Brief history of the Embrapa-Labex Program:
The Embrapa-Labex program was conceived in the mid 1990s as an operational mechanism to accelerate the implementation of scientific cooperation with the physical presence of Embrapa researchers beyond the Brazilian borders, by developing research projects in cutting-edge technology or on themes that interest both the corporation and the partner institution, in laboratories and research groups of excellence abroad, located in countries that generate knowledge and innovation.
The Embrapa-Labex program has had the participation of 47 researchers since its inception: 27 researchers in the United States of America (U.S.A.); 17 in Europe (France, Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Germany); 2 in South Korea; and one in China. Embrapa currently has 2 researchers abroad, who are responsible for coordinating the Labex U.S.A. and the Labex Europe.
The first Labex was established in the USA in 1998, within the Agricultural Research Service - ARS/USDA; and in 2002 the Labex Europe was established within Agropolis International, headquartered in Montpellier, France. Other positions were later opened in the Netherlands, in partnership with the University of Wageningen; in the United Kingdom in collaboration with the Rothamsted Institute; and in Germany, in partnership with the Jülich Institute.
The first initiative in Asia started in 2009 with the establishment of Labex South Korea, in partnership with the Rural Development Administration – RDA. In the first half of 2010, Labex China was established with the Chinese Agricultural Academy of Sciences - CAAS.
The program also allows for the reverse path, which is called "inverted Labex", whereby researchers from partner institutions abroad come to Embrapa's research centers to develop projects of mutual interest. Through this course of action, since 2009 Embrapa has received researchers from South Korea, the United States, the United Kingdom and Colombia.
Other instruments to help the program and make it more flexible and dynamic are the Labex-Flex concept and the Visiting Scholar Program, which are being used to prospect, negotiate and develop "thematic clusters" abroad. Labex-Flex and the Visiting Scholar programs are operationalized through the participation of an Embrapa researcher in an institution of excellence abroad, to collaboratively perform research and support the Labex Program's official activities. Labex coordinators manage the activities of Embrapa's employees abroad.
In the scope of Embrapa's international operations, the Labex model represents a distinct type of international partnership. The success of the program has worked as a model for research institutions in other countries, such as Argentina's National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) , which signed a contract with Agropolis International in Montpellier for the installation of its first virtual laboratory abroad; and Labintex, South Korea's Rural Development Administration center that was established inside ARS-USDA. It is also a model that has been frequently consulted by several international scientific institutions.
The Embrapa-Labex Program has the mission to develop and access cutting-edge knowledge and technologies in strategic themes, in light of current or future demands, at the frontiers of knowledge, anticipating risks and opportunities.
- To promote international cooperation in agricultural research, development and innovation at the frontier of knowledge;
- To interact with organizations and groups of excellence to strengthen Embrapa's RD&I agenda and establish multidisciplinary and multi-institutional research and innovation networks;
- To monitor and identify scientific and technological trends, advances and innovations in strategic areas with potential to solve problems and/or add value to agricultural production chains;
- To generate knowledge and innovative technologies for the development of agricultural production chains.
Definition of Thematic Areas and Selection of Partner Institution
Embrapa conducts analyses of the institutions, partner teams and countries of interest to define the installation of the Embrapa-Labex program, considering aspects like: interest in participating in the program, existence of groups of excellence in priority thematic areas, infrastructure available, historical and current technical-scientific performance of the institution, among others.
The conditions to implement the partnership are defined in specific instruments celebrated between Embrapa and the foreign institution that stipulate the areas of contribution and mechanisms of interaction, including project implementation teams, funding mechanisms and the obligations of each party.
Main Areas of Labex Researchers since its inception
- Natural resources, climate change, including soil microbiology, effects of nitrogen application, and carbon sequestration;
- Monitoring, management and sustainable use of natural resources and sustainable land use for agricultural purposes;
- Emerging scientific fields, including, among others, biotechnology, big data, artificial intelligence, digital agriculture, precision agriculture and automation, microbiome;
- Sustainability in agriculture and animal farming, including the chains that produce cereals, pulses, oilseeds, vegetables, forage plants, beef, dairy, swine, poultry and fish;
- Innovative and sustainable solutions that not only ensure biodiversity and environmental protection through the bioeconomy, but also improve the multifunctionality of agriculture to the benefit of the production of food, fiber and energy, environmental and ecosystem services, green chemistry, and new inputs;
- Animal and plant health safety in production chains, prevention against new diseases, pests and invasive species;
- Food security, quality and nutrition, as well as new agrifood products, processes and bioproducts, and reduction of food waste;
- Environmental performance of agricultural and animal farming systems and of agrifood chains, ecosystem services provided by agriculture;
- Management processes in research and development, technological innovation, technology transfer and institutional communication.
Recent special results
- Promotion and development of opportunities for international cooperation at the frontiers of knowledge and to monitor science, innovative technologies and innovation in agriculture;
- Coordination of teams of researchers abroad within the Visiting Scholar Program and other short-term ones;
- Embrapa's representation in international bodies, research institutes and aid agencies;
- Identification of opportunities to implement technical-scientific projects with groups of excellence abroad;
- Establishment of partnerships and business with international institutions, agencies, and companies, which included fundraising for Embrapa's activities;
- Initiatives related to the Labex-Flex in priority themes and with institutions of interest for Embrapa;
- Participation in Embrapa's institutional agendas abroad;
- Monitoring of the main trends, establishment of scenarios, risks, opportunities, identifying the main “drivers” of science and technology applied to world agriculture;
- Identification of new lines of research with potential for the development of Brazilian agriculture.