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First Annual Carnegie Mellon Portugal Partnership Conference News

Information and Communications Technologies (ICT): “Critical to future economic growth”
More than 200 members of the academic and business communities attended the first annual conference of the Carnegie Mellon|Portugal Partnership “Economy 3.0: Re-boot and Re-connect.”

The First Annual Carnegie Mellon|Portugal Partnership Conference, sponsored by the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) and held at the Palácio da Bolsa in Porto on June 22nd, enjoyed the presence of the Prime Minister of Portugal, the Minister of Science Technology and Higher Education, the State Secretary for Science, Technology and Higher Education, and the President of FCT. The Carnegie Mellon|Portugal Partnership Conference’s welcome address was given by José Marques dos Santos, Rector of the University of Porto, who announced that the change of management of universities will promote their autonomy. The University of Porto was among the first to attain the status of Foundation in Portugal.

João Barros, National Director of ICTI@Portugal, emphasized the importance of a wide scientific debate about the role of ICT in shaping a new economic model following the current financial crisis. To this end, the leadership of the Partnership prepared a provisional strategic plan that is currently under discussion among scientists and industry professionals in Portugal and at Carnegie Mellon. This document shall be the basis for a new call for research project proposals that will open in the coming weeks. In the strategic plan, ICT focus areas are proposed in which Portugal can develop comparative advantages. These areas include: Next Generation Networks for High-Quality Trusted Services; Software Engineering for Large Scale Dependable Systems; Cyber-Physical Systems for Ambient Intelligence and Human-Centric Community; and Applied Mathematics. Public Policy and Entrepreneurship in High-Growth Areas appear as important complementary fields. Professor Barros noted that “Portugal already has, in these areas, research groups with international impact and dynamic companies with the capacity to transform the results of basic research in high-tech products with added value.” Examples include Portugal Telecom, Nokia Siemens Networks, Novabase, as well as BioDevices, Critical Software, Ndrive or OutSystems. At the end of the speech, João Barros affirmed that it is important to create space for a new generation of leaders, both in academia and in business, and ended by stating that: “This is the time for us to make a difference.” The keynote speaker at the Conference was Marvin Sirbu, Professor of Engineering & Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University.

Professor Sirbu’s speech was a response to the question, “How can ICT help?’ His answer touched upon major problems of our times such as global warming, energy efficiency and self reliance, environmental preservation, infrastructure lifetime, aging population and global competition, showing the many areas that ICT impacts.

“The Carnegie Mellon|Portugal partnership aims to create new models for interdisciplinary and international collaboration, new academic centers of excellence, and also new models for academy / industry collaboration.” Marvin Sirbu

For Marvin Sirbu to go from invention to innovation is a very important step because “it is not enough to do good science & engineering.” The key is that “ideas must be translated into products and services.” For this to occur, “we need a better understanding of the ecology of innovation.”

Mariano Gago, Minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education, said that science in Portugal is characterized by a “culture of seriousness.” This is the area in which young professionals are most internationalized” because “their worth comes from the recognition of the best, and that must happen on the world stage.” The opening session of Annual Conference ended with José Sócrates, Prime-Minister of Portugal, who emphasized the importance of this partnership for the development of the country. He said that science “was the only sector that always had an increase in public investment.”

The investment in science, which was 1.2 percent of GDP, was the only item of the state budget that always had a positive and significant progress in terms of national public investment.” In his view, the international partnerships gives the universities the opportunity to compete in the global arena of knowledge.

The aim is to increase the number of scientists working in Portugal to “six researchers for every 1,000,” thus matching the European average. On the other hand, it was shown that between 2005 and 2007 the number of companies engaged in research and development has doubled. The Portuguese Prime-Minister still had time to give one more relevant figure: “Portugal is one of the European countries that have the largest number of women in research – about 44 percent of scientists are women.”