Embrapa Labex Program: 20 years of continuous presence at the frontier of world knowledge

In 2018, the Embrapa Labex program has completed two decades of uninterrupted activities abroad, in places where technological innovation of interest to Brazilian agriculture has occurred more robustly and dynamically.

Embrapa Labex' activities can be demonstrated in expressive figures that illustrate both the program's capacity for renewal and the complexity that is inherent to the initiatives developed at the frontier of world knowledge. Since Embrapa Labex' inception, it has encompassed over 20 topics that are strategic for Embrapa's project portfolio, with the presence of 47 of the corporation's researchers in 15 distinct foreign research organizations, distributed in eight countries spanning three continents.

There are several developments in this scenario. Results range from the implementation and acceleration of projects developed in Brazil to the creation of last-generation technological solutions (e.g. nanotechnology applied to biodegradable films for food packaging), including a boost to the community of researchers trained abroad to develop projects in Brazil, among others.

Embrapa Labex Program origin

To promote scientific and technological cooperation with other countries, Embrapa launched a program to set up virtual laboratories abroad, which aim to ensure Embrapa's physical presence outside of Brazil. The concept of virtual laboratory entails sharing laboratory space and infrastructure with partner institutions.

The idea emerged in the mid-1990s and the first virtual lab was implemented in 1998 in the United States. In 2002, Embrapa decided to create Labex Europe with Agropolis International, based in Montpellier, France. The first initiative in Asia began in 2009 in South Korea, in partnership with the Rural Development Administration (RDA). In 2012, Labex China was established in the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS). In the same year, there was the signing of the agreement between Embrapa and Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS) for establishing Labex in Japan.

The program also provides for the reverse route: at the so-called "reverse Labex", researchers from partner international institutions are established in Embrapa's research centers to develop projects of mutual interest.

For instance, institutions that have already sent researchers to work at Embrapa include the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Forest Service (FS); Rothamstead Research in the United Kingdom; and South Korea's Rural Development Administration (RDA). Colombia has developed a similar model, with a researcher from the Corporación Colombiana de Investigación Agropecuaria (Corpoica) allocated at Embrapa.

Within the scope of Embrapa's international operations, the Labex model represents a different form of international partnership. The success of the program has served as a model for research institutions in other countries. For instance, the Argentinean Instituto Nacional de Tecnologia Agropecuária (INTA)  and Agropolis International have signed a contract for the installation of their first virtual laboratory abroad, named LabIntex, in Montpellier.


Promote and develop international scientific cooperation opportunities at the frontier of knowledge and monitor science, innovative technologies, and innovation in agriculture, whilst anticipating risks and opportunities. 

How the program works

Senior researchers from Embrapa are selected through a competitive process to promote the exchange of experiences with other researchers from high-level research laboratories abroad for a period of 2-3 years.

The selected researchers participate in team(s) and collaborate on research projects of mutual interest, which can enable the creation of networks of international scientific research.

These researchers also devote part of their time prospecting for new opportunities for institutional coordination activities.

Labex Program objectives

  • Generate new knowledge that will help to develop innovative technologies for Brazilian agriculture
  • Promote opportunities for international cooperation in agricultural research
  • Constitute and strengthen multidisciplinary and multi-institutional networks
  • Monitor trends in the international scenario


In order to make the Labex program more flexible and dynamic, the concept of "Labex-Flex" will be employed as an auxiliary instrument in the processes of prospection, negociation, and development of theme clusters. For that purpose, the participation of Visiting Scientists will be considered as a component of the program.

Reverse Labex

The goal of the Reverse Labex is to receive senior researchers from partner institutions at Embrapa's Units to develop projects of common interest.

To learn more about the Labex and about the work of their coordinators and researchers, click here and access the Embrapa Labex Program Guidance Document.