Participants at a round table at FAPESP Week Belgium highlight programs and opportunities that enable collaborative work between scientists from Brazil, Belgium and Europe (photo: Heitor Shimizu / Agência FAPESP)

A variety of instruments support international research collaboration

Participants at a round table at FAPESP Week Belgium highlight programs and opportunities that enable collaborative work between scientists from Brazil, Belgium and Europe.

A variety of instruments support international research collaboration

Participants at a round table at FAPESP Week Belgium highlight programs and opportunities that enable collaborative work between scientists from Brazil, Belgium and Europe.


Participants at a round table at FAPESP Week Belgium highlight programs and opportunities that enable collaborative work between scientists from Brazil, Belgium and Europe (photo: Heitor Shimizu / Agência FAPESP)


By Heitor Shimizu, in Brussels (Belgium)  |  Agência FAPESPFAPESP Week Belgium, held in the cities of Brussels, Liège and Leuven October 8-10, 2018 demonstrates the importance of international collaboration for the advancement of scientific knowledge and suggests an increase in the number of partnerships between researchers from Belgium and Brazil. In addition to interest, there is no shortage of mechanisms for promoting and funding collaborative work.

“In the last 20 years, there has been a sharp increase in the number of papers published by Brazilian scientists, and it is no coincidence that, during the same period, international research collaboration increased enormously,” said Euclides de Mesquita Neto, member of the FAPESP Adjunct Panel - Special Programs and Collaboration in Research, at the round table discussion “Perspectives for Future Collaborations.”

Mesquita spoke about FAPESP’s efforts to promote international cooperation and he discussed some of the instruments offered by the Foundation that enable researchers from the state of São Paulo to collaborate with colleagues from other countries on work in all fields of knowledge.

“FAPESP offers several mechanisms for this, such as scholarships for research abroad and grants, whether for research projects, to support visits to Brazil by researchers from other countries or to support the participation of São Paulo researchers at events abroad,” said the professor of the School of Mechanical Engineer of the University of Campinas (Unicamp).

In 2017, FAPESP allocated R$ 147.8 million to promote scientific collaboration between researchers from São Paulo institutions and institutions from other countries. A portion of these partnerships occurred under the scope of cooperation agreements signed between FAPESP and other funding agencies, universities, research institutions, multinational organizations and companies.

That same year, FAPESP awarded 904 new Research Internships Abroad (BEPE), which enabled 480 recipients to travel to Europe, 357 to North America, 32 to Oceania, 18 to South America, 14 to Asia and three to Africa. FAPESP also awarded Research Fellowships Abroad (BPE) to 224 PhDs to do a post-doc in another country.

Also in 2017, FAPESP provided funding for 525 Brazilian researchers to attend scientific conferences abroad and for 167 researchers from other countries to visit Brazil. A large portion of these visitors took part in the São Paulo School of Advanced Science.

“Another example of support offered by FAPESP is its SPRINT program [São Paulo Researchers in International Collaboration], established to organize opportunities for international collaboration that are announced at the same time at both FAPESP and at partner institutions abroad,” said round table participant Marie-Anne Van Sluys, associate professor in the Botany Department of the University of São Paulo and member of the FAPESP Adjunct Panel - Life Sciences.

In addition to promoting the engagement of researchers affiliated with institutions of higher education and research in the state of São Paulo with partner researchers abroad, the SPRINT program aims to contribute to the most appropriate planning of submissions for seed funding proposals.

Through SPRINT, FAPESP has announced 18 calls for proposals since 2014, with dozens of institutions abroad. The current call for proposals, whose submission deadline is October 29, involves 13 institutions in Germany, Canada, the United States, Iran, the United Kingdom and Belgium’s National Fund for Scientific Research (F.R.S.-FNRS).

Florence Quist, who represented the F.R.S.-FNRS at the round table, explained some of the opportunities offered by the Belgian fund to support international research collaboration.

“The National Fund for Scientific Research supports, for example, transnational collaborative studies, which are multi-year studies with participation by groups from a variety of countries,” she said. Each group is funded by an agency in its own country or region, and together they implement a research study with common objectives using a collaborative approach. 

Quist explained that the F.R.S.-FNRS also supports international cooperation through European mechanisms such as the ERA-NET, coordinated by research programs from countries in the European Union to enable researchers from different countries to implement joint projects.

Among the various forms of cooperation with European organizations, FAPESP has agreements with M-ERA.Net, a network funded by the European Union to enhance the coordination of programs that fund European research in Sciences and Materials Engineering, and with EU-CELAC IG (formerly ERA.Net-LAC), which supports cooperation in science, technology and innovation by European countries with countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Solenne Visart, head of the Department for North America and Latin America of Wallonie-Brussels International (WBI), outlined Horizon 2020, the biggest European program for supporting research and innovation, for the round table at FAPESP Week Belgium.

With nearly € 80 billion in funding available from 2014 to 2020, the program aims at securing Europe’s global competitiveness by producing world-class science, removing barriers to innovation and making it easier for public and private sectors to work together to develop research.

FAPESP has a cooperation agreement with the European Union under the scope of Horizon 2020 to encourage researchers based in the state of São Paulo and researchers in Europe to develop collaborative research projects, taking the most advantage of opportunities offered in Europe and São Paulo for obtaining access to global standards of excellence in knowledge, research data and connections with worldwide scientific networks.

Van Sluys also talked about the importance of collaborative work through Horizon 2020 and underscored the efforts made by FAPESP in internationalizing research conducted in Brazil by signing cooperation agreements with institutions from other countries.

In 2017, FAPESP had 173 cooperation agreements with organizations in 28 countries. Twenty-six new agreements were signed that year. With Belgium, FAPESP has agreements with F.R.S.-FNRS, the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) and the Direction Générale Opérationnelle Economie, Emploi & Recherche du Service Public de Wallonie (DGO6).

Mesquita further highlighted the importance of the various FAPESP Weeks for international research conducted in Brazil. The event in Belgium was the 16th edition of the FAPESP strategy of establishing an environment for scientific collaboration on the basis of identifying common interests among participants.

Additional information about FAPESP Week Belgium, including reports and presentations made at the symposium, are available at

Science, technology and innovation in Belgium

Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe that covers an area of 30,528 km2 (less than Rio de Janeiro State) and has a population of nearly 10.7 million (less than the city of São Paulo).

The two largest regions of Belgium are Dutch-speaking Flanders, to the north, and French-speaking Wallonia, to the south, inhabited by nearly 30% of Belgians. There is a small German-speaking community to the east of Wallonia. The rest of the population is in the Brussels region, which is officially bilingual, with an enclave of mostly French speakers in the Flemish region.

Belgium is one of the founding members of the European Union (EU) whose main institutions are situated in Brussels as are other important organizations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Belgium’s GDP was US$ 492 billion in 2017, with 5.3% growth over the previous year – for purposes of comparison, Brazil’s GDP in 2017 was four times larger, but growth was only 1% compared to 2016. Per capita income in Belgium is US$ 41,000 (among the world’s top 25), nearly five times higher than Brazil’s.

Belgium has seven universities where French is spoken and six where Dutch is spoken. Leading universities in the country are: the universities of Liège and Ghent, the Catholic universities of Leuven and Louvain, the free universities of Brussels (the French-speaking ULB and the Dutch-speaking VLB) and the University of Antwerp, all state-funded.

Higher level vocational and technical training takes place at 21 universities of applied sciences (hogescholen) in Flanders and in 22 schools of advanced studies (haute écoles) in Wallonia. Basic scientific research is conducted at universities while the hogescholen and haute écoles are responsible for applied research, generally in strict collaboration with the universities. Funding comes from the government, industry, university funds and from other sources.

The leading strategic research centers in Flanders are the Interuniversity Microelectronics Center (IMEC), the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology (VIB), the Interdisciplinary Institute for Broadband Technology (iMinds) and the Flemish Institute for Technology Research (VITO). In Wallonia, a network of science and technology parks host high-tech companies and support their collaboration with universities.


The Scientific Research Fund-FNRS derives from the National Fund for Scientific Research (FNRS), founded in 1928 by King Albert I. It operates in the development of science, technology and innovation in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation (region that includes Wallonia plus the Belgian capital) through a policy of promoting scientific excellence and providing support to researchers. More than 90% of the funding provided by the F.R.S.–FNRS comes from public funds. The fund has a broad array of financing instruments to support projects submitted by researchers that undergo a peer-review process. Like FAPESP, the F.R.S.–FNRS does not engage in research or have research facilities, but does support researchers, networks, programs and centers that operate at universities and research institutes. The mission of F.R.S.–FNRS is PHARE (Plan d'Harmonisation et d'Action pour la Recherche), renewed every four years. The current PHARE, from 2015 to 2019, proposes a set of 20 measures and priority pillars that allow it to respond to the needs of researchers and face the challenges involved in basic research in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation. Among the measures are improving research infrastructure, promoting conditions to attract scientific talent and expanding activities in strategic areas. The F.R.S.-FNRS encourages the internationalization of research in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation through its own mechanisms, cooperation agreements and its mission as a point of contact for universities and colleges in the Horizon 2020 region.

Since 2015 FAPESP and F.R.S.- FNRS have maintained an agreement to implement scientific and technological cooperation between researchers from the state of São Paulo and from the Belgian fund, through the funding of joint research projects. As of now, the institutions have announced three calls for proposals with four research projects selected during the first two calls. The submission deadline for the current call for proposal is October 29, and proposals can be submitted in the fields of: Natural and Life Sciences; Social Sciences; Engineering; and the Humanities The duration of funded projects is 24 months. 


The Research Foundation Flanders (FWO), established in 2006 is also funded by the National Fund for Scientific Research (FNRS), founded in 1928. With headquarters in Brussels, the FWO supports basic as well as strategic high-level research conducted at universities and institutes in the Flemish community, which include institutions such as the University of Ghent, the University of Leuven and the Free University of Brussels. The FWO maintains, for example, the Flemish Supercomputer Center (abbreviated VSC in Dutch), a high-performance virtual computer center utilized by industry and the academic community. The VSC is managed by the FWO in partnership with universities in Flanders. The FWO is a member of the European Research Council (ERC) and is involved in several research initiatives on the continent. This year, FAPESP and FWO signed a cooperation agreement and announced a call for proposals to support collaborative studies between researchers from the state of São Paulo and researchers from Flanders, in any scientific domain as long as it covers the development of basic scientific research. Approved projects will begin in January 2019 and will have a maximum duration of three years.


The Department of Economy, Science and Innovation (EWI) of Flanders was established in 2006 and its purpose is to develop the region into one of the most advanced and prosperous in the world. The EWI has four divisions: Entrepreneurship and Innovation; Research; Strategy and Coordination; General Topics and Support.


Wallonie-Bruxelles International (WBI) is the agency responsible for international relations in the regions of Wallonia and Brussels. Maintaining agreements with more than 70 countries and regions, the WBI operates in the areas of: cooperation and development; human rights; culture; health and social issues; the environment; exchanges; education and training; higher education; and scientific research.




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