U.S. Ambassador to Portugal and the Portuguese Minister of Economy visited MIT to discuss transatlantic cooperation with Europe in the biotechnology sector

The U.S. Ambassador to Portugal, Robert Sherman, and the Portuguese Minister of Economy, Manuel Caldeira Cabral, traveled to Boston on December 19th and 20th to discuss transatlantic synergies with Europe in the biotechnology sector. They were joined by a first-class group of representatives from Portuguese biotech companies and investors in a visit co-organized by AICEP-Portuguese Trade and Investment Agency, Portugal Ventures, the U.S. Embassy in Portugal, and the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council—with the participation of the MIT Portugal Program.

The two-day visit started with an event entitled, “Portugal Day at MassBio,” at the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio), in which Portuguese partners from startups in the life sciences sector, including FASTinov, Stemmatters, Gene PreDiT,  Immunethep and doDOC, together with Portuguese and American investors, discussed how Portugal is developing a vibrant biotech industry and creating a successful startup ecosystem with partners around the globe. Dr. Elazer Edelman, from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, was the keynote speaker at the event, presenting a superb overview of the efforts and work done in the European and American healthcare systems, their impact on age distribution and the changes in the care delivery paradigm—focused on an aging population—that will require new medications, devices and methods. Dr. Edelman highlighted the improvements that the Portuguese scientific and entrepreneurial communities are doing to adjust to this new paradigm. The event also featured Robert Coughlin, President & CEO of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council; Bruce Tidor, Director of MIT Portugal, Ambassador Robert Sherman, Minister Manuel Caldeira Cabral and José Velez Caroço, Consul General of Portugal in Boston.

On the second day of the official visit, the group of entrepreneurs visited Sanofi Genzyme, a world-class pharmaceutical company with facilities in Allston. The group made a tour to the premises and interacted with different stakeholders in conversations about the dynamics of the American market, while Ambassador Sherman, Minister Caldeira Cabral and Consul Velez Caroço went to different labs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Their visit started at “Beaver Works,” an entrepreneurial initiative led by Professor Douglas Hart, who is also the E&I faculty lead for the MIT Portugal Program. Joost Bonsen, lecturer in Human Dynamics at the Media Lab, presented the evolution of MIT from its academic conception to an entrepreneurial institution.

The tour continued later at the Langer Lab, where the delegation had the chance to discuss firsthand with researchers topics such as groundbreaking techniques for controlled drug release and nano-biomaterials. The next stop was at the MIT Stata Center, where the group joined researchers to design and develop robots for industrial, military and space activities. The visit ended with a meeting hosted by the dean of the School of Engineering at MIT, Ian Waitz—bringing together the community of MIT Portugal faculty and PhD students currently staying at MIT. Attendees had the chance to share their experience of their time at MIT, as well as the evolution and impact of their research.

“Companies in Boston are strongly interested in investing in Portugal and this trip allowed us to demonstrate—right at the largest research centers in the health and biotechnology sector,—the vitality of Portuguese startups in these areas,” said Minister Caldeira Cabral. “This was also an opportunity to disclose the work in progress at Portuguese universities and hospitals, and to open a door for future collaborations and joint ventures to endorse knowledge and consequently transform it into innovative products and services.”

U.S.Ambassador and PT Minister of Economy at MITMIT Portugal faculty and PhD students with the Portuguese Consul General in Boston, José Rui Velez Caroço,  Minister of the Economy Manuel Caldeira Cabral, Dean of the engineering school at MIT Ian A. Waitz, Ambassador Robert Sherman,  and Bruce Tidor of MIT Portugal in the front row.

Innovative proposal in the wind energy sector won the Portuguese Association of Renewable Energies Award

Renewable energy was responsible for producing this year around 59% of the total amount of electricity in Portugal and it is expected that 1/3 comes from wind energy sources, according to data disclosed by APREN. It becomes more and more crucial to support alternative solutions to produce energy, a topic that was highlighted on the 2016 Portuguese Association of Renewable Energies Award which has honoured Bernardo Marques Amaral Silva, a INESCTEC researcher and a MIT Portugal Program Sustainable Energy Systems Phd doctorate at the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto with the first prize for his thesis “Multi-terminal HVDC Grids: Control Strategies for Ancillary Services Provision in Interconnected Transmission Systems with Offshore Wind Farms, a pioneering approach to take the best profit of Wind farms (WF).

Wind Energy (WE) has largely contributed to the de-carbonisation of the energy sector and consequently to the definition of the European Commission (EC) targets on renewable-based electricity generation. During the last decade, massive investment has culminated in the substantial installation of Wind Farms (WF). Moreover, the ambitious plans for increasing these targets on renewable-based electricity generation demand the deployment of more WF. However, the European Union has settled the goal for the level of greenhouse gas reduction by 40% (by comparison with 1990 levels) until 2030 and the share of renewable energy to 27% in terms of energy consumption.

Simultaneously, the Fukushima incident has put pressure on European governments regarding the use of nuclear power plants which, although not considered as renewable, have reduced emission of greenhouse gases (compared to conventional power plants based on fossil fuels).

In order to meet the new goals, it is expected a significant contribution from offshore wind farms (at sea). From a technical point of view, the adoption of High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) is crucial to allow the installation of high power PE and to manage high connexion distances from the mainland. Recent procedures intend to adopt direct current networks rather than connections “point-to-point” since they may also support the connection between mainland AC networks, allowing a greater integration of renewable sources and enabling the development of a European electricity market.

Pedro Arezes perspective on the new role as National Director and strategy for the future

Pedro Arezes, Professor of Ergonomics and Human Factors in the Production and Systems Department of the School of Engineering of the University of Minho, is since June the new MIT Portugal Program National Director.

In an interview to Segurança Magazine, he makes a clearly positive review of these last months and considers a privilige being part of the Portuguese Program of a renowned University thas is constantly recognized by the best World rankings such as the first place for the fifth straight year on the QS World University Rankings.

The National Director also adresses the end of the second phase of the program in 2017 and mentions a call for proposals that will take place at the beginning of the year. For the near future the main goal is to conclude the plans for this phase and work on a proposal for a potential third stage.

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MIT Portugal PhD student wins the Road Safety Innovation Award by ACP with an alternative solution to road humps

Francisco Duarte, a PhD Student in Transportation Systems of the MIT Portugal Program at University of Coimbra, was honored today with the first prize at the initiative promoted by Automóvel Clube Portugal in a partnership with BP Portugal, National Council of Rectors and National Innovation Agency. The 10 000€ will later be invested in the venture’s prototype is currently under construction and it is expected that the laboratory tests will take place early next year and that the project pilot will be implemented in the second half of 2017. The project entitled VENEX presents a speed reduction system that induces the deceleration of vehicles without causing damage, noise or any discomfort to the passengers.

iTeams 2016 edition enabled students to build a go-to-market strategy and to develop state-of-the-art technologies

The final presentations of the 2016 edition of MIT Portugal Program (MPP) Innovation Teams took place on November 30th in a public session at Luso-American Development Foundation (FLAD) in Lisbon. Seven teams from Bioengineering and EDAM MPP Phds at University of Minho, University of Coimbra, FCT - Nova University of Lisbon and Instituto Superior Técnico presented their innovative ideas and explained their market strategies. The Innovation Teams initiative is a unique experience in which PhD students work in teams during one semester with real technologies selected from Portuguese research labs and are asked to engage in a search to evaluate and exploit their market potential.

The Session was opened by two entrepreneurs and founders of Portuguese successful start-up companies, Rui Pereira from Outsystems and José Pereira Leal from both Ophiomics Precision Medicine and Healthcare City who shared their experience and gave useful advises to the iTeams members.

Starting the presentations was CarMo or TBM technology for MMS Sensors, a highly precise low noise sensor to follow up the mechanical movement of the heart that measures, without direct contact, the heart recoil, rate, beat amplitude and beat to beat time. The project was presented by Pedro Marques, Rita Ferreira and André Carvalho (Uminho).