A Portuguese-German research cooperation agreement was signed in the city of Porto today. The Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates, the Minister of Science, the German Secretary of State for Education and Research, Professor Frieder Meyer-Krahmer, senior Fraunhofer officials, industrial leaders and Portuguese academic partners all attended the event. The new collaboration will significantly expand applied research on emerging technologies, exploring mutual interests in science and technology oriented towards social well-being, economic growth and quality of life. The ultimate goal of the agreement is to establish a collaborative framework to promote continuous and systematic cooperative actions between Fraunhofer Institutes and R&D institutions in Portugal. The partners plan to establishing a new Fraunhofer Institute in Portugal. The institute’s special subject will be new content applications and services based on information and communication technologies for ambient intelligence. The envisaged institute will contribute to spread out the effective reach of the information and knowledge society by promoting innovative ways to deliver ubiquitous access to information and communication technologies. This will be achieved by fostering the steady deployment of innovative content, applications and services for all and by promoting life-long learning through emerging forms of edutainment. The institute will devote particular efforts towards citizens with low qualifications, the elderly, and citizens with special needs, who traditionally lag behind in matters concerning the advent of the Information and Communication Society. The focus areas identified for cooperative actions between Fraunhofer institutes and R&D institutions in Portugal will include advanced manufacturing, logistics, biotechnology, nanotechnology and grid computing. These areas have been identified on the basis of preliminary assessments and will involve a number of Fraunhofer institutes throughout Germany as well as several Portuguese research organizations, which will cooperate with companies in Portugal, Germany and throughout Europe. Jose Socrates, Portuguese Prime Minister, believes that “the Portuguese government is launching a technological plan as a political idea to mobilize the State, business and citizens around key drivers of modernization: knowledge, technology, and innovation. The duty of a responsible, forward-planning government is to foster scientific and technological skills and to recognize the essential role of research and development activities.” The collaboration is the result of a process started about one year ago, when the Portuguese government approached the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and other leading research and educational institutions to explore possibilities for joint programs. The agreement now signed was reached after months of assessment by Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft administrators and researchers in consultation with the Portuguese Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education. “In the coming years, internationalization will become the key to success for applied research organizations such as Fraunhofer. The cooperation with Portugal is a major step in this endeavor, said Hans-Jörg Bullinger, President of Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. Manuel Heitor, Portuguese Secretary of State for Science, Technology and Higher Education, stated that “the Fraunhofer-Portugal program will strengthen European cooperation in emerging technologies, attract new talent for science and technology, and foster new developments in information and communication technologies, advanced manufacturing, logistics, biotechnology, nanotechnology and grid computing. The agreement will provide a unique opportunity to facilitate new knowledge networks in Europe involving emerging businesses and markets. It will promote Portuguese research teams and institutions at a European level.” Ulrich Buller, Senior Vice President of Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, remarked that “by cooperating with the best Portuguese research organizations we hope to leverage each other's competencies, for the benefit of all partners involved.’’ During the launch phase, the new institute will operate as a research center focusing on new technologies and services for places where many people convene, such as shopping malls. But it will also focus on new technologies and content for virtual, augmented and simulated reality, with applications for ambient-assisted living and for health-care devices. Developments achieved in this area will be applied to enhance the active capacities of the elderly, to increase the access of people with low qualifications or with disabilities to the benefits of the information society, and to enrich learning environments. José Encarnação, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, observed that "the Fraunhofer-Portugal program is a unique opportunity to bring together the strength of the very successful Fraunhofer operating model and the high-quality of Portuguese research to support innovation in Portugal, to help in developing new local industrial opportunities, and to contribute to the Portuguese and global market.’’Encarnação has been designated for the steering committee that will coordinate the Fraunhofer-Portugal program.
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