British policymakers and senior scientists successfully forged strong relationships with their counterarts from São Paulo, Brazil, during a three day symposium at London’s prestigous Royal Society held 25th-27th September 2013.
Led by the UK’s Universities and Science Minister Rt Hon. David Willetts and Sir Mark Walport, the Chief Scientific Adviser to the British government, officials restated the importance of bilateral cooperation agreements between research-funding agencies to develop science and technology.
Their Brazilian interlocutors were the senior team from FAPESP (São Paulo Research Foundation) and a group of some 20 visiting scientists from state-funded universities in São Paulo state, the nation’s economic powerhouse.
According to Willetts, many countries highlight the importance of international collaboration, but end up entering into agreements that do not turn out well or that do not even go beyond paper. “With Brazil and FAPESP, it has been different. We already enjoy strong collaboration and that’s why I’m very happy to be here at FAPESP Week London, the first time a Brazilian foundation has held an event of this type in the United Kingdom,” Willetts said.
In his keynote speech to the FAPESP Week conference held 25th-27th September, Willetts acknowledged Brazil’s rising position in research rankings, and emphasized the importance of UK-Brazil cooperation. Answering a question afterwards, he even postulated that before too long, a Brazilian scientist might win the Nobel Prize, perhaps in cooperation with British researchers.
It is estimated in a report commissioned by Willetts’ own department, that higher education links with Brazil are already worth over £200m to the UK economy. “Brazil has a growing reputation for developing cutting edge research, particularly in life sciences where there are huge growth opportunities” said the minister. “It’s essential that the UK works closely with colleagues from Brazil to maximise this potential.”
Willetts said the conference helped to: “bring the brightest minds from both countries together, allowing scientists to create networks that could make a huge difference for years to come.”
In his FAPESP conference opening speech, FAPESP’s Scientific Director, Professor Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, said: “We are delighted that Minister Willetts is attending the FAPESP Week symposium to deliver the keynote. São Paulo has a thriving environment for research and development. Now, we’re seeing an intensification of international research collaboration, and this will be decisive for the economy.” You can see slides from the presentation delivered by Prof Brito by clicking here.
At an evening reception, Sir Mark Walport, the Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK government, emphasized the importance of FAPESP -funded research in the fields of biodiversity and climate change. Brazil has recently launched its own climate change model and is now the only southern hemisphere nation contributing serious research to the IPCC.
In addition to the policy frameworks and cooperation programmes discussed during the symposium, there was plenty of “real science” too. The five key topics of the event were: Biodiversity; Climate Change; Health Science; Biofuels, and Nanotechnology. Additionally there were panels on University-Industry Collaborative Research, International Scientific Cooperation, and Science Culture. Overall, more than 35 scientists delivered papers, presentations or interventions on substantive topics over the three days of FAPESP Week.
Prof Brito Cruz and FAPESP President Celso Lafer held a press conference to announce important bilateral research agreements with BG Group and a number of the UK’s top universities. Journalists from publications in the UK and Brazil covered the event. Specialist news agency SciDevNet also profiled the work of FAPESP in reports coinciding with the conference. BBC TV also featured an interview with Prof. Lafer in its London 1300 and 1800 news bulletins.
BG Group’s local subsidiary BG Brasil and FAPESP signed a US$20 million pact to fund a Research Centre for Gas Innovation associated with leading universities in São Paulo state. The agreement was signed on BG’s behalf by Sir John Grant, an EVP for public affairs. Each partner will invest US$ 10 million over a five-year period.
Key subjects of research by the new Centre will include: clean energy consumption to mitigate generation of greenhouse gases; developing natural gas as fuel for shipping; improved engineering techniques for gas production; and the conversion of gas into chemical feedstocks including hydrogen.
By 2025, BG Group still plans to invest US$1.5 – 2 billion in research and development in Brazil, despite its recent surprise decision to pull out of bidding for important offshore oil assets near Brazil’s Santos Basin. It is going ahead with construction of a global Technology Centre near Rio de Janeiro. BG Group will be investing $9.5 million in a separate project to develop an ocean observation system. According to BG Brasil president Nelson Silva, BG will invest almost US$ 30 million in R&D during 2013.
In parallel to the public conference attended by more than 250 scientists and researchers, FAPESP also held a private round table for 26 senior policymakers from the UK and Europe, In addition to senior officials from the UK Research Council (including Paul Boyle the CEO of ESRC) and representatives of the British Council, the Royal Society and UK universities, a number of representatives of member organisations of the umbrella Group Science Europe also attended. These included officials from DFG (Germany), NWO (Netherlands), CNR (Italy), the Danish Council for Strategic Research, and Science Foundation Ireland.
Several participants at the meeting expressed the opinion that this type of cooperation is more effective when it is conducted by entities who share similar values and procedures and who have the flexibility to match specific needs. Several also saw, as a positive, the fact that FAPESP envisions its international relations at the level of joint research projects as a full partnership in terms of design, execution and evaluation. This type of cooperative work, delegates said, leads to a more effective degree of collaboration and acts as a catalyst for other activities such as researcher exchanges and the organization of events.
The event was held in the Royal Society’s own historic Council Room.
Manchester University’s Colin Bailey, Vice President and Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences was also on hand to sign a £100,000 cooperation agreement with FAPESP, to promote research links between the UK and the state of São Paulo. The five-year agreement will make it easier for UK researchers to work alongside colleagues from Brazil’s top-ranked universities. Each party will contribute £50,000 to fund calls for proposals across a range of science disciplines. Researchers at Brazilian universities sponsored by FAPESP are already working very closely with experts from the University of Manchester to study the way Amazonia affects global climate change. The new deal will usher in fruitful cooperation on a much wider range of scientific disciplines.
London University’s Imperial College also a two-year agreement with FAPESP at a ceremony earlier in the day. Imperial College’s Provost Sir James Stirling signed the MOU. Researchers at Brazilian universities sponsored by FAPESP are already working very closely with experts from Imperial College on issues such as biofuels and food security.
By clicking here, you can review a presentation by Jeremy Woods of Imperial College entitled: “Bioenergy and food security, friend or foe?”
Together with the British Council, FAPESP announced a whole raft of scientific awards and new agreements with UK counterparts. As wel as thenew programmes with the universities of Manchester, Cambridge and Imperial College, FAPESP is eyeing new link-ups with Nottingham, Birmingham , Keele and York.
Separately, FAPESP and the British Council announced funding for seven information-sharing workshops, and for eight paired postgraduate programmes at universities in the UK and Brazil.
Click here to visit the British Council website and read more about British Council Researcher Links Workshops.
In addition to the formal deliberations of the conference at the Royal Society, networking between UK and Brazilian scientists went on at two evening receptions held at the Brazilian Embassy, and at an event at the Royal Society of Arts and Manufactures (RSA) hosted by the British Council.
Follow this link to read detailed reports of the scientific content of discussions, prepared by the São Paulo Research Foundation’s own news agency, Agencia FAPESP. Click here to read the extensive and thorough reporting of FAPESP staff journalists and specialist writers.