Brazil is 'ready and mature' to join the international science arena, according to the Brazilian science minister

Katharine Sanderson/London, UK

Brazil is ’ready and mature’ to join the international science arena, the Brazilian science minister told leading UK and Brazilian scientists and politicians yesterday.

Science in Brazil is still in its infancy. The University of S?o Paulo, Brazil’s oldest, is only 72 years old, and Brazil’s national research council was created only in 1951. Sergio Rezende, the Brazilian science and technology minister does not see this youth as a barrier to scientific excellence. ’Although it is a newcomer, the science in Brazil is ready and mature,’ he told scientists and politicians from Brazil and the UK at the Royal Society’s Brazil day in London yesterday. 

This attitude is reflected in Brazil’s upgraded status for the next cycle of the European Union’s R&D funding, the seventh framework programme, (FP7). In FP6, Brazil was a developing nation, but for FP7 it will be classed as an emerging economy - the only one in Latin America - and as such Brazilians will be eligible for a number of grants. 

’Europe is trying to reach out to Brazil,’ said Chris Reilly, manager of EU R&D policy at the UK’s Office of Science and Innovation (OSI). ’Do seize the opportunity,’ he urged the Brazilian scientists and ministers present, who in response commented that it will be impossible to apply for any such grants until the agreement with Europe has been sanctioned by Brazil’s president.

Sir David King, the UK government’s chief scientific advisor and head of the OSI also took part in the meeting. King and his Brazilian counterpart Rezende have identified five areas where the two countries can collaborate scientifically: climate change, infections diseases, agriculture, biodiversity and renewable energy. For example, Brazil is a world leader in using bioethanol as a fuel, and King said the UK plans to take this technology to southern African countries. This would reduce the dependence on fuel imports and create a new financial endeavour for those countries, he said.

King criticised Brazil for allowing deforestation to continue in the Amazon basin, telling Rezende, ’The deforestation that is currently occurring in Brazil, means that although you have such a vast amount of hydroelectricity, ie non CO2-producing energy sources, nevertheless in terms of the loss of forest it places you second only to the US in terms of the negative movement on climate change.’ Rezende responded by highlighting the new Brazilian laws and programmes focused on strengthening knowledge about the Amazonian region. The UK wants to work with Brazil on adding value to maintaining forests, King said.