Sipping caipirinhas and browsing the photographic display of the Brazilian Nature biodiversity exhibition at the Brazilian Embassy on Cockspur Street, a carnival-like atmosphere – synonymous with Brazilian culture – pervades the gathered crowd. Having made the short walk from the Royal Society’s premises at Carlton House Terrace, European and Brazilian researchers are exchanging introductions and ideas about the opening speeches and upcoming programme of events scheduled for the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP)’s Brazil-Europe conference, ‘FAPESP week London’, which was hosted by the Royal Society from 25th-27th September.
‘FAPESP week London’ marks a series of international events in FAPESP’s calendar, designed by the foundation to promote both Brazilian science and the benefits of international collaboration. As one of the organisers, physicist Professor Marcelo Knobel explained in an interview with SciDevNet, that the workshop is designed “to exchange ideas about science, about the future of science [and] the future challenges”.
International collaboration was certainly high on the agenda, with FAPESP President Celso Lafer, Vice-President Eduardo Krieger, and Scientific Director Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz taking the opportunity to discuss policies and strategies for improving international research cooperation in a round-table meeting with 14 European research councils from across the UK, Ireland, Denmark, Italy and the Netherlands.
The impressive research trajectory of Brazil, which has seen both investment and outputs more than double over the last 10-15 years, is in no small part due to the significant contribution which FAPESP itself has made to promoting research excellence in the state of São Paolo. It is the epicentre of Brazilian science, accounting for 50% of the country’s scientific publications. FAPESP also benefits from sustainable government investment, receiving 1% of all state revenue by constitutional mandate. In his keynote speech, UK Universities and Science Minister David Willets praised FAPESP for its ‘solid reputation’ and pivotal role in funding ’world-class research’ in Brazil and the world over. He also stressed the importance of fostering international relationships in both the research and business sectors through bilateral research agreements which promote scientific collaboration, citing successful examples such as the BBSRC Brazilian Partnering Awards.
The benefits of strengthening such research partnerships is at the heart of the Royal Society’s Knowledge, networks and nations report on global scientific collaboration in the 21st century, highlighted by Foreign Secretary and Vice-President of the Royal Society, Martyn Poliakoff during a panel discussion on “International Scientific Collaboration”. The diversity of sessions, which ranged from biofuels and climate change to nanotechnology and health science, showcased the breadth of areas in which Brazil has demonstrated its research strengths. The programme also featured panel discussions on “Challenges and Opportunities in University-Industry Collaborative Research” and “Science Culture”.
As a marker of the success of FAPESP week, research cooperation agreements with the University of Cambridge, the University of Manchester, Imperial College, London and British Gas were announced over the two and a half day event, with further proposals for investment in other UK universities and academics on the horizon. The Royal Society also announced that a second UK-Brazil Frontiers of Science meeting is scheduled for February 2014, which follows from a highly successful meeting in 2010. Such joint initiatives will undoubtedly pave the way for future global scientific collaboration that will generate a wealth of innovative research and define a new generation of scientists.