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A new performance for the research centers

Modernization widens partnerships with companies and industry

Engineering is one of the most traditional research sectors in the State of São Paulo. Since 1894, the date of the foundation of the Polytechnic School of São Paulo, the institutes, schools and São Paulo research centers have had decisive participation in the development of new modern technologies that have spurred the country's growth. Beginning in 1995, these institutes began to be able to count upon the support of FAPESP's Infrastructure Program, which has benefited 544 installation modernization and improvement projects in the area of research, through a total sum of R$ 54.2 million. The reforms guaranteed a quality jump in both basic and applied research.

The new performance standard has attracted important partnerships with companies, industry and research networks and has produced results recognized both nationally and internationally.”Researchers must be able to concentrate on their mission's goal, without worrying about their working conditions”, says Nilson Dias Vieira Júnior, Head of the Coordination of Materials Characterization Description of the Lasers and Applications Center, of the Energy and Nuclear Research Institute (Ipen). He is in charge of the only group of researchers in Latin America that has managed to grow large dimension monocrystals for use with lasers, with wide industrial, medical and odontological applications.

The development of products of interest to the community and the obtaining of new patents in important areas, were accelerated by the renovations carried out in several university laboratories, among them the Biochemical Foods Laboratory, of the School of Food Engineering at Unicamp. It was from there that there came the product New Sugar, a natural sweetener without calorific value, obtained by processes of fermentation. The modernization of the laboratory also created the conditions for the development of research into nutrient compounds of functional foods, with anti-tumor properties and cholesterol and hypertension control, among others, coordinated by professor Yong Park.

“Our main hurdles were the lack of space and the type of installations”, says Enrique Ortega Rodriguez, Head of the Systems Agro Foods Group of the Food Engineering School of Unicamp. Here the resources through the Infrastructure Program are financing the renovation of a new building that will house a complex of laboratories. It will be possible to develop projects such as environmental diagnosis of the agriculture of the State of São Paulo, in order to fulfill the directives of Agenda 21 for the preservation of biodiversity.

In partnership with the Brazilian Farming Research Company (Embrapa), it will be possible, with satellite support, to analyze the principal crops using geo-referenced information, to develop new less aggressive techniques for the crops, and to propose new means of managing river basins. The renovation will also create conditions to – in partnership with the Brazilian Support Service to Micro and Small Companies (Sebrae) – support the producers of organically grown foods, through a project of crop orientation, adapting their activity to the demands of quality certificates and financing.

The resources of the Infrastructure Program have also benefited, within the same Agro Food Group, the Automated Food Processing Laboratory, coordinated by Vivaldo Silveira Júnior. The laboratory has now a five times bigger area, which makes possible the development of prototypes of sophisticated equipment for the automation of food processing. In the evaluation of Celso Costa Lopes, of the same laboratory, FAPESP's Infrastructure Program allowed the space to be much better used. Even in the Food Engineering School of Unicamp, two support programs of the Infra Program made possible the creation of space for the installation of the Food Technology Department.

Renovations in the free space of the original building made available for research a total area of 1,000 m2. Complete physical installations for four laboratories were set up – Sensorial Analysis, Packaging, Milk and Its Derivatives, and Processing – as well as a compressor system, cold rooms and refrigeration for the Meat and Derivatives Laboratory. Beginning at the end of 1999, important pieces of research were stimulated through the workings of these installations, according to José de Assis Fonseca Faria, Department Head. Among them those of aseptic packaging for juices, milk, sports drinks and coconut milk, trays for packaging sliced meat, frozen foods, and the creation of an industrial chain for the production of dried meat.

At the Department of Material Engineering (Dema), of the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar), the installation of the its own circuitry for the supply and transmission of electrical energy, with no-break systems, was fundamental for the X-ray diffraction apparatus, and electronic microscopes. In the opinion of Pedro Iris Paulin Filho, Department Head, before the resources of the Infra Program, the frequent energy oscillations burned out boards and filaments worth thousands of US dollars, impeding the continuation of various research projects.

Motivation

The improvement in the working conditions increased motivation and contributed towards a greater stability in the context of the researchers of the benefited institutions and schools “In the Engineering School of Ilha Solteira, of Unesp, it wasn't unusual to have the loss of staff to other institutions who provided them with a better research infrastructure”, recalls Laurence Duarte Colvara, of the Electrical Engineering Department. From1995 on, through the Infra Program resources, it was possible to improve the physical structure of some laboratories with an electrical circuit adapted for high voltage.

The increase in the amount and quality of the research work was also felt in the Architecture and Urbanization Department of the Engineering School of São Carlos, of USP. The Infrastructure Program resources financed civil construction work, furniture purchase, the implantation of a logics network and the acquisition of equipment that modernized the Mid Image Laboratory. Through this, according to Azael Rangel de Camargo, it was possible to multiply by a factor of five the number of pieces of work for editing per week and to triple the number of scanned images.

At the same Engineering School of São Carlos, the Infrastructure Program resources allowed research that predominantly was directed to Civil Engineering to house other areas as well, such as Mechanical Engineering, Materials Engineering and Industrial Engineering, explains João Bento de Hanai, the coordinator of the Infra Project for the laboratories of the Department of Structural Engineering.

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