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The External Review Committee speaks of a “very positive impact that will probably persist and spread for decades”

Over three days, from the 25th to the 27th January 2021, the CMU Portugal Program hosted its External Review Committee Meeting (ERC) to evaluate the Program’s overall performance between 2018 and 2020, analyzing in detail the outcomes and achievements of the international Partnership. The External Review Committee is appointed by the Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT). This committee reviews the yearly activities implemented by the CMU Portugal Program in general and has an advisory role oriented towards the independent evaluation of the activities of the Program. The CMU Portugal ERC members elected for CMU Portugal 3rd phase are: Sir John O’Reilly as Chair (UCL, UK and A* STAR Singapore; John Guttag (MIT, USA); Fernando Pereira (Google, USA); Yvonne Rogers (UCL, UK); Giulio Sandini (IIT, Italy); and Ali Sayed (EPFL, Switzerland).

The meeting was held online through videoconference, given the constraints inherent to the on-going COVID-19 Pandemic situation. During three consecutive days, the ERC members had the opportunity to interact with program participants as well as senior representatives of the funding organizations, the Board of Directors and other key stakeholders.

On the first two-days, the Principal investigators in Portugal and at CMU and the industry promoters had the opportunity to present the CMU Portugal recent research initiatives, namely the 7 Exploratory Research Projects 2019 and the 12 Large Scale Collaborative Projects. On the first day, there was also a meeting with some participants of our talent development initiatives, including dual-degree students and alumni and past participants of the visiting Faculty and researchers program.

The last day of the event was reserved for a meeting with the board of directors of the CMU Portugal Program – to whom the ERC reports its assessment of the Program directly- and with the Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education, Manuel Heitor.  Overall, the 3-day virtual event engaged nearly 100 students, investigators, and companies’ representatives.

As a result of these extensive interactions and the assessment of the extensive written report that the ERC received in advance from the CMU Portugal Directors, it was pointed out that “the collaboration between FCT and ANI, working with the Directors coordinating this third phase of the program, had achieved a high degree of industrial participation both in terms of sectors and individual companies represented, many new to the program or to collaborating in research with universities at this level.” This acknowledgment is the result of the work done to accomplish the mission of the CMU Portugal Program for this 3rd phase that is to place Portugal at the forefront of research and technological development in the area of ICT, by promoting an innovation ecosystem with a tight coupling between cutting-edge research, world-class graduate education, and highly innovative companies in the data-driven economy.

According to the ERC, the overall balance is exceptionally positive namely in fostering innovative research in ICT both in Academia and Industry inn Portugal, with potential to go even further. The evaluation panel also highlighted the important role of the Dual Degree Ph.D. Program referring that along with the industry collaboration they “play a seminal part in the ICT research, innovation and enterprise ecosystem in Portugal by giving participants at one and the same time the opportunity to act both as research performing agents contributing to the desired societal/industrial objectives and outcomes while progressing their further professional development as top-tier individual researchers gaining experience both in Portugal and in Carnegie Mellon University in the USA.“

In conclusion, the ERC stated, “we already see very positive impact and believe this will persist and perhaps spread for decades.”

The full ERC’s public report is already available on our website.

The CMU Portugal Program leadership would like to thank all those who participated in the ERC Meeting. The network built throughout this 3rd phase is an essential part not only of this evaluation result, but of all the outcomes and achievements that the CMU Portugal program has accomplished and will hopefully keep on building in the following years.