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Portugal Partnership To Foster Int...l Ties

By Valery K. Brobbey

Officials from MIT and the Portuguese government met Wednesday in Lisbon to sign four documents initiating the MIT-Portugal Program. Ushering in a new era of MIT-Portugal relations, the program will undertake research and education in several focal areas including manufacturing, transportation, energy, bio-engineering and management.

“These are all topics of considerable interest to MIT as well as Portugal,” said Thomas L. Magnanti, Dean of the School of Engineering, in an e-mail from Portugal.

The MIT-Portugal collaboration will involve professors, researchers and students from all five schools at MIT and from the schools of engineering, science and technology, economics and management at seven Portuguese universities, according to a press release from the MIT News Office.

Marcus Dahlem G, president of the MIT Portuguese Students Association, said the agreement involves $80 million for an initial five-year period. “This is a big exchange of students and faculty, and overall knowledge,” Dahlem said.

The design of the program was based on an assessment study conducted by MIT from February to July 2006, according to the MIT News Office. Over 40 faculty members participated in the study.

“Senior Portuguese government officials came to MIT last January to discuss a relationship,” said Daniel Roos ’61, founding director of MIT’s Engineering Systems Division, in an e-mail from Portugal. ESD is heavily involved in the collaboration. “We agreed to do a five-month assessment to determine if MIT should pursue the relationship and if so what should be the focus, structure, governance, etc.,” Roos said.

“The [Portuguese] government came up with a technology plan and one of the main components is MIT,” Dahlem said. MIT regularly gets invitations for collaboration. “Several countries approach MIT,” said Joao Nuno Lopes Castro G, vice president of the MIT Portuguese Student Association. “But there is something with the Portuguese proposal that worked.”

The Prime Minister of Portugal has made a strong commitment to science and research and the development of knowledge-based industries that utilize technology, Roos said. According to Roos, while all government funding is being cut by six percent, the science and technology budget in Portugal is increasing by 62 percent.

“It is important for MIT to support that government policy because if it succeeds it will send a strong message to other countries similar to Portugal on the importance of significant government funding of science and technology and [research and development],” Roos said.

Castro said that MIT officials kept the MIT Portuguese Student Association updated on the assessment study and made the group feel involved.

“I am looking forward to the program … it’s a good first step,” Castro said. “This will be a case study and might be followed by other countries.”

Other MIT officials in Portugal for the occasion include Chancellor Phillip L. Clay PhD ’75 and Magnanti. “I have been very pleased by the very warm reception we have received in Portugal as well as to learn about the many relationships between the MIT community and Portugal that are already underway that we can build upon,” Magnanti said.