Waking up in the middle of São Paulo is pure magic. You look out of your hotel room window and you observe high rises everywhere around you. The Brazilian economy is booming, people are ambitious. And we are here to make sure the UT can work closely with Brazilian institutions on mutual objectives.
The morning started with a breakfast meeting on the 15th floor of our hotel, overlooking the iconic Octavio Frias de Oliveira bridge. This cable-stayed bridge in São Paulo, Brazil connects the old business district with the new business district. We enjoyed the company of Rogier van Tooren, Deputy Consul-General of the Netherlands Consulate-General São Paulo and Nico Schiettekatte, the very active and knowledgeable Innovation Counsellor. After an informal discussion on the education system in Brazil, how the consulate can assist the university, and the focal areas of the Brazilian government, we left for FAPESP.
FAPESP is one of the main funding agencies in the state of São Paulo: it manages the 1.2% of all state revenues which is set aside specifically for research and development, a number we can only dream of in the Netherlands. Needless to say we did not want to be late for our meeting with the scientific director, Prof. Henrique de Brito Cruz. We were expecting a lot of traffic jam, a major issue in São Paulo. Pleasant surprise: For some reason there was hardly any delay and we were about half an hour early. We had time for a coffee, which proved an effective remedy againt jet-lag, because a ‘large normal coffee’ is the equivalent of three strong espressos here.
Prof. Brito explained a few models which the UT could use when setting up collaborations with Brazilian partners. FAPESP is, amongst others, instrumental in financing exchange programmes and providing grants for cross-border research projects. The availability of ample funds makes collaboration attractive for the UT and we now consider a direct bilateral agreement with FAPESP to smoothen future application processes.
In the afternoon we had a pleasant meeting at the Universidade de São Paulo (USP). USP is the highest ranked university in Brazil, and one of the largest as well. With some 60K students on their 8 campi, it truly is a giant!
We were welcomed in a very nice colonial-style building in which the Rector’s office of the Medical campus is located. Prof. Agopyan (vice president of USP) and Adjunct Director for international Affairs Mr. Da Silva Baptista hosted us. Prof. Agopyan is a chemist, specialized in fibre materials. This was a good base to start discussions with Prof. Remko Akkerman, of the UT delegation, straight away! USP and the UT have been long-term partners, in many different fields. We agreed to start working towards double/joint degree programmes. We crowned this important meeting with a solid MOU, outlining the ideas of collaboration.