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The outlook is definitely promising. However, as the saying goes, ‘one

swallow does not make a summer’. Consequently, after a sprinting start,

it is crucial to keep up the momentum and keep Portugal’s science base

in the running, for the long haul.

International collaboration

Although a small nation, Portugal has a long history of going beyond its

geographical borders, of discovering new worlds, building new

partnerships and creating new knowledge. The country is aware of the

truly global status of science and of the importance of access to European

and international networks. Consequently, FCT runs an ambitious

international relations programme.

FCT is a member of 28 ongoing ERA-NETs, which co-ordinate research

activities between funding agencies, across the themes of exact sciences

and engineering, life and health sciences, natural and environmental

sciences, and social sciences and humanities. FCT also participates in

two ‘global’ ERA-NETs with India and with Africa. Portugal is a member

of three Joint Programming Initiatives (JPI), namely the Joint Programme

on Neurodegenerative Disease Research, JPI Water and JPI Oceans,

where the FCT represents the scientific community and Portugal’s

strategic research interests.

Over the past few years, FCT has revisited its vast portfolio of international

co-operation, with a view to fine-tune mechanisms and approaches with

strategic partners across the globe, tailored to specific scientific domains

for the highest potentially mutual benefits. Since 2012, FCT has launched

bilateral discussions with Norway, China, Tunisia, Algeria, Brazil and the

United States (the National Institutes of Health). Some negotiations have

led to joint funding calls for R&D project grants.

United link

The United States has been a privileged international partner since 2006,

with several programmes established with American universities. The

schemes are with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the

field of engineering systems; Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania,

in ICT; University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) in emerging technologies;

and Harvard Medical School in biomedical and clinical research.

The first stage of the USA-Portugal partnerships ended in 2012. After

an independent external evaluation, led by the Academy of Finland, a

second stage was recommended, given the demonstrated potential of

this model for promoting R&I and cultural change. The second stage of

the partnerships is now in progress until 2017 with a shift in focus: rather

than education and training (master’s, PhD and postdoctoral training),

emphasis is now on research with an entrepreneurial objective. Carrying

out innovation research with strong economic impact, and close ties

between academia and industry, is now the mission of these

programmes (except with Harvard Medical School).

The outcomes, to date, are impressive. The MIT, Carnegie Mellon and

UT Austin programmes together involve close to 160 business partners

and have launched two dozen start-ups. The ‘Portuguese Global

Innovation Hub for Technology Business Incubation and Acceleration in



is the first operation of its kind to focus on nurturing

Portuguese early start-ups and mature technology companies to expand

beyond the local market. In three calls,

is providing business

development, soft-landing, incubation and acceleration opportunities to

19 Portuguese technology-based companies.


H O R I Z O N 2 0 2 0 P R O J E C T S : P O R TA L

MariaArménia Carrondo

Fundação para a Ciência e a




2 0 2 0


N AT I O N A L F O C U S : P O R T U G A L

The University Technology Enterprise Network

(UTEN), born within the UT Austin-Portugal

partnership, focuses on building capacity and

infrastructures to underpin technology transfer

and commercialisation. UTEN has facilitated the

creation of four business incubators, six

technological parks, training for just under 100

technology transfer officers and 27 internships

in knowledge transfer.

Global ambition

FCT’s vision is to establish Portugal as a global

reference in science, technology and

innovation, and to increase the impact of

knowledge generated by scientific research on

the economy and in society. Built into this vision

are three underlying challenges: creating

stronger and mutually beneficial ties between

academia and industry; achieving balanced

brain circulation; and sustaining curiosity-

driven, frontier research.

Portugal’s science base is mature and robust

enough to rise to these challenges and FCT is

certain that the programmes described will,

within the next five to ten years, provide

effective returns on the investments made.

University of Texas

Tower, Austin:

Portugal has built

close links with the

American university

in the field of

emerging technologies