New mechanisms drive innovative research and foster university-industry collaboration at a national and international level

In its second phase, the MIT Portugal Program (MPP) focuses on improving Portugal’s innovation ecosystem and developing and fostering integrated research activities in joint university-industry partnerships. MPP has been promoting and facilitating cutting-edge research projects in emerging areas of science and technology, intended to create value and contribute to sustainable economic growth through the development of new knowledge-based products and services. This effort is primarily driven by new mechanisms for joint university-industry research through international test-bed research projects, and also supported by exploratory seed projects.

With this goal in mind, MPP researchers have successfully started three test-bed projects that actively engage industry and other private and public partners, which provide capacity, expertise, and financial support that exceed 30% of the total project funding provided by the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT).

Test-bed ProjectsSeed Projects
  • Integrated Research Projects
  • Large-scale research collaborations, involving university researchers and corporate and public partners
  • Development of innovative technologies, leading to products and services
  • Up to 3 years
  • Average funding of €1,000,000
  • Novel, early-stage research
  • Small-scale research projects
  • Exploration of new research areas, stimulating activities in innovation and entrepreneurship
  • Up to 1 year
  • Average funding of €50,000

Test-bed Projects

Test-bed research projects are designed as large-scale partnerships that include universities, public institutions, industry, and other private organizations. These highly collaborative and integrated research projects are strongly supported by funding from FCT and contributions from private sector test-bed collaborators for up to three years. The objective is to address research topics in a holistic fashion through integrated, multi-disciplinary approaches with the goal of developing innovative technologies that lead to new products and services with the potential of advancing Portugal’s international competitiveness and innovative capacity, ultimately contributing to the growth of the Portuguese economy.

In 2013, MPP introduced the first call for test-bed proposals in three categories: Sustainable Cities, Stem Cell Engineering & Regenerative Medicine, and Design and Manufacturing Approaches in Mobility Industries. This call was open to all faculty and researchers in Portugal to provide collaborative proposals with partners from MIT, and with involvement of industry and other private and public organizations.

Three proposals were selected for a funding period of up to 3 years:

SusCity: this test-bed project focuses on creating a data-driven urban model to allow the development of new tools and services in order to improve resource efficiency and reduce environmental impact, while also contributing to the economic development of urban areas. The project intends to catalyze the generation and proliferation of scalable urban interventions through the development and deployment of a multi-dimensional Urban systems Simulator and Dashboard (USD). This research will allow to explore new business opportunities connected to an emerging generation of sustainable urban systems and to reach broad markets worldwide.

CardioStem: Engineered cardiac tissues and stem cell-based therapies for cardiovascular applications.

IAMAT: Introduction of advanced materials technologies into new product development for the mobility industries.

MPP researchers of the three projects successfully attracted industry and other private and public partners, which significantly contribute capacity, expertise, and funding to the test beds. All three projects are collaborations between industry and academic partners, and involve multi-disciplinary teams from Portuguese universities, MIT, industry, and other public and private bodies (e.g., hospitals, associations, municipalities, etc.). In addition to the more than the €3,000,000 of FCT funding, the test beds succeeded in obtaining more than €1,400,000 in additional funding from project partners.

Corporate and non-profit research partners, involved in MPP’s test beds as well as innovation and entrepreneurship activities, have formed the core of a community that is being engaged in MPP’s Industrial Advisory Committee (link to list of members).

Test Beds – Overview & Descriptions
(Sustainable Cities)
  • 5 Portuguese Universities;
  • 1 MIT team
  • 1 Associated Laboratory;
  • 1 National Laboratory;
  • 8 Private and public institutions
(Stem Cell Engineering & Regenerative Medicine )
  • 3 Portuguese research centers
  • 1 MIT team
  • 2 satellite Portuguese research groups
  • 2 stem cell-based companies
  • 1 independent non-academic organization
(Intro. of Advanced Materials Technologies into New Product Development for Mobility Industries)
  • 3 Portuguese Universities
  • 1 MIT team
  • 3 Industrial Partners

Seed Projects

Seed projects were introduced to stimulate and foster novel, early-stage research that could be synergistic with research in test beds or enhances MPP in other ways, increases the impact, sustainability and visibility of the program, stimulates activities in innovation and entrepreneurship, explores potential new directions, or foster the development of educational materials or tools. The first seed projects were implemented at MIT and successfully advanced the program.

Seed projectPI
Recycling system architecture enabling economic value recovery in Portugal: Consumer electronics case study Elsa Olivetti
Sustainability urban mobility: The role of autonomous and connected vehicles Carolina Osorio
The transport properties of targeted therapeutics via coarse-grained simulation James Swan
Value of solar energy systems with storage in Portugal Jessica Trancik

In 2008 and 2009 two rounds of Calls for Proposals that had already proven to be a powerful mechanism to attract industry and other nonacademic participation to the MIT Portugal Program. The 2008 open call was designed to finance scientific and technological research projects within the Program’s four research areas and the 2009 open call had as underlying theme the application of the Engineering Systems approach to activities and processes of high technological intensity, with strong economic and social relevance