New level of collaboration between São Paulo State and the Netherlands
September 12, 2018
By José Tadeu Arantes and Maria Fernanda Ziegler | Agência FAPESP – The Netherlands is Brazil’s fourth-largest trade partner after China, the United States and Argentina, and strengthening cooperation with Brazil in science and technology is an important item on its list of priorities, as evidenced by the visit to Brazil of a Dutch delegation led by Mona Keijzer, Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Policy. Keijzer and her delegation called on the São Paulo State Government at Palácio dos Bandeirantes on August 20, 2018.
The delegation included Professor Wim van den Doel, former Dean of the School of Humanities at Leiden University and a member of the Executive Board of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).
Van den Doel, who participated in a meeting at FAPESP on the following day, stressed the importance of research and development to the Netherlands, which invests 2% of its gross domestic product annually in R&D.
Further evidence of this importance, he added, is the Dutch National Science Agenda, which was based on a public consultation.
“A questionnaire was widely distributed,” he told Agência FAPESP. “The process brought to light hundreds of thousands of topics of interest, from major environmental themes such as the future of the oceans to themes relating to historical facts and the Dutch cultural heritage. The organizing committee ordered these suggestions and drew up an agenda based on them, with 140 overarching scientific topics.”
Van den Doel said that the construction of the agenda was “a resounding victory” because of the public interest it aroused and its contribution to the democratization of scientific and technological research.
Turning to international cooperation, Van den Doel noted agreements with China, Indonesia, India, South Africa and Brazil. The Netherlands invests some 15 million euros annually in research projects conducted in partnership with these countries.
“This by no means exhausts all the potential for collaboration, and new proposals are constantly raised on the basis of interaction among the partners. The money follows the collaborations. We want to invest even more,” he said.
Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, FAPESP’s Scientific Director, spoke about the growing collaboration between NWO and FAPESP in support of research by Dutch researchers with colleagues in São Paulo State.
According to Brito Cruz, the aim of cooperation is not only to build research and student exchange and interaction but also to fund joint research projects in areas of common interest in pursuit of transnationally important scientific and technological results.
“There are projects in many different fields, but three major areas can be highlighted,” Van den Doel said. “One of these, which we can call Green, encompasses biodiversity, biofuels and related topics. The others are Health and Advanced Technology.”
Six calls for proposals have been issued thus far under the aegis of the cooperation agreement between NWO and FAPESP, resulting in the selection of 27 collaborative research projects to receive funding.
Meeting with researchers
The Dutch delegation also watched a presentation about a research project funded by FAPESP and NWO at the Biology Institute of the São Paulo State Agribusiness Technology Agency (IB-APTA).
The project “Understanding the molecular biology and ecology of plant-virus-vector relationships: towards sustainable, integrated virus management strategies” was one of those selected in the recent call issued by the two institutions for proposals related to bioeconomy.
Developed at IB-APTA in collaboration with Wageningen University in the Netherlands, the project involves scientists at more than ten Brazilian research institutions, including the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA), the University of São Paulo’s Luiz de Queiroz College of Agriculture (ESALQ-USP), São Paulo State University (UNESP), the Federal University of Viçosa (UFV), the University of Brasília (UnB), the Citrus Defense Fund (Fundecitrus) and the Campinas Agronomy Institute’s Sylvio Moreira Citriculture Center (CCSM-IAC), among others. The aim of the project is to find more sustainable crop virus control methods based on resistance genes and deeper exploration of the epidemiology and ecology of plant-virus-vector relationships.
In addition to viruses that affect tomatoes and sweet peppers (geminiviruses and tospoviruses) – the focus of the group’s prior research supported by Brazil’s National Council for Scientific & Technological Development (CNPq) and NWO – the researchers will study resistance genes in citrus and emerging viruses.
“The project is a continuation of an older research project that has ended and was conducted in partnership by CNPq and NWO. With the FAPESP-NWO partnership, our scope has been expanded. The solid foundations we’ve built up thanks to several years of research will be the basis for the exploration of more viruses and crops, and we’ll involve more researchers and institutions,” Juliana de Freitas Astúa, principal investigator for the project, told Agência FAPESP.
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