More than 100 people attended the External Review Meetings of the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program this year. The event was held in Lisbon, at Centro Cientifico e Cultural de Macau, between January 9 and 10, 2012. Sir John O’Oreilly, Vice-Chancellor of the Cranfield University, United Kingdom, the chairman of the External Review Committee (ERC), expressed that the Committee “have been impressed with the way this partnership program has developed,” adding that “the quality of researchers and students attracted to the programme is very high.”
Every year the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program is evaluated by the External Review Committee whose role is to analyze a report by the Directors, hold several meetings with researchers, students, alumni and entrepreneurs, and report on the progress of the partnership towards achieving its goals in terms of cutting edge research, advanced training, internationalization and collaboration among the various players, in particular Portuguese universities, Carnegie Mellon, and industry in Portugal.
The External Review Committee is formed by Sir John O’Reilly, Vice-Chancellor of Cranfield University United Kingdom, Chairman, Luigia Aiello, Università di Roma La Sapienza, Rome, Italy, and Tariq Durrani, University of Strathclyde Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom. During two days, the Committee saw presentations on research highlights of projects with companies and end users, spoke with more than 70 faculty, students and alumni, and had the opportunity to listen to entrepreneurs that are engaged in the Program.
The Chairman of the External Review Committee considers that “the program has broken new ground in terms of international interactions and engagement. The ‘architecture’ established for the program allowed sufficient scope for adjustment and improvement, and this has been exercised beneficially.” Sir John O’Reilly believes that “there have been gains in terms of standard and standing of research and educational programs but a very major benefit is the level of industrial engagement the partnership has stimulated and enabled.”
Question (Q): How do you assess the work carried out within the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program so far?
Answer (A): We have been impressed with the way this partnership program has developed. The quality of researchers and students attracted to the programme is very high. Research and research outputs of high quality are resulting in publications in leading research journals. We are impressed especially by the way the program has secured strong engagement from industry in Portugal. In our meetings the value that this is delivering to the companies was confirmed by the industrial participants we met with. I would say that world class research is taking place and the nature and depth of the 3-way collaboration (universities and industry in Portugal with Carnegie Melon University) can be described as world leading.
Q: What kind of impact do you consider that this program has had on the Portuguese economy and on the higher education community?
A: The program has led to the development of the ‘essential infrastructure’ for collaboration in research and education which has been of clear benefit to participating faculty members/departments in Portugal. The scale of industrial participation and the ‘real world’ character of the research projects have been of great benefit to the companies. The program has also already generated a number of spin outs with potential to develop to the benefit of the economy in Portugal.
Q: What can be expected from this program in the near future?
A: The program has produced a number of cohorts from the professional masters dual degrees which are in industry in Portugal and have been described by company representatives as both contributing directly to company projects and also acting as ‘change agents’. We are about to see the first of the Ph.D. cohorts completing. We can expect these to make a similarly distinctive contribution both to industry and academia in Portugal.
Q: Why is this partnership important?
A: It has been and is valuable/important in a number of ways: raising the standing and profile of Portuguese faculty internationally, further advancing ICT research and related education against the highest level internationally; enabling young researchers in Portugal to ‘self calibrate’ against the highest international standards and enhance their expectations of themselves. And it has led to a far greater and more productive engagement between universities and industry than was achieved previously.
Q: What is the role of the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program External Review Committee?
A: Our role has been to review against our experience of international class research and PG education and provide suggestions and feedback to stimulate further development within the program. The leadership has responded well to this. For participant faculty and departments this has been ‘game changing’ we feel. Departments and individual faculty have raised their sights and are achieving against these raised expectations/aspirations. It is a journey started with good progress made but not yet completed.
Q: From your experience in reviewing committees, and as a consultant for the UK government and CE, what do you think about this partnership for a country like Portugal?
A: The progress made is impressive. I see this as a result of the Nature of the program, the intimacy of the engagement – and the degree of commitment that has come from Carnegie Mellon University faculty has been crucial. Precisely because Portugal is a relatively small country/economy the coupling to a leading university in a major world economy has been all the more valuable.
Q: How important is it that the Portuguese government renews the partnership?
A: An excellent start has been made and much has been achieved but to realize the benefits of the investment made to date there needs to be a second phase, in which plotting and progressing along a path towards sustainability must feature strongly.
The Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program was launched at the end of 2006 as a five year partnership between 9 Portuguese universities (Aveiro, Católica Portuguesa, Coimbra, Madeira, Minho, Nova de Lisboa, Lisboa, Porto, Técnica de Lisboa) and research institutions, Portuguese companies, and Carnegie Mellon University under the support of the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT). The program targets basic research and educational activities in focused areas of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), including fundamental technologies methodologies, applications and support sciences, as well as associated issues of managing technological change and development of related public policies. Its mission is to create new knowledge in key focused areas of information and communications technologies by means of cutting-edge research, world-class graduate education, and a close connection with Portuguese Industry, thus placing Portugal at the forefront of Science and Innovation.
At the end of five years the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program can claim success in many of its initial ambitious goals: