CMU Portugal Organizes Sessions on the Call for Entrepreneurial Research Initiatives

Between July 23 and the end of September, the directors of the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program are organizing a series of public sessions, in Portugal and at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), on the Call for Entrepreneurial Research Initiatives (ERIs), funded by the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia. The goal is to provide information and discuss the mission, structure, and financial support for the ERIs, in order to foster and support the creation of strong proposals. The call will remain open until 5 pm (Lisbon time) of October 16, 2013.

In the public sessions held in July, the national director of the CMU Portugal Program, João Claro, started by giving an overview of Phase I of the Program, and its achievements. According to the national director, the Program has until now carried out 25 collaborative R&D projects, and its dual degree professional masters and doctoral programs have already more than 200 graduates. João Claro stressed how the “Ph.D. dual degree students, in particular, have been very important in linking Portuguese institutions and Carnegie Mellon University.” The institutional support and the strong commitment of the academic community from Portugal and Carnegie Mellon, along with the active role of more than 80 companies, have contributed to groundbreaking research in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), the deployment of unique testbeds, the strengthening of the connections between the different stakeholders of the partnership, the creation of new sustainable institutions and programs, and an initial economic impact, through the deployment of new advanced capabilities in industry, the improvement of products and services of industry partners, and new products and services provided by the nine startups created in the scope of the Program’s activities.

In Phase II, the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program aims at consolidating and extending the work started during Phase I. In order to achieve this, the partnership will, in particular, pursue more ambitious international collaborations, closely integrating talent development, research and partnerships with industry. João Claro emphasized that “fostering and strengthening the support to technology commercialization is also essential, as well as further promoting early stage exploratory collaborations, and addressing a refocused set of strategic areas.”

The Call for ERIs is open to projects in science, engineering, management and policy, combining fundamental and applied research, and technological innovation and economic development, to focus on important real world problems entailing significant scientific challenges. The aim is to link scientific discovery and technological innovation, to advance technology and to produce graduates who will be creative innovators in a global economy.

The national director of the program explained that it is expected that the call will fund four to seven projects, with an approximate global budget of 6 million euros, half in Portugal and half at CMU. In order to be accepted to this call, the proposals must fulfill certain criteria. One of the important aspects is that an ERI should focus on real world problems that cannot be addressed without a significant level of fundamental knowledge in ICT, which should feed into devices, components and systems required in solutions for the targeted problem areas. Moreover, an ERI should combine research institutions, companies, markets, and end users throughout all stages of activity, both in Portugal and at CMU.

The proposals must be strongly aligned with the mission of the CMU Portugal Program and, among other potential areas to be included or combined in ERIs, may address seven strategic areas of ICT identified in the Program’s Roadmap for Phase II: Future Internet Architectures and Business Models; Large Data Analysis for Network Engineering and Consumer Analytics; Secure and Dependable Software-Intensive Systems; Intelligent Electric Power and Smart Transportation for Sustainable Mobility; Human-Computer Interaction; Technology Policy and Entrepreneurship; and Applied Mathematics.

To clarify the goals of an ERI, João Claro gave the illustrative example of DRIVE-IN, the largest project, in dimension and budget, carried out in the scope of Phase I of the CMU Portugal Program. The project aimed at improving vehicle user experience, as well as safety and the overall efficiency of vehicle and road utilization, using next generation vehicle-to-vehicle communication networks. The project featured multiple elements that an ERI should have: it addressed a real problem (traffic safety, vehicle and road utilization, vehicle user experience) trying to overcome related scientific challenges (vehicle-to-vehicle communications); it involved Portuguese universities and research labs, Carnegie Mellon University, companies and public organizations, at all stages of its activity; it was able to secure funding from some of its partners; it created a vehicle-to-vehicle communication testbed on a fleet of 465 cabs; and among its results the project has two patents, and a spinoff (Veniam ’Works).

The public sessions have brought together faculty members, researchers, doctoral students, senior staff of innovation and entrepreneurship support organizations, business executives and startup managers. The questions raised by the audience have mainly focused on funding, teams (inclusion of dual degree PhD students) and important topics that should be considered when submitting a proposal for an ERI.

The kick off session took place at INESC Porto, and to date the Program directors have been in sessions at several Portuguese universities, including the Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, the Instituto Superior Técnico of the Universidade de Lisboa, the Universidade de Coimbra, the Universidade de Aveiro, and the Universidade do Minho, and also at Carnegie Mellon University.

At the end of August, the two directors will be together in a session organized in Portugal, and one other held at CMU. In September, other sessions will follow in Portugal. More information about the call at http://www.fct.pt/apoios/projectos/concursos/cmu/2013/ or http://www.cmuportugal.org/tiercontent.aspx?id=4786.

August 2013