunities in Latin America cannot make up for the potential hole in European-funded budget left by Brexit. Nevertheless scientists in both communities may see such modest opportunities as a means of making the best of what funding they are likely to get.

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