Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program as a Role Model

By José Carlos Diogo Marques dos Santos*

Marques dos Santos 
For some time now, the main challenges facing society as well as scientific and technological research lie mainly in the interfaces between different areas of knowledge. Mixing different disciplinary and national backgrounds is being associated with increased creativity or disruptive innovation. As a consequence, interdisciplinary work and cooperation between institutions has become essential for the progress of research, institutions and mankind. Certainly, this has been one of the catalysts for the implementation of cooperation programs between Portuguese universities and renowned universities in the United States of America, in particular with Carnegie Mellon University.
 

The Carnegie Mellon | Portugal Program has been created with the intention of becoming an educational, research and innovation platform aiming at developing an ecosystem of high quality graduate academic and research programs that foster the emergence of new concepts in information and communication technologies, with an orientation towards new products and services for markets worldwide, while leveraging a dedicated and young research community as well as the unique positioning of Portugal to serve as a platform to deploy, test and demonstrate advanced technologies and systems in unique large scale test beds.

The joint venture was launched in 2006 and has been developed through an open, broad and deep collaboration between Carnegie Mellon University and Portuguese Universities and Research Institutions. The first phase of the Program has met, even exceeded, the expectations. It introduced, in large scale, the concept of dual degrees, both at the doctoral and professional master level, which has been one of the most distinctive features of the Program. The first phase of the Program has also supported over 25 research projects. Another important feature of the Program has been the participation of many industrial and services companies. Indeed, about eighty Portuguese companies participated in the education and research programs and gave financial support. Also worth mentioning is the creation of several start-up companies and the exchange of several dozens of faculty between Portuguese Universities and Carnegie Mellon University. As a result of all those activities, hundreds of scientific articles have been published in the best venues and several conferences and workshops have been produced.

The success of the first phase of the Program has been the major reason why the Portuguese Government decided to finance a Phase II and so creating the opportunity to extend further the excellent results obtained during the first period of the Program.

Phase II, which is now under way, is centered on a core activity- the Entrepreneurial Research Initiatives- which is evolving according to the following strategic lines:

• Larger collaboration between Portuguese Universities, Carnegie Mellon University and companies
• Focus on real world problems with significant scientific challenges
• Interdisciplinary cooperation
• Larger integration of research, graduate education, industry collaboration and commercialization activities

Other activities included in the second phase are: 

• Entrepreneurship in Residence Initiative which will be focused in the internationalization to the US Market and on management development through mentoring, coaching, and other activities.
• Faculty Exchange and other cross-cutting activities

The activities that have already been launched in the second phase of the Program have proved very successful, which allows us to foresee another major success of this new phase.

There are several reasons why the Program is being such a success: it is a partnership bringing together academia, government and industry; the Program is committed not only with the education and advancement of science and technology but also with the economic and social development of society by making sure that the knowledge created is properly transferred to industry; all institutions involved in the Program, universities, research institutions and companies, the knowledge triangle, have demonstrated a great commitment to their tasks; the institutions participating in the Program have a very positive attitude, being able to overcome differences in culture and stages of development by, humbly, sharing the best of each one in order to achieve the programmed goals, to learn from each other and to all take profit from the Program.

However important that those reasons were, as a member of the Board of Directors of the Program, representing the Portuguese Universities Rector’s Conference (CRUP), position that I left July 2014, I had the opportunity to witness the decisive importance of people to the success of the Program. Quality and commitment of staff and students has been essential to obtain excellent results. But, above all, the strong and competent leadership of the Program Directors have been the key to success. Prof. José Manuel Fonseca de Moura, on the Carnegie Mellon side, Prof. João Barros, first, and Prof. João Claro, later, on the Portuguese side, have demonstrated and still are demonstrating a strong commitment, competence, creativity and dedication that have been truly decisive for the success already achieved. They deserve our heartfelt gratitude.

My participation in the Board of Directors of the Carnegie Mellon | Portugal Program has been an exciting and rewarding experience. The excellent results achieved so far allows us to look forward to with great confidence. I truly believe that this Program can be considered a role model for other programs of cooperation, be they national or international. 

* Former rector of the Universidade do Porto

December 2014

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The Op-Ed is an essay written by a member of the CMU Portugal Program Community. It is a new area/section of the CMU Portugal Program Newsletter.