Projects will focus on future aerial mobility, digital networks and services, and immuno-oncology (image: Embraer)

FAPESP launches Engineering Research Centers with Embraer, Ericsson and GSK

31 de maio de 2022

By Elton Alisson and André Julião  |  FAPESP Innovative R&D – FAPESP has launched new Engineering Research Centers (ERCs) in partnership with Embraer, Ericsson and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). The announcement was made on May 25 during the event held to commemorate FAPESP’s 60th anniversary.

“FAPESP has already established ERCs in partnership with major corporations such as GSK, Stellantis, EMBRAPA, Equinor, Koppert, and several others. It’s the largest academia-business research cooperation program in Brazil,” said Marco Antônio Zago, President of FAPESP.

The ERC program leverages synergies between private enterprise and the academic sector to produce and disseminate world-class research with a significant economic and social impact via innovation.

Twenty ERCs have begun operating since the program was launched in 2017. With the three new centers, they will mobilize more than BRL 1.5 billion in research activities in the coming years. As a result, FAPESP’s allocation of BRL 325 million to the program will be multiplied by almost five, noted Luiz Eugênio Mello, FAPESP’s Scientific Director.

“ERCs are a research funding model that integrates the corporate and academic sectors in a highly efficient way. FAPESP is constantly refining the model in collaboration with its partners,” Mello said.

With investment set to reach BRL 48 million in the next five years, the Engineering Research Center for Future Aerial Mobility (ERC-AM) will be established in partnership with Embraer at the Aeronautical Technology Institute (ITA) in São José dos Campos. Projects will be conducted by Embraer’s and ITA’s researchers in partnership with researchers at the University of Campinas’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computing (FEEC-UNICAMP) and the University of São Paulo’s São Carlos School of Engineering (EESC-USP).

One of the new center’s goals will be to conduct research on innovations with the potential to increase the Brazilian aeronautical industry’s competitiveness in the medium to long term.

“We’re greatly honored by the approval of the new center,” said Luis Carlos Affonso, Embraer’s Vice President for Engineering, Technology and Strategic Planning “This is a very special time because of the sustainability imperative and so many emerging new technologies. We believe our ERC will be one more good example of cooperation among companies, government and academia. It will help determine the future of zero-carbon aviation and create significant value for society.”

Research by the new center will focus on emissions reduction, autonomous systems, and advanced design and manufacturing, including the development of machine control for electric propulsion and aeropropulsive integration for electric aircraft.

“In designing aircraft with electric propulsion instead of the internal combustion engines with gas turbines in current use, several parameters have to be adapted in order to integrate the new electric propulsion units. This challenge will be the focus for one of the new center’s research lines,” Domingos Alves Rade, a professor at ITA and ERC-AM’s principal investigator, told Agência FAPESP.

More than 100 researchers will be affiliated with the new center, for a substantial increase in Embraer’s research, development and innovation efforts, according to Luciano José Pedrote dos Santos, a product development engineer at the company and deputy director of the new center.

“Embraer has a long track record in pre-competitive RD&I with universities and research institutions,” he said. “The projects conducted by the new center will be part of our strategic RD&I plan for the medium to long term.”

Network development

The Engineering Research Center in Smart Networks and Services for 2030 (Smartness), to be established in partnership with Ericsson and hosted by UNICAMP, will conduct cutting-edge research on computer networks and digital services with applications in strategic areas with scientific and technological impacts to be achieved by 2030.

With the implementation of 5G mobile and broadband networks and the development of 6G, the main challenges addressed by the new center will be designing and operating cloud computing and networking infrastructures with the capacity to leverage next-generation internet services and new applications.

“Network communications and edge computing are critical to modern engineering systems like industry 4.0, the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence,” said Christian Esteve Rothenberg, a professor at FEEC-UNICAMP and the new center’s principal investigator. “Network infrastructures must have sufficient computational capability for developers of end-system applications to be able to run their applications on them.”

Among the center’s collaborators will be researchers affiliated with UNICAMP’s Institute of Computing (IC), the University of São Paulo (USP), the University of the Sinos Valley (UNISINOS), and the Federal Universities of São Carlos (UFSCar), the ABC (UFABC), Amazonas (UFAM), Espírito Santo (UFES), Goiás (UFG), Pará (UFPA), Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN), Campina Grande (UFCG), Ceará (UECE), Uberlândia (UFU), Bahia (UFBA), Minas Gerais (UFMG), Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) and the Pampa (UNIPAMPA), as well as Ericsson Research.

The center’s research lines will include edge computing, network programmability, cognitive architectures, security, and sustainability.

“Smartness represents a union of important actors for the advancement of high-quality applied research in telecommunications in São Paulo state,” said Edvaldo dos Santos, Director of RD&I for the Southern Cone at Ericsson Latin America.

Immuno-oncology

The Center for Research in Immuno-Oncology (CRIO), to be set up with GSK and hosted by the Albert Einstein Jewish Institute for Education and Research (IIEP), will pursue novel targets for cancer immunotherapy drugs to treat tumors that do not respond well to existing therapies, as well as seeking markers to predict which patients will respond best to immunotherapy.

“Immunotherapy has offered fresh hope for many people but poses at least two problems. Depending on the tumor, between 12% and 60% of those treated don’t respond well or at all, and it can have severely adverse side effects. Although these are much less frequent on average than in chemotherapy and radiation therapy, the severe side-effects in some patients can be so severe that treatment has to be suspended,” said Kenneth John Gollob, a researcher at IIEP and CRIO’s principal investigator.

Since May 2021, Gollob has led a project supported by FAPESP to identify the immune mechanisms responsible for treatment failure or adverse events in cancer patients treated with immunotherapy checkpoint inhibitors. Thanks to CRIO, he will be able to broaden the scope of the project, with which researchers at the University of São Paulo’s Ribeirão Preto Medical School (FMRP-USP) and A.C. Camargo Cancer Center are collaborating.

“We believe combining these competencies will enable us to explore mechanisms and genetic alternatives for cancer patients,” said André Vivan, CEO of GSK Brazil.

CRIO will be the fourth ERC established by FAPESP in partnership with GSK and part of the company’s Trust in Science program launched in 2015.

“Since the launch of this program we’ve had a strong partnership with FAPESP, successfully bringing different scientific talents to bear on the effort to discover and develop drugs that improve the patient’s quality of life,” said Evelyn Lazaridis, GSK Brazil’s Medical Director.