Brussels, 26 October 2006
The Portuguese government and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have signed a five-year partnership agreement to expand research and education links in the fields of engineering and management.
The €65 million initiative will involve the participation of researchers, students and professors from seven Portuguese universities, together with a number of research laboratories and institutes. They will collaborate with staff and students from over 40 faculties from the five schools at MIT on projects in the area of transportation, energy, manufacturing and bioengineering systems.
Each of the thematic areas of focus will also involve industrial partners known as 'MIT-Portugal industrial affiliates'. The first of these industry-academia collaborative programmes will be in manufacturing, and will see the participation of leading companies in the automotive sector from both sides of the Atlantic, such as VW AutoEuropa, Portugal's largest car assembler and auto parts manufacturer.
On management, MIT's Sloan School will work with leading Portuguese business schools on the design of a global MBA programme, while MIT's engineering systems division will collaborate with Portuguese colleagues with a view to bringing new insights into the development of large, complex engineering systems.
The decision for entering into a long-term collaboration with Portugal was taken following an assessment study conducted by MIT from February to July 2006 which concluded that '...the commitment of the Portuguese government in strengthening science and technology and in promoting international collaborations in higher education and in science and technology is making Portugal an interesting place for doing research and a relevant partner for future joint ventures in the emerging knowledge-based, globalised economy.'
The collaboration with MIT is in keeping with the Portuguese goal of boosting the country's research and development (R&D) investment, which in 2003 stood at 0.78% of GDP, well below the Barcelona target for 2010 of 3% of GDP. In 2005, the Portuguese government launched a national reform plan to create the necessary conditions to ensure economic stability, to deliver higher productivity growth and to increase employment opportunities - all key priorities of the Lisbon Strategy. Central to the initiative is a technological plan which outlines measures to be taken in order to increase R&D expenditure to 1.75% of GDP by 2009, and to increase by 50% the number of people engaged in R&D activities.
'The Portuguese Government launched a technological plan as a political idea to mobilise the state, business and citizens around critical drivers of modernisation: knowledge, technology and innovation. The duty of a responsible government with a look towards the future is undoubtedly to foster scientific and technological skills and to recognise the essential role of research and development activities,' said Portuguese Prime Minister José Sócrates, who announced the joint MIT-Portugal agreement on 11 October.
Jose Mariano Gago, the Portuguese Minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education, also welcomed the new agreement, saying 'the Portugal-MIT Programme will bring new blood and will provide new challenges to the very fast and impressive growth of Portuguese science and technology.'