Manuel Heitor, the Portuguese Minister for Science, Technology, and Higher Education, recently visited MIT, where he met with students and faculty affiliated with the MIT Portugal Program. The visit was his first stop on a five-day official trip to the United States, with the objective of ensuring the continuity of relations with key academic and scientific partners and to reinforcing the continuity of the scientific and technological cooperation that has marked the relationship between Portugal and the U.S. in recent decades.
At MIT, Heitor was accompanied by Paulo Ferrão, president of the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT); António Cunha, the president of the Portuguese Council of Rectors; José Velez Caroço, the consul general of Portugal; and both MIT Portugal directors, Bruce Tidor and Pedro Arezes.
During this visit, the Portuguese delegation had the opportunity to discuss emergent scientific areas and their potential interactions with the Portuguese Scientific and Technological System. In a meeting hosted by the MIT Portugal Program, it was emphasize how areas including aeronautics, atmospheric chemistry, ocean engineering, renewable energy, sensing systems, and ocean modeling, among others, could be relevant in the context of a collaboration between MIT and the planned Atlantic International Research (AIR) Center.
The AIR Center, as an integrative and distributed research platform, has the potential to provide a shared and international environment to support and foster new climate, earth, space and marine research activities, benefiting decision makers, public users, universities and industry, as well as contributing to the retention of highly skilled human resources and to regional growth. In particular, the AIR Center may provide a unique opportunity to drive multilateral cooperation in complex systems engineering and science through an integrative approach to climate and energy, earth, space, and ocean research and development in the Atlantic.
Heitor is now closing the first phase of an assessment for a sound scientific agenda that will bring together private and public partners around the AIR Center. To the FCT President Paulo Ferrão, the assessment of new ideas and scientific alliances is very important for addressing global international challenges. António Cunha, president of the Portuguese Council of Rectors, also highlighted the enormous opportunity that this represents for collaborations between MIT and Portuguese universities.
Heitor also took the opportunity to interact with students and the Portuguese scientific community at MIT, and to discuss the strategic pillars for the evolution of the MIT Portugal Program that is now in the fourth year of its second phase. The MIT Portugal Program, an FCT initiative launched in 2006 and renewed in 2013 for an additional 5-year period, has been a strategic partnership between Portuguese universities and MIT with the goal of strengthening Portugal’s knowledge base and international competitiveness through a strategic investment in people, knowledge, and ideas in innovative technology sectors. In 10 years, 3,110 candidates have applied to the MIT Portugal doctoral programs, 958 master's and PhDs students have registered at Portuguese universities, and 429 PhD and master's students have graduated. The program also funded 23 projects through FCT and is currently running three large-scale testbed projects — led by Portuguese and MIT researchers — and five seed projects of exploratory nature at MIT.