First ERC Meeting since the beginning of Phase 3 of UT Austin Portugal reinforces commitment to scientific excellence

The first External Review Committee since the start of Phase 3 in 2018 took place in October in an online format. The ERC reviewed the past two years and with an eye on the future, prepared a summary of recommendations.

On October 8 and 9 2020, the UT Austin Portugal Program’s ERC met remotely and for the first time to discuss Phase 3. The Annual Review Meeting included conversations with key beneficiaries of the Education and Research initiatives and also with representatives of AIR Centre and the Minho Advanced Computing Center, two initiatives of strategic national interest championed by the Program.

Appointed by the Foundation for Science and Technology, the External Review Committee consists of distinguished academics, researchers and a technology transfer expert from recognized institutions outside of Portugal, acting as advisors to the Program.

The ERC is independent and reviews the progress of the Program annually, providing a set of recommendations to FCT and the Program’s Governing Board and Board of Directors.

Peter Arzberger (founding member and former Chair of PRAGMA Steering Committee) chairs the ERC and is joined by Edwin Thomas (Texas A&M University), Alison Campbell (Knowledge Transfer Ireland), Alfred Ng (Canadian Space Agency, McGill Institute of Aerospace) and Oliver Jäkel (German Cancer Research Center). The panel’s expertise covers the full spectrum of knowledge areas deemed strategic by the Program. In preparation for the Annual Meeting, a set of shorter meetings were held with the Chair and also with members of the Committee so they all could gain a broader understanding of the International Partnership before conducting the review exercise.

Considering the online format of the meeting, the ERC adopted a stance of gradual learning, choosing to analyze only a portion of the Program. The approved agenda accommodated interviews with beneficiaries and stakeholders of the partnership with moments of reflection and discussion among the committee members and between them, the Program’s Leadership, FCT and, on the last day, the Minister for Science Technology and Higher Education as well. The Minister pointed out the importance of international scientific cooperation in times of crisis, highlighting the Program’s contribution at this level.

Ultimately, the new stage of maturity that UT Austin Portugal finds itself in shows an increased capability to implement and support new collaborative arrangements to solve global problems and enable the transfer of solutions from the lab to the market.

The ERC is finalizing a report on the progress made by the International Partnership, which shall highlight areas of improvement, ways of maximizing returns on the accomplishments made so far and new opportunities to look for in the international arena. This report should contribute to helping the Program meet the highest standards of scientific excellence continuously.