The University of Cambridge took a significant step in its engagement with Brazilian universities and research institutions when, earlier this month, the School of Biological Sciences signed an agreement with the São Paulo Research Foundation (Fapesp).
The agreement, by which Fapesp and the School of Biological Sciences agree to provide matched seed-funding for collaborative research projects, was signed on 2 September by Professor Duncan Maskell, incoming Head of School, and by Professor Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, Fapesp’s Scientific Director, on behalf of Fapesp’s President.
The agreement was signed in the presence of the University of Cambridge’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz. Following the signing of the agreement, Professor Brito Cruz gave a presentation to Cambridge faculty and students with an interest in establishing or strengthening collaborative links to scientists in the state of São Paulo.
Created in 1969 and funded by taxpayers in the State of São Paulo, Fapesp is tasked with supporting research in all fields of knowledge. It was Brazil’s first and most successful state-level research council, and has set the standard for all others. The state constitution decrees that 1% of the state’s GDP should go to Fapesp.
The State of São Paulo, home to a population of over 40 million (20% of the country’s total), contributes 34% of the country’s GDP. It holds 44% of domestic patents and accounts for approximately 45% of the country’s total spending on research and development. The state is responsible for roughly half of the country’s recently graduated PhDs, and produces 52% of its indexed publications. Fapesp’s investment in research and development for 2012 was of approximately US$ 600 million –larger than expenditure in R&D by any other country in Latin America other than Brazil.
Some of the most highly ranked Brazilian universities are in the State of São Paulo, including the University of São Paulo (USP), the State University of Campinas (Unicamp), São Paulo State University (UNESP), the Federal Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP) and the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo (PUC-SP).
Also within the state of São Paulo is the National Research Centre for Energy and Materials, comprising the National Biosciences Laboratory, the National Light Synchrotron Laboratory, the National Nanotechnology Laboratory, and the National Laboratory for Bioethanol Science and Technology.
Almost half of all current research collaborations involving Cambridge academics and their Brazilian counterparts are with universities and research institutes in the state of São Paulo. There are known links and on-going collaborations with São Paulo universities in each of the University’s six Schools.
The majority of research collaborations have emerged from within the School of Biological Sciences, in subjects ranging from development of new drugs (Biochemistry), bioenergy research (Plant Sciences) and biodiversity conservation (Zoology), to trypanosome cell biology (Pathology) and companion animal welfare (Veterinary Medicine).
Through the agreement, the School of Biological Sciences and Fapesp have committed to invest up to £30,000 each to fund a limited number of emerging collaborations over a two-year period by means of specific calls. Further details concerning the joint-funding scheme will be announced in due course.
Later this week (September 25-27), Professor Brito Cruz will be back in the United Kingdom for Fapesp Week, a three-day symposium on U.K.-Brazil scientific collaboration at the Royal Society, London. Scheduled events include presentations by two Cambridge researchers, Professor Russell Cowburn (Physics) and Dr Paulo Amaral (Gurdon Institute).
Further information about Fapesp’s international cooperation agreements, including the one recently signed with the university of Cambridge, can be found here: http://www.fapesp.br/en/; a copy of the SBS-Fapesp agreement can be read here: http://www.fapesp.br/en/8074.
For any queries about this article, or about Cambridge-Fapesp links, please contact Dr Ángel Gurría-Quintana, International strategy Office, firstname.lastname@example.org.