Brazil: The UK as the European capital of science for Brazil November 2013
Brazil: The UK as the European capital of science for Brazil – November 2013
British Embassy Brasilia
The State of São Paulo Research Foundation, the 2nd largest research funding body in Brazil, chose London to host its first European Scientific Symposium. Nine other key Brazilian State Funding Agencies follow up with a visit to UK. Both activities help pave the way for increased bilateral scientific cooperation. An example of how Science collaboration can bring growth to the UK.
The Brazilian federal government had identified Science and Innovation as a fundamental pillar of Brazil’s growth, and critical to its emergence as a fully developed world power. Government (Federal and State) investment in R&D has grown by 8% in the last year alone, and worth approximately US$32 billion for 2013. Impact and citation indexes show that when the UK and Brazil collaborate on scientific research the ‘impact gain’ (a measure of importance, and by proxy, quality of a research paper) is 3 times that than when both countries work alone. In this respect the UK is Brazil´s number one partner, ahead of the USA, France and Germany – our major competitors in science co-operation.
Whilst the USA is and will remain Brazil’s largest research partner in terms of volume of people and funding, the UK´s reputation as a global power on science and innovation is growing rapidly. Brazil has identified the UK as a hub of innovation expertise, and State funding agencies are queuing up to discuss potential collaboration as their own budgets grow. We are capitalising on this opportunity to increase access to the growing research budget, influence science (based) policy and identify R&D focused opportunities that will contribute to UK growth. For example the State of Sao Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) and GSK are increasing their joint research activity through the Trust in Science programme, allocating £1.6m to science projects focussing on infectious tropical and neglected diseases, metabolic disease, and respiratory illness.
FAPESP Week in London was their first Symposium in Europe. Held at the Royal Society from 25 to 27 September it covered a range of issues important to Brazil and the UK, including Biodiversity, Climate change, Health sciences, Biofuels, Nanotechnology and the impact of science in the media. The Brazil SIN network used the event to facilitate MoUs between FAPESP and the Universities of Manchester, Cambridge and Imperial College, London. FAPESP and Manchester will each contribute £50,000 to fund research bids across a range of science disciplines.
In addition, BG Group and FAPESP announced the establishment of a joint Research Centre for Gas Innovation in Sao Paulo in the field of natural gas innovation for shipping, cleaner combustion, fuel cells, small scale generators, and conversion to chemicals. The Centre will be co-funded by FAPESP and BG; each party will fund up to US$ 10,000,000. This is part of BG’s compulsory spend in R&D in Brazil; companies exploiting Brazilian natural resources have to spend 1% of their revenues in Brazil on research and development.
But it’s not just about Sao Paulo:
However, FAPESP is not the only game in town. Each State has its own research funding agency. Frequently overlooked, including by our competitors, their budgets are growing (between 2012 and 2013 the budget in Minas Gerais has grown 28% and by 25% in Amazonia state) as is their appetite for international collaboration and expertise. Three weeks after organising FAPESP Week, SIN Brazil organised a scoping visit by the Brazilian Council of State Research Funding Agencies (CONFAP) with representation from Amazon, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, Maranhão, Bahia, Goiás, Santa Catarina, Paraná and Pernambuco States. Funded by the Prosperity Fund as part of our Capacity Building on Low Carbon Energy programme, the mission included meetings with the Technology Strategy Board, Research Councils UK, The Carbon Trust, British Council and 16 universities. This has helped us to promote the potential for collaboration with science and innovation partners in the UK. Following the visit CONFAP is now negotiating an agreement with UUK on Low Carbon Energy; an agreement with British Council for scientific workshop funding and with the Universities of Birmingham and Warwick aimed having joint workshops with Brazilian institutions.
That FAPESP chose London for its first European FAPESP Week is a clear recognition of the importance of the UK as the gateway for Brazilian Science in Europe. We are already working to replicate this with other State Research Funding Agencies. The results of this close partnership will allow both the UK and Brazil to access each others’ sources of funding and enhance our excellence in areas such as AgriScience, Bioeconomy, Tropical Medicine, Biofuels, Climate Change, and Health Science.
Increasing science collaboration will not be an easy ride, but it is one that will be worthwhile. Bureaucracy abounds in Brazil, public universities are set up primarily to teach and Professors are effectively prevented from commercialising their research – science parks tend to be dominated by private companies and most aren’t yet bringing in university partners. Multiple funding sources can make it difficult for UK partners to identify where best to enter the market. Personal relationships matter and their development require time. We have an opportunity to exploit the positive links established by the many senior academics and administrators who have themselves studied in the UK. Hence the importance of events such as FAPESP week and the CONFAP mission – people to people interaction will be what makes the difference.
We often say we are partners in Brazil’s economic and social transformation. Science and Innovation help turn the words into reality. The challenge is to turn the Brazilian hunger for engagement into tangible benefits for the UK. We are beginning to see this. Most things in Brazil take time.. But it will require sustained effort by all parties.
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