Evaluate the past to improve the future: the Governing Board meets to approve the 2023 activity plan and discuss the Program’s next strategies

The UT Austin Portugal Program organized its 2023 Governing Board (GB) Meeting on March 9.

Every year, the UT Austin Portugal Program’s GB meets to reflect on the past year’s activities, achievements and challenges. Besides the discussion and approval of the yearly activity plan and budget, the meeting also aims at understanding the direction the Program can take, polish new strategies, brainstorm new ideas and find ways to overcome obstacles previously encountered. Evaluating the past makes the future seem clearer, making it easier to chart its course.

This year, the GB meeting took place on March 9 at INESC TEC facilities, in Porto, with some attendants connecting remotely. It was an opportunity to reflect on the activities carried out in 2022, highlighting the Annual Conference, an occasion the celebrate the Partnership’s fifteen years, the call for Short-term Research Internships at the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin), under which 10 Portuguese students had the opportunity to attend a 3-month internship at Austin, and the Call for Exploratory Projects 2022. The GB approved the Activity Plan for 2023, which includes another range of events and opportunities catering to the community’s needs and wants.

Peter Arzberger, Chair of the Program’s External Review Committee, was summoned to highlight the main findings and recommendations of the ERC’s last report on the Program’s performance. Arzberger underscored the PT-US Leadership’s sense of commitment, the quality of the research work carried out by the Program’s international research consortia and the importance of research exchanges in advancing the careers of young researchers, by allowing them to spend some time at UT Austin, where they can undertake their research in top-level facilities and labs under the supervision of well-seasoned hosts. The ERC’s Chair pointed out the uniqueness of this long-standing collaboration and the panel’s understanding of the benefits of keeping the Program rolling. This remark gave Madalena Alves, President of the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), who debuted as Chair of the Program’s GB, the opportunity to recall the Program’s outstanding achievements in the area of Technology Transfer, Commercialization and Entrepreneurship in the previous phases. Strategizing about the future should never ignore what is worth carrying forward from the past.

After a tour of 2022, where the main activities carried out last year were explained, Andreia Passos, Andreia Passos, Executive Director in Portugal, presented the Program’s Activity Plan for 2023, along with the budget for the Portuguese office, both approved by the Governing Board.

The last part of the meeting brought about a discussion on the Program’s future strategy.

Since 2023 is the last year of the Program’s third phase, which allowed multiple researchers to dedicate their research to tackle key societal challenges, such as health, cleaner industries, climate change and digitalization, it was time to think about what challenges the Program can address in the coming years.

Considering the current energy crisis and climate change’s growing concerns, the search for more sustainable and greener alternatives is one of the major ambitions of the international scientific community that also commits other stakeholders, including industries. In this way, the potential of areas currently embraced by the Program, such as Nanotechnologies and Advanced Computing, was highlighted for their connectedness with the Energy area and related research and innovation challenges. Regarding Energy, the members of the Governing Board highlighted the investments on the table in Portugal, namely in offshore wind energy along the Portuguese coast, but in the US, with Texas emerging as a leader in renewable power generation.

The Governing Board is chaired by the President of the Portuguese Foundation of Science and Technology (FCT), Madalena Alves, and additionally composed of Robert A. Peterson, representing the University of Texas at Austin, José Manuel Mendonça, on behalf of the Portuguese Universities, Célia Reis, CEO of Capgemini Portugal, and António Vidigal (former CEO of EDP Inovação), both representing the Industrial Advisory Board.

Completing the panel of attendees were Peter Arzberger, Chair of the Program’s External Review Committee, John Ekerdt, Principal Investigator of the Program, Rui Oliveira, Co-Director of the Program in Portugal, Andreia Passos, Executive Director, respectively at UT Austin and in Portugal, Vera Pinto, the Program’s Administrative and Mobility Officer, and Ana Reis and Ricardo Araújo, from FCT’s International Partnerships office.