United Kingdom seeks more research collaboration with Brazil
July 10, 2013
By Elton Alisson
Agência FAPESP – On June 14, FAPESP was visited by a delegation from the United Kingdom’s Biotechnology and Biosciences Research Council (BBSRC). The objective of the visit was to discuss possible program partnerships and combining research and strategies to promote innovation and excellence in research.
One of the seven member bodies of Research Councils United Kingdom (RCUK), the BBSRC invests approximately 400 million pounds sterling (R$ 1.36 billion) in funding for biotechnology and bioscience research throughout the United Kingdom each year.
Some research areas funded by the council include genomics, molecular and cellular biology, and biotechnology. Among its established priority cooperation themes, the council has chosen bioinformatics and e-science research, biophysics, cognitive systems, alternatives to animal use in research, and alternatives to chemotherapy. “The United Kingdom has a major interest in supporting research in collaboration with Brazil. We chose some of the following priority areas for research collaboration: food security, bioenergy, industrial biotechnology and the impacts of climate change,” commented Steve Vissher, executive vice-president of the BBSRC, in an interview with Agência FAPESP.
FAPESP’s Scientific Director, Carlos Henrique Brito, stresses that many of the BBSRC’s themes of interest are also considered important to the studies funded by FAPESP. He also added that FAPESP has multiple funding modalities to support research and that these can forms routes for collaboration between the two institutions.
One of these is the FAPESP Bioenergy Research Program (BIOEN). This program brings together more than 400 Brazilian scientists, the majority of whom are from universities and research institutions in São Paulo state, and researchers from several other countries, including the United Kingdom.
Other initiatives that could contribute to the collaboration, according to Brito Cruz, are the 17 Research, Innovation and Dissemination Centers (CEPID). Announced in May, the centers bring together 499 scientists from São Paulo state and 68 countries to work as lead or associate researchers. These centers will be funded by FAPESP and by the host institutions through research grants, technical and support personnel, and support from investment in infrastructure for a period of 11 years.
The total investment is estimated at US$ 680 million, some US$ 370 million of which will be paid by the host institutions as salaries for researchers and technicians.
“An important part of the mission of these centers will be to develop international cooperation with the best research institutions in the world, many of which are located in the United Kingdom. The researchers at these new CEPIDs will be potential collaborators of colleagues in the United Kingdom, funded by the BBSRC,” explained Brito Cruz.
Partnering with companies
Brito Cruz also emphasized that FAPESP recently began a program that forms partnerships with companies. This program aims to create research centers similar to the CEPIDs, but these centers will be co-funded by industry and FAPESP and adapted to the needs of the production sector.
The program has already resulted in a cooperative agreement with auto maker Peugeot-Citroën, which will build an Engineering Research Center in Brazil to develop projects on internal combustion engines that are adapted or developed specifically for biofuels and on the sustainability of biofuels.
Other centers are in negotiation. British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is in talks to create a research center for “green chemistry.” “We should announce the launch of this center in the second half of this year,” said Brito Cruz.
Brito Cruz also stressed that FAPESP offers São Paulo state researchers Research Fellowships Abroad (BPE) and Research Internships Abroad (BEPE), which allow FAPESP fellows to spend time at top research centers anywhere in the world. “This creates important collaboration opportunities,” he said.
In the same vein, FAPESP has also instituted a pilot program that seeks to establish collaboration between institutions in São Paulo state and high-level researchers living abroad. The program’s goal is to attract renowned scientists to the country to coordinate thematic projects in their field at São Paulo universities and laboratories.
The researchers will continue working at their institutions of origin but will remain in Brazil for 12 weeks per year the five or more years of the project’s duration, coordinating a group of FAPESP fellows, including post-doctoral researchers, PhD students and even scientific initiation students.
“Many of these initiatives that we have created to stimulate research in São Paulo state could contribute to possible collaborations with the BBSRC,” explained Brito Cruz.
Expansion of partnerships
FAPESP and the BBSRC launched a joint call in 2011, under the auspices of an agreement signed by both parties. The BBSRC now intends to broaden the partnership. “FAPESP offers many possibilities for research collaboration. There are few institutions in the world that offer such a large number of flexible cooperation opportunities,” said Vissher.
During September 25–27, FAPESP will hold a symposium at the Royal Society in London, bringing together researchers from several fields with the objective of building closer cooperation in research. FAPESP director Brito Cruz, together with Marie-Anne Van Slays, a member of BIOEN’s coordination team, and Alexander Rocket, director of the Foundation area, hosted the BBSRC committee.
The British delegation comprised fifteen researchers, including representatives of the U.K. National Biosciences Institutes and the universities of Bristol, Warwick and Nottingham, with which FAPESP also has a cooperation agreement.
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