Agreement with MIT marks a turning point for the academic community

COLLAB distinguished with the APDC / Siemens Innovation Award

(Updated) The protocols that mark the collaboration between the Portuguese State and MIT were formally signed today, with a program defined for the next five years in five areas considered strategic. In practice, the program is already on the ground, with some universities, professors and students working with the institution.

During the ceremony that took place today at the end of the morning at the Centro Cultural de Belém, Prime Minister José Sócrates stressed that this is a turning point for Portugal, the Universities and the scientific community, marked by the desire for internationalization and the bet on the connection between Universities and Companies.

Recognizing that the internationalization effort has come a long way, with initiatives like Erasmus and Bologna, José Sócrates added that «we had never gone so far. This agreement expresses ambition in what is decisive for the affirmation of the Portuguese University, in the will to work in a international, demanding and competitive environment «.

The Prime Minister also stressed the link that exists between the Technological Plan and this Government’s willingness to invest in Knowledge and Science, emphasizing that this agreement did not come about by chance and that it was worked on by his team.

As an example of this effort, José Sócrates recalled that this year the Government increased the budget available in 2007 for the area of ​​Science by 64 percent, despite reducing State expenditure. The prime minister said that no country in Europe had done the same, although he acknowledged that the country’s situation was lagging behind and had to be overcome.

José Sócrates also said that in the next National Reference Framework, for the period from 2007 to 2013, Portugal will increase the allocation of financial resources from the EU to the training area to 37 percent, a significant increase compared to 24 percent previously allocated.

«This is a turning point but encompassed in a general environment to improve the lag factor in the field of education and scientific potential knowledge», contextualized the prime minister, stressing that the good implementation of the agreement signed today is no longer in the hands of politicians but in Universities and in the scientific community.

Converging interestsPhil Clay, president of MIT, said in a press conference that his institution maintains a series of partnerships similar to the one that was signed today in different parts of the world, and that in selecting partnerships, they always seek to choose entities with whom they have already worked, but also where there is a harmony of research interests. This harmony explains the choice of the four areas where the agreement will be developed, Management, Engineering, Energy and Transport and Bioengineering.

In response to TeK, he admitted that there are some areas where Portugal is quite developed, such as Energy, and where MIT will have something to learn from the institutions with which it will work.

The MIT president added that he was very impressed with José Sócrates’ speech and the commitment that the Portuguese Government is placing on investment in science and compared it to Kennedy’s commitment to put a man on the moon in 1962, stating that this political commitment is necessary to guarantee the country’s development.

Comparing this partnership with other international agreements, the person in charge of the MIT School of Engineering did not hide his concern about the fact that the agreement covers such a large number of institutions. Usually the number is smaller, but since Portugal is a small country, it was difficult to find teams with significant dimensions in the areas of interest to move forward with the project, explained the official, adding that this was also the will of the Portuguese Government.

5 years of partnershipThe agreement between MIT and the Portuguese State is already underway, after the preliminary assessment that allowed the identification of areas where it would be possible to establish a partnership. The deadline for collaboration already defined is five years and when asked about whether there would be possibilities to continue, the smiles were evident.

The Program involves research centers, teachers, researchers and students in the form of consortia between engineering schools, science and technology colleges and schools of economics and management at 7 Portuguese universities, including companies, Associated Laboratories and State Laboratories.

In the Engineering area, the partnership is coordinated at MIT by the Engineering Systems Division and will be developed based on 4 thematic areas, namely Design Engineering and Advanced Industrial Production Systems, Energy Systems, Transport Systems, and Bio-Engineering Systems .

In management, collaboration is established with the Sloan School of Management and will take place through an international MBA program. It is also planned to launch a program of doctoral seminars to start as early as 2006, in the form of «Lisbon-Sloan Seminar Series in Management Science».

600 students and 200 teachersThe MIT-Portugal Program will involve more than 600 graduate students and 200 professors, explained the Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education, José Mariano Gago, in a press conference, stressing however that the objective is also to involve undergraduate students right from the start the first year, exploring its creative potential and complementing a traditional training process.

Manuel Heitor, secretary of state, explained that the selection process of students to be included in the program is already taking place in some institutions, as they did not want to waste time and that is why some doctorates are already working with MIT, as well as some universities and Laboratories.

Some of the students involved in the program will come from Portuguese companies that have joined the initiative, who have also made a commitment to absorb some of the graduate students who will be trained under this program (see Portuguese companies are committed to the MIT-Portugal Program).

Editorial Note: [2006-10-11 18:09] The news was updated with more information in the meantime.

Related News:2006-09-12 – Partnership with MIT officially presented on October 11