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CMU Portugal: Partnership between Carnegie Mellon University, FCT and CRUP celebrates 10 years

10th anniversary of the CMU Portugal Program is celebrated on October 27 CMU Portugal: Partnership between Carnegie Mellon University, FCT and CRUP celebrates 10 years

10 years, 15 universities, 120 companies

During 10 years of activity, the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program (CMU Portugal) , funded by the Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT), which also involves 15 Portuguese universities, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and 120 partner companies, has mobilized over 900 students, researchers and faculty from both sides of the Atlantic, supported about 50 collaborative research projects, attracted over 15 million in private co-financing, accelerated the projects of 17 Portuguese entrepreneurial teams in the United States, and prompted the creation of 11 startups, that have collectively attracted more than $67 million of venture capital investment, mostly international, and created more than 200 skilled job positions.

These are some of numbers of the CMU Portugal Program, the education, research and innovation platform that integrates universities, research institutions and Portuguese companies in collaboration with CMU, in the U.S.A..

Launched in 2006, the Program’s mission is to place Portugal at the forefront of science and innovation, in focused areas of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) through cutting-edge research, excellence in postgraduate training and a close link with the Portuguese industry.

“In these 10 years, we have built a creative environment, in which Portugal and CMU have collaborated on the challenges posed by the knowledge societies and by the ICT areas, as its main foundation,” state the directors of the Program, João Claro and José Manuel Fonseca de Moura.

For the Program director in Portugal, João Claro, “the initial objectives of the CMU Portugal Program were to improve the cooperation among the Portuguese universities and their cooperation with business, while learning from CMU’s huge success in these matters, and intensifying the integration of our country in the international knowledge and business networks, where CMU has a very strong presence. What happened was far beyond that. We have created a fertile international ecosystem, that captivates talent, research, best practices, while empowering institutions, and keeping ideas and people flowing between academia and business, and these ingredients resulted in a unique entrepreneurial culture that goes from science to innovation, with fantastic results. What we have achieved in terms of developing talent and knowledge creation and its application to important problems of institutions and people’s daily lives is proof of our success and the greatest incentive to the continuation of the program.”

A close and fruitful international collaboration in education and research

The Program’s strong educational component has mobilized a total of 370 students, of doctoral and professional master’s dual degree programs (a diploma from the Portuguese university and a diploma from CMU). The doctoral programs, in particular, received more than 900 applications to the almost 120 open positions. The Undergraduate Internship and Faculty Exchange programs have also accepted, respectively, 37 students and 67 teachers who conducted immersive experiences at CMU, in the U.S.A., in Pittsburgh or in Silicon Valley.

In the research field, the Program involved, in collaboration with CMU, several dozen Portuguese universities and research centers, and several dozen Portuguese companies that co-financed, with more than EUR 4 million, the 25 Collaborative Projects launched in the first phase (2006-2012 ) of the Program, and the 12 Entrepreneurial Research Initiatives and 10 Early Bird Projects launched in the second phase (2012-2017). These projects have resulted in over a thousand publications, many in top magazines and conferences, over 100 prototypes, dozens of distinctions and awards, five patents and three university spinoffs.

“The Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program has pioneered the development of international partnership models between higher education institutions, research institutes and companies, models that are now being replicated in other parts of the world, particularly in China and Russia,” elucidates the Program director at CMU, José Manuel Fonseca de Moura

The Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute of the University of Madeira (M-ITI)

Created in 2009 in the scope of the CMU Portugal Program, the M-ITI is considered a regional, national and international innovation hub, particularly for the research developed in the field of human-machine interaction. Since its creation, the institute excels in talent acquisition and developing innovative research projects. The level of employability of its students is above 90% and the Regional Government of Madeira has awarded it the Public Utility Status as it organizes and develops its activities, non-profit, for the benefit of the entire region. And because it creates and supports advanced training of human resource initiatives and provides other services in the same domain, cooperating with higher education institutions and research institutions in the human-computer interaction area, specifically with the Pólo Científico e Tecnológico (Science and Technology Hub) – Madeira Tecnopolo, SA.

11 startups driven and 17 entrepreneurial teams accelerated in the US

Among the 11 startups that were born in the scope of the CMU Portugal Program and have already raised a total venture capital funding of over 67 million dollars (Dognaedis, Feedzai, Geolink, Mambu, Orange Bird, Prisma, RedLight Software, Sentilant, Streambolico, Veniam and Virtual Traffic Lights), are already leading companies.

For example, the case of Feedzai, operating in the area of fraud prevention in electronic payments. Since 2013 this company has had an annual average growth of 300 percent, and is a potential future Portuguese unicorn. Worth mentioning also, Geolink, that developed a taxi services communication and rating technology, installed in 1,400 vehicles from 13 municipalities of the country. Finally, looking to Veniam, considered one of the 50 most disruptive companies in the world, according to a ranking published by CNBC. Working on the implementation of Wi-Fi technology in vehicles, the company was also considered one of the world’s top 15 in the wireless industry, according to FierceWireless.

Of the 17 teams that have participated in inRes, the CMU Portugal Program business accelerator, three will be on the next Web Summit, held in Lisbon in November. They are Addvolt, Helppier and Xhockware.

AddVolt conceived the “WeTruck” technological solution that saves more than 90 percent in diesel consumption of cooling systems in trucks, reduces noise by 30% and cuts 844 kg in monthly CO2 emissions per vehicle. Helppier developed an online software that allows users to create interactive tutorials for websites or web applications in a short period of time, while Xhockware, created a device system that allows, through a smartphone, to reduce queues in supermarkets, while improving customer experience and reducing costs for retailers.

Knowledge transfer for industry

During these 10 years, João Claro also emphasizes the transfer of knowledge, experience and international contacts networks to the industry. “Because that’s what we have been able to accomplish working side by side with companies such as Portugal Telecom, Novabase and Nokia Siemens, that are our partners from the start, in our research projects, and with the placement of the vast majority of students that did their internships, masters and doctoral programs in the CMU Portugal Program. And because we have been doing that so well during the first decade of existence, that the number of our partner companies has grown in this way”, the national director of CMU Portugal Program elucidates, with pride.

Assessment and future

The External Review Committee of the CMU Portugal Program, during their most recent visit, expressed once again the strong conviction that this “is an imaginative, world-class program, with the ability to create distinctive value and operate a positive cultural change in universities in Portugal. All of the involved (government, FCT, universities and companies, teachers and students in Portugal and at Carnegie Mellon University) can be rightly proud of what is being achieved”. According to João Claro and José Manuel Fonseca de Moura, it is precisely “with the confidence provided by the results already achieved, that we remain firmly committed to creating a future with Portugal as a leader in Science and Innovation”.

The activities of the CMU Portugal Program are funded by FCT, supported by the Council of Rectors of Portuguese Universities (CRUP) and co-financed by the partner companies and by CMU.

Watch our celebration video here