State research foundations encourage researchers to play a leading role in international collaborations | AGÊNCIA FAPESP

State research foundations encourage researchers to play a leading role in international collaborations The aims of these subnational institutions include bolstering the impact of Brazilian science and increasing the benefits of cross-border cooperation (photo: Felipe Maeda / Agência FAPESP)

State research foundations encourage researchers to play a leading role in international collaborations

September 11, 2019

Elton Alisson  |  Agência FAPESP – State research foundations in Brazil have entered into an array of international cooperation agreements in recent years. One of the aims of these agreements is to bolster the impact and visibility of the science conducted in Brazil. The current priority of these agreements is to encourage researchers to play a more active role in international projects and increase the benefits of cross-border collaboration.

These and other goals were discussed by a panel of experts on international research collaboration and strategies to advance scientific knowledge assembled by the National Council of State Research Foundations (CONFAP) for a symposium held at FAPESP on August 22-23, 2019.

“Brazil’s state research foundations are engaging in much more cross-border cooperation than ever before. The possibilities have increased so much that we must now work out a policy and guidelines for participation in new agreements, not only to encourage mobility but also to ensure that Brazilian researchers take on leading roles in collaborative projects,” said Evaldo Ferreira Vilela, President of CONFAP and of the Minas Gerais Research Foundation (FAPEMIG), during the meeting.

“We want international cooperation to be not an end in itself but a means to achieve the objectives of state foundations in funding collaborative research projects.”

Enabling Brazilian researchers to contribute more significantly to collaborations and take the lead in more projects is indeed among FAPESP’s goals in committing to international cooperation agreements, said Marilda Solon Teixeira Bottesi, the Foundation’s special adviser on research collaboration.

Participation in large-scale international projects is one of the strategies deployed to achieve this goal. “When Brazilians participate, via projects funded by FAPESP, in major experiments involving researchers from many countries, they can be placed in positions of leadership and governance,” Bottesi said.

For example, through a project supported by FAPESP, a group of researchers at the University of São Paulo’s Engineering School (POLI-USP) designed and built a chip called SAMPA for use in the detection system of ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment), one of four major experiments in progress at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Europe.

Additionally, with FAPESP’s support, researchers at the University of Campinas (UNICAMP) have developed a light detector called ARAPUCA for use by the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) in the United States. DUNE is an international scientific collaboration that seeks to discover new properties of neutrinos, elementary particles with very little mass that travel at near-light speed.

“In these projects, Brazilian researchers participate on a level footing with colleagues elsewhere. They’re not just members of a team. Many play a leading role,” Bottesi said.

FAPESP encourages researcher mobility but prioritizes participation in collaborative research projects to maximize gains from cooperation agreements. “Mobility can be a means of winning involvement in research projects. However, our main focus in terms of funding is on joint research projects,” Bottesi stressed.

Another strategy deployed in recent years has been to build collaboration with Asian countries. “Asia’s share of science, technology and innovation is steadily growing,” Bottesi said.

New agreements and calls for proposals

A new international cooperation agreement between CONFAP and Italy was announced at the event. The agreement calls for the publication in September 2019 of a joint call for proposals with Brazil’s state research foundations to support five projects in the following priority areas: space, strategic materials, renewable energy, agriculture and food, and precision agriculture.

CONFAP will partner with an Italian network comprising 18 universities and a research center. “Each project can receive up to €200,000 in funding. Half will be disbursed by the Italian government and half by the participating Brazilian research foundations,” said Elisa Natola, senior adviser to CONFAP on EU-Brazil affairs.

The agreement was intermediated by Brazil’s Foreign Ministry, which has a technology and innovation promotion program involving 30 embassies around the world.

“FAPESP has its own international clout, but it’s important for other state research foundations to use CONFAP’s support in talks on cooperation agreements with other countries. This is what permitted the agreement with Italy,” said Achilles Emilio Zaluar Neto, who heads the Foreign Ministry’s technology promotion department.

The event also featured a new call for proposals to be submitted to the Newton Fund Impact Scheme, which remains open until September 13.

The aim is to fund current and previous Newton Fund grantees to maximize their impact via new projects in the area of public policy or increased engagement with users and multipliers such as startups, NGOs, and charities or third-sector institutions.

The projects selected will last 24 months and receive up to £200,000 each. Ten research foundations, including FAPESP, are partnering with the British Council on this new call.

“Proposals should be based on a project already completed or currently in progress and supported by the Newton Fund. However, grants will be provided not for a continuation of existing activities but for new activities focusing primarily on impact realization in policy and multipliers,” said Vera Oliveira, the British Council’s senior manager for higher education and science in Brazil.

Additionally, during the event, Diêgo Lôbo, the communication manager at Global Health Strategies representing the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Latin America, announced a new call later this year from the Grand Challenge Exploration (GCE) to fund ten projects in data science for maternal and child health.

The projects must develop computational tools to analyze and visualize data and to produce information that can be used to evaluate public policy or create programs to improve maternal and child health.

“Partnering with state research foundations is most important. Without them, we wouldn’t have the outreach to attract projects from all over Brazil,” Lôbo said.

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