by Marie-Christine Imbert
Co-operation with Latin America has been ongoing for many years on a bilateral basis within several of the ERCIM institutes. Yet there had never been a common, multi-lateral action towards the region until ERCIM was prompted by the DG External Relations of the European Commission and officers of the IST programme to produce recommendations for future European actions.
ERCIM created a Task Force involving representatives from GMD, IEI-CNR, INRIA and Universitat Politecnica Catalunya, which undertook to investigate the state of the regions research in Information Technologies and to discuss with many of its main teams.
Following a request by the International part of the IST programme, the missions to Latin America were coupled with the organisation of several seminars with the objective to inform the local research community and their authorities of the forthcoming calls of the IST programme, their content and the procedures to participate.
These Information Days were organised in Mexico DF, Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires. They gave focus and momentum to the action, due to the participation of European Commission Officers (Jean-Yves Roger in Mexico and Mario Campolargo in Rio de Janeiro) and of representatives from the main research funding agencies and universities in each country, as well as of researchers interested in the programme.
The Mexico seminar was very successful, due to the excellent local organisation and hosting of Instituto Politecnico Nacional (IPN), represented by Dr. Enrique Villa, to whom we address our acknowledgements. The research community demonstrated its interest in co-operating with Europe and this was followed by their authorities, which agreed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the IST programme, establishing a mechanism to fund the Mexican participation to EU projects. This outcome was one of the objectives that ERCIM had set for its action and it was favourably achieved.
The seminar also gave the opportunity to announce the establishment of a European Union Liaison centre, co-ordinated by Ambassador Manuel Armendariz, which will work as an information centre, helping in the establishment of links among local universities and industries and potential partners from Europe.
One of the present main problems identified by ERCIM in the European Union-Latin America (EU-LA) research co-operation is the lack of direct high-speed network links between the two regions. If this were to continue, the fall-outs of research coming in the form of new applications used in common commercial activities would not be developed. As the most active country in the region in the establishment of international links for research, Brazil seemed as a clear choice to initiate the discussion leading towards a common infrastructure of this kind. With this objective, the Rio de Janeiro seminar, hosted by Pontificia Universidad Catolica (PUC), brought together the EU Unit in charge of Research Networking, represented by Mario Campolargo and the co-ordinator of the national Brazilian network RNP. We consider the discussions which started in the framework of a friendly environment, one of the main achievements of this action.
The Rio seminar was attended by representatives of the funding agencies, of the Brazilian Information Society programme, and by the professors in charge of their respective international relations. Some of the main universities were represented, but there was a lack in the participation of plain researchers, stating perhaps their lesser interest in multi-lateral co-operation.
Another need already identified in the Rio EU-LA Heads of State Summit declaration, is the lack of common infrastructure for training. Concerning research in the field of Information Technologies, ERCIM considers that this could be addressed by the establishment of a joint EU-LA Institute for Information Technology, perhaps on the model of what exists with China (the EU-China Institute of Management). In this case the Institute would be one with two or more subsidiaries in the region. It could endeavour to establish joint research, including industrial contracts, and to train new researchers in a spirit of co-operation with Europe.
Discussions are on-going with local interested parties in order to advance in this sense. The forthcoming Buenos Aires seminar, might as well be the opportunity to explore this concept further.
Marie-Christine Imbert - INRIA
Tel: +33 1 3963 5051