The Portuguese Minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education visits MIT to strengthen scientific and technological cooperation with the United States

The Portuguese Minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education, Manuel Heitor was recently at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he met MIT Portugal related students and faculty. The visit was his first stop on a five-day official trip to the United States of America with the objective of ensuring the continuity of relations with key academic and scientific partners and to reinforce the continuity of the scientific and technological cooperation that has marked the relationship between Portugal and the US in recent decades.  At MIT, the Minister was accompanied by the President of Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT), Paulo Ferrão, the President of the Portuguese Council of Rectors, António Cunha, the Consul General of Portugal, José Velez Caroço, and both MIT Portugal Directors, Bruce Tidor and Pedro Arezes.

Heitor MIT
During this visit the Portuguese delegation had the opportunity to discuss emergent scientific areas and their potential interactions with the Portuguese Scientific and Technological System. In a meeting hosted by the MIT Portugal Program, it was emphasize how areas including aeronautics, atmospheric chemistry, ocean engineering, renewable energy, sensing systems, and ocean modeling, among others, could be relevant in the context of a collaboration between MIT and the planned Atlantic International Research (AIR) Center. The AIR Center, as an integrative and distributed research platform, has the potential to provide a shared and international environment to support and foster new climate, earth, space and marine research activities, benefiting decision makers, public users, universities and industry, as well as contributing to the retention of highly skilled human resources and to regional growth. In particular, the AIR Center may provide a unique opportunity to drive multilateral cooperation in complex systems engineering and science through an integrative approach to climate and energy, earth, space, and ocean R&D in the Atlantic.

Minister Heitor is now closing the first phase of an assessment for a sound scientific agenda that will bring together private and public partners around the AIR Center. To the President of FCT, Paulo Ferrão, it is very a important assessment of new ideas and scientific alliances to address global international challenges. António Cunha, President of the Portuguese Council of Rectors, also highlighted the enormous opportunity that this represents for collaborations between MIT and Portuguese universities.

Minister Heitor also took this opportunity to interact with students and the Portuguese scientific community at MIT, and to discuss the strategic pillars for the evolution of the MIT Portugal Program that is now in the fourth year of its second phase. The MIT PortugalProgram, an FCT initiative, has been a strategic partnership between Portuguese Universities and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) launched in 2006 and renewed in 2013 for an additional 5-year period. With the goal to strengthen the Portugal’s knowledge base and international competitiveness through a strategic investment in people, knowledge and ideas in innovative technology sectors. In 10 years, 3110 candidates have applied to the MIT Portugal doctoral programs, 958 Master and PhDs students have registered at the Portuguese universities and 429 PhD and Masters have graduated. The program also funded 23 projects through FCT and is currently running 3 large scales test-bed projects – led by Portuguese and MIT researchers – and 5 seed projects of exploratory nature at MIT. 

SilicoLife is the World´s 15th most promising biotech startup

SilicoLife

SilicoLife, a biotechnology spinoff created during the first years of the MIT Portugal Program (MPP), was selected as the 15th emerging company that most excites experts in this area.

The Portuguese company added this international distinction to others such as "start-up of the week" by the English technology magazine Wired in 2013 and, in 2015, was distinguished in a report on collaborative innovation published by the World Economic Forum, which highlighted the work done by the company in collaboration with the US giant Invista, the world's largest fiber producer, which owns brands such as Lycra.

In this ranking presented by two specialized magazines "The Digest" and "Nuu", the startup founded in 2010 by Faculty members from the Minho University  and the MIT Portugal Program, SilicoLife is the only company from Portugal.

The list is headed by thirty US companies and also includes representatives from Brazil, Canada, the Netherlands, France, Australia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

SilicoLife creates computational biology solutions for life sciences based on bioinformatics and systems biology. Its main focus is the development and commercialization of optimized microbial strains for the production of specific target compounds such as bio-fuels, food ingredients, or bio-polymers. The objective is to use dedicated mathematical models, robust algorithms, and user-friendly software tools that accelerate and improve microbial strain design and bioprocess optimization, reducing R&D efforts and shortening the time to market of new biotechnology-based products.

Founding Date: 15/04/2010

Founding Members: Isabel Rocha, Miguel Rocha, Bruno Ferreira, Simão Soares, Pedro Evangelista, Paulo Maia, Paulo Vilaça, Rafael Carreira, Hugo Costa

MPP researchers joined the 2016 European Researchers’ Night

The European Researchers' Nights is a Europe-wide public initiative that organizes different events dedicated to popular science and fun learning. All the events took place simultaneously on Friday 30 September, in over 250 cities across Europe and neighbouring countries. These events are a unique opportunity to meet researchers, talk to them, and find out what they really do for society, in an interactive and engaging ways.

Upon an invitation from Ciência Viva and FCT/Câmara Municipal de Lisboa, MPP researchers took the stage at two different locations. On one hand Jorge Lopes, MIT Portugal Transportation Alumnus, along with the Minister of Economy, Manuel Caldeira Cabral; the Secretary of State for Science, technology and Higher Education, Fernanda Rollo; and the President of FCT, Paulo Ferrão, discussed subjects related to Innovation, Economy and Open Science in a conversation led by José Vitor Malheiros at São Pedro de Alcântara. 

On the other hand, at Pavilhão do Conhecimento - Centro Ciência Viva, 168 researchers were committed to share some of their new developments with the Public. 

Webmap was exhibited by Samuel Niza and Alexandre Amado and consists of an online map that shows the evolution of the soil occupation in the Metropolitan Area of Lisbon (AML) in 1900 and 1940. With this Webmap it is possible to spatially display the types of crops and different features related to the use of water within the AML and compare it to the existent morphology of the territory.

Dário Silva and Carlos Diogo Henriques represented EnergyOT, a small and powerful device that connects to the internet and analyses the energy consumption of electrical appliances. The device is safe and easy to install with no technician needed and has a high resolution (up to 15 seconds). This tool allows the user to choose the right energy plan for him and consequently save energy and money.

João Serra, Raquel Figueiredo and Rodrigo Silva engaged the visitors with a LED lightning system for developing countries by showing how you can illuminate a house without electricity in underdeveloped countries using a 1,5L bottle of water. During the day it provides natural lighting while the photovoltaic system saves energy in a battery storage. At night, a set of LEDs provide illumination through the bottle. This system has reduced manufacturing costs and is easy to install and maintain.

Henrique Pombeiro represented the project Energy Efficiency at your home, a user engagement platform focused on energy efficiency that provides historical energy consumptions, benchmarks and disaggregated consumption information, resulting in simple and quantifiable tailor-made measures fitted to the consumption profile of each client and that can help them make more efficient choices.

Overall, more than 3000 visited the venue from 7pm until midnight for a fun night of science and culture. The events are supported by the European Commission as part of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, which is an EU programme to boost European research careers.

researchers night 2João Serra - LED lightning system for developing countries Project

MPP Paper recognized in the Sustainability in Energy and Buildings sector

The paper entitled “The multi-detail building archetypes in urban energy modelling” won the Georgios Kazas Award at the 8th International Conference on Sustainability in Energy and Buildings 2016, which took place last week in Turin, Italy. The article was submitted by Claudia Sousa Monteiro, PhD student in Sustainable Energy Systems of the MIT Portugal Program (MPP) and was accepted within the Conference to be published in the open access journal Energy Procedia. The work was also authored by André Pina (IST), Carlos Cerezo (MIT), Christoph Reinhart (MIT) and Paulo Ferrão (IST).

This award was created this year in honour of Georgio Kazas’ memory and distinguishes the best proposals recognising the significant contribution to research made by this paper among the Sustainability in Energy and Buildings sector. The study addresses the importance of taking into consideration different levels of detail in urban energy models through the characterization of building stocks in categories of archetypes, using a neighbourhood in Lisbon as case-study.

In Europe, buildings are responsible for 40% of energy consumption and about 35% of the current building stock is over 50 years old. A significant part of this energy consumption is determined by the buildings’ characteristics. However, cities are complex systems with a diverse and very large number of buildings and, as a consequence, the quantification of energy consumption in the existing building stock requires the characterization of a set of buildings types that may represent most of the built urban environment. It is therefore necessary to limit the number of building types to analyse, in a compromise between feasibility and accuracy. As such, there is a need to establish methods that define sets with limited numbers of building archetypes, but that are still able to represent the entire building stock.

Within the MIT Portugal testbed project SusCity, the researchers developed a new methodology to identify and characterise building archetypes for an effective simplification of the urban built environment. The result is a set of detail dependent archetype tiers, that allow structuring the building stock for the evaluation of urban building energy modelling techniques and their uncertainty. The preliminary results show how much the building stock can be simplified and how many building types should be considered. In particular, it proves how the creation of archetypes depends highly on the level of detail of the considered parameters and the availability of reliable data.  The overall objective will be to develop a complete dataset of building archetypes for Lisbon and a complete urban building energy model in order to evaluate the current energy performance of buildings and neighbourhoods and perform urban retrofitting scenarios towards energy saving strategies.

The MIT Portugal testbed SusCity focuses on creating a data-driven urban model to allow the development of new tools and services in order to improve resource efficiency, reduce environmental impact and contribute to the economic development of urban areas. The main goal is to evaluate the general habitability features of buildings to permit a better management of urban resources and allow the society to make informed choices about the sustainability of buildings.

For more information about the SusCity project: http://www.suscity-project.eu/

Georgio Kazas AwardClaudia Sousa receiving the Georgios Kazas Award

3 MPP startup companies and 19 BGI Alumni in the 2016 Web Summit in Lisbon

doDOC , Treat U and Sensei are amongst the 66 startups selected to represent Portugal at  the 2016 Web Summit in Lisbon between November 7th and 10th. In addition to these three companies funded by Professors and/or students associated with the MIT Portugal Program, other nine are on the Building Global Innovators (BGI) alumni list, a university-based venture competition in Portugal promoted by ISCTE-IUL, MIT Portugal,  Deshpande Center for Technical Innovation and the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship.

Overall, the event will have the represetnation of 12 startups connected either with MPP (doDOC, Treat U and Sensei) or BGI (Fibersail, Follow Inspiration, Glexyz, Hole19, HydrUStent, Kinetikos, NU-RISE, Sensefinity and Watgrid). Furthermore, BGI saw eight other alumni companies elected for an Alpha pass (AppyFans, Casas em Movimento, eSolidar, Displr, pCPR, Plux, P3D and Veniam).

doDoc, is a Coimbra and Boston-based startup that introduces a new method of creating and managing documents. Through its web-based platform, doDOC helps highly regulated enterprises to focus on the content, import and share of highly complex documents. The project streamlines medical communications and regulatory documents for life science companies, ensuring auditability and compliance. doDoc transforms documentation systems into a fully structured set of information that empowers secure collaboration and full compliance with regulatory frameworks.

The startup was founded by Carlos Boto, Federico Cismondi and Paulo Meloin 2008 through the MIT Portugal Program. However, doDOC only gained form in February 2014 with the support of Coimbra University (ArriscaC competition) and the very early accelerator program INEO-Start, promoted by Instituto Pedro Nunes (IPN). Shortly after, doDOC won a spot among the TOP10 startups in the Lisbon Challenge, an ambitious 3-month acceleration program powered by Beta-i and sponsored by Caixa Capital, which help them reaching global markets. The project has also had the support of IAPMEI, through Passaporte para o Empreendedorismo an essential step to the business and product development which contributed to the selection of  doDOC to join the Building Global Innovators, a program sponsored by Caixa Capital, ISCTE-IUL and MIT Portugal. This accelerator, focused on innovation and with straight connections with the US market, helped doDoc to be selected in 2015 by the highly competitive Techstars Boston. doDoc was the first Portuguese startup to win a spot in the prestigious american business accelerator.

TREAT U is a biotech company dedicated to the development of novel and specific strategies for the treatment of cancer patients. It is focused on the development of targeted nanotechnology-based platforms for the specific delivery of drugs (either small drugs or siRNA) with technological advantages that outrun different products commercially available or in clinical trials, namely in the Oncology area. TREAT U’s platforms are an appealing technology for the Pharmaceutical Industry (costumer) for the reason that brings value to patients, physicians and the healthcare system (end-users).

TREAT U startup was created in 2010 by Vera Moura, a former MIT Portugal Program Phd Student in the University of Coimbra and two of her thesis supervisors João Nuno Moreira and Sérgio Simões. The company is located at Parque Industrial de Taveiro.

Sensei is a business intelligence solution for retail stores management that captures in-store data with great precision by combining sensor technology with computer vision algorithms.

This data is represented in a SaaS platform to enable retailers from fashion store chains to supermarket chains to easily analyse, manage and benchmark their business without effort while relating this information with other sales channels (e-commerce sites, POS, social networks) and third-party data (weather, calendar, logistics and human resources). This allows retail managers to access all relevant analytics about their store, staff, customers and campaigns in real-time from any location and get useful insights about their business. (edited)

Sensei startup is as a spin off from META ICG (www.meta-icg.com) and was created in 2015 by MIT Portugal PhD students Vasco Portugal and Joana Rafael, and Paulo Carreira professor of Database Systems and Software Engineering at Instituto Superior Técnico. The project has received pre-seed investment via the FIWARE acceleration program for Smart Cities, a joint venture between EU and European Telecom corporations. It is now integrating its first pilots in store, in Lisbon at Amoreiras Shopping Center.