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Check Out from the EU Delegation in Brazil Pietro Venturi’s Interview

09/02/2015

In a website interview for Ibict's Department of International Relations, Piero Venturi (the head of the Science Technology and Innovation Sector of the European Union in Brazil) presented details about the European Programme of Support to Research and Innovation so called the Horizon 2020.

Before settling in Brazil, Pietro Venturi worked as chief science officer for EU’s Research and Innovation Management. The agronomist engineer and area of bioeconomy specialist Venturi has dedicated himself as a researcher and professor in various universities in Europe, he also has large experience in International Corporation.

How can you describe international cooperation current scenario in CT&I between European Union and Brazil?

The European Union has a cooperation agreement with Brazil for many years now. The agreement with Brazilian authorities is to hold a directive committee every year. This is a chance to debate about opportunities and jointly collaborate on taking actions, so we can plan an agenda to make the cooperation stronger. We have common areas of interest for both countries. Basically, these areas are energy, bioeconomy, agriculture and ocean science.

Together we organize activities that could be in a more political level, such as to organize conjoined notice or easier activities, however, equally important to the Science Community in Europe and in Brazil like the exchange of information and researchers or together organizing events in specific areas that we both choose.

Moreover, we also have areas, such as Information and Communication Technology (TICs), which are already well developed, and cooperation is really good. Until now, there were three conjoined notice. In order to do that, we have to organize events that we could show EU activities and also Horizon 2020 in different universities in different Brazilian states. We need to work in a federal and state level. Clearly, Brazil is a large and heterogeneous country, which we need to touch in all its different realities. To achieve this, it is necessary to also work with researchers.

What is Framework Program? What is its context and how can researchers participate?

The new Framework Program started in early 2014, and it is called Horizon 2020. It is the largest research and innovation program in the world, its budget sums up to 80 billions Euros in a time period of 7 years. It has a very ambitious goal, we want to do research and equally strengthen innovation. That means we want the results of our research to directly reach the market by society. Initially, there were problems in previous programs; all the results were limited to scientific publications only, in research banks. We have the need for all social challenges globally that meet a solution through our research.

The program is open to partners throughout the world. There are basically three essential pillars. They are: knowledge - a high level of scientific knowledge; then social challenges; and industrial leadership. On the first one, we need to strengthen and improve the quality of researchers who work in Europe and the rest of the world. In order to that to happen, it’s needed a high level of infrastructure, then Europe will be an attractive place for all researchers. The industrial leadership has a goal, to strengthen Europe and make situations with opportunities to all interesting sectors - we are talking about nanotechnology, biotechnology and TICs, for the development of activities in Europe.

Moreover, we have social challenges, which are European social challenges as well as the challenges of the rest of the world, the ones that our communities have to face. It basically covers matters of energy, health, transportation, bioeconomy, climate change, and also the impact over our community and our activities.

How has Brazil’s participation been in Framework Program?

The Brazilian participation for FP7 (the previous research program) sure was a success. The Brazilian community of science is eager to work and to meet with the European community of science. Plus, we also have specific cases of success with good results.

The program is open to everyone. Along with Brazilian institutions we are working to find new specific themes that we can work together. Technically, we call this system conjoined-notice, or coordinated calls, where Brazilian partners can participate in the projects along with Europeans partners. Brazilians sponsor Brazilian partnership, and Europeans sponsor European partnership. Brazilian and European institutions choose their best areas of interest for researchers to work together.

In your opinion, what’s necessary to boost this cooperation?

In the international scenario, Brazil is a potential partner because of its high level of knowledge in areas of science. I mean, for example, areas of health, bioeconomy, bioenergy, in which Brazilian partners can cooperate with international partners in same rank. To do that, it is important to increase, to boost communication and collaboration between Brazilians and Europeans partners. It is essential the exchange and the trade of information.

Cooperation can be in increased in two levels, in a political level where each country has its own program. One of the problems is EU has priorities that can differ from the Brazilian ones this makes cooperation difficulty. We need to focus on working in more practical aspects. Clearly, there is more flexibility on the European side; it would be appreciated to see this from the Brazilian side.

There is a cooperation-program called ‘bottom-up’. It comes from contacts between Brazilian and European researchers. Typically scientific, this collaboration is an exchange of information and data (a joined work) with short visits to Europe and Brazil. We need programs to cooperate with combined research. We also have programs for researchers that want to individually collaborate with other countries. This is a chance we have to mutually team up.

Also, it is important to use the possibilities provided by Brazilian states. For example, we have foundations from each Brazilian state, they have significant budget to strengthen collaboration but unfortunately we can’t work with federal agreements. That means it is difficult for us to make official contact with state foundations. Nonetheless, we can informally cooperate with these foundations.

Today, we have one problem related to the previous program: Brazil and other emerging countries such as China, India, and Russia haven’t automatic fundings to take part to Horizon 2020. Thus, in order to participate Brazilian partners have different opportunities. They can get auto-funds for their participation. This can happen for example from industries/business that have specific interest in participate in the programs. Or yet, we can have, state or federal, institutions or foundations that will automatically finance the work of Brazilian researchers. Then we have another, which is more complicated, an agreement in a federal level among Brazilian and European institutions, so Brazilians attending the program can be financed in part by Brazilian institutions.

How do you see the role of international cooperation in CT&I in resolving global problems, an example climate change, and hunger?

Surely, science has an essential role. It is always good to reinforce how science diplomacy is important. Science is an opportunity to countries with different political views to collaborate together. We talk in Brussels about science as being the 'icebreaker'. Still, we have possibilities to use science as a cooperation fortifier in many sectors.

Science has yet to turn to important challenges like health and climate change, something more meaningful to multilateral work. This means, we have to collaborate with other countries in order to find solutions. To achieve this, European Union works with many international organizations, actively helping other countries. Collaboration facing challenges is important because researchers can work together in order to create more synergies, save money, and be more effective. For example, we are working on the health fields of various countries. This can also generate a bilateral problem, but must be multilaterally worked. Many countries are saddened with the fact that Europe cannot collaborate bilaterally. Europe want to cooperate multilaterally, its goal is the global future.

What is the relevance of information for international cooperation’s activates in CT&I? How do you see Cint/Ibict’s initiative of having a portal dedicated to international cooperation?

Information activities for researchers and the Brazilian science community are essential. They need information, knowledge, about what is happening in Europe. In this matter, Ibict’s work is extremely important. It is a work that can be compared to other websites of the same field. Thus, exchanging information is important to achieve all country’s sectors and geographic areas. We are also working along with Brussels in order to adapt all information that gets to Europe about Horizon 2020 for the reality in Brazil.

Link to watch the interview (in Portuguese): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBAZZPXypwo&feature=youtu.be.

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