Between the 20th and 22nd of July, the Second General Assembly of the EU-LAC RESINFRA project was held in Montevideo, Uruguay. This meeting was an important milestone for the project, as it allowed to discuss the objectives for the coming months, specifically the publication of the Sustainability Plan for bi-regional collaboration EU – LAC in the field of Research Infrastructures, and the role that EU-LAC RESINFRA will have at the “International Conference on Research Infrastructures” – ICRI, between the 19th and 21st of October in Brno, Czech Republic.
The first day of the meeting took place in the facilities of the Technological Laboratory of Uruguay, LATU, where Alberto Majó (Ministry of Education and Culture of Uruguay, MEC), Markus Handke (Delegation of the European Union in Uruguay), Claudia Romano (Uruguayan Agency for International Cooperation, AUCI) and Inmaculada Figueroa (EU-LAC RESINFRA Project Coordinator, Ministry of Science and Innovation, Spain) welcomed the participants and opened the meeting. During the opening remarks, the intervention of Markus Handke was of special importance as he stressed the importance of the work of EU-LAC RESINFRA for the development of joint research infrastructures between the European Union and Latin America, mentioning that this type of interregional project helps to define common interests in many other areas while allowing to face global challenges in areas such as Human Rights, Science and Climate Change.
On the other hand, Inmaculada Figueroa expressed during her speech the importance of the different research infrastructures at global level, which have been fundamental in responding to the important challenge that the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has represented for humanity. It has been an example on how developing these infrastructures in a context of intra-regional cooperation is key in problematic times.
The first day continued with the presentation of the results and work developed under work packages in these 30 months of the project, highlighting the intense work of the four pilots that make up EU-LAC RESINFRA. Claudia Alen, representative of Instruct-ERIC, showed the success obtained in the staff exchanges supported by EU-LAC RESINFRA, specifically the exchange experienced by Alejandro Buschiazzo, who develops his research in the laboratory of molecular and structural microbiology at the Pasteur Institute in Montevideo and is currently on exchange in the laboratories of Instruct-ERIC in Madrid.
In addition to meetings, during the first day, there was also a visit to LATU’s facilities and laboratories, where information about its history and the development of the laboratory was shared.
The second workday took place in the Uruguayan Presidency building. Starting proceedings, Mariano Berro, Executive Director of the Uruguayan Agency for International Cooperation, gave a welcome speech, followed by the presentations of some of EU-LAC RESINFRA’s external partners. Leonel Malacrida from the Pasteur Institute of Montevideo made the first presentation, followed by Luis Souza from E-RIHS and then concluding with Tania Altamirano from RedCLARA – Latin American Cooperation of Advanced Networks. Afterwards, the second day focused on defining the strategy in the context of the sustainability plan and the projection of EU-LAC RESINFRA into the future, promoting permanent interregional cooperation with a view towards scientific development and high-level infrastructures within the framework of common objectives and values.
In order to outline this proposal in a context of co-creation, the activity was carried out by dividing the team into four subgroups: Political Dialogue, Funding, Visibility and Practical Experiences. Within each discussion, different proposals emerged, among which the Political Dialogue subgroup highlighted the idea of generating a project that transcends the objectives of governments, thus reaching a state level that allows to have a fund beyond short-term policies, but that aim at being permanent. On financing, it was mentioned, among other things, the openness to receive support from both public and private entities, therefore widening the spectrum beyond government funding.
On the topics of visibility and practical experiences, common points emerged, such as the need to expand channels of communication and organisation of events that are developed in Latin America in order to enhance the role of this region at the level of the research infrastructures. The third and last day in Montevideo was different because the focus was on visiting research infrastructures in Uruguay, taking the consortium to both the Polo Tecnológico del Pando and the Pasteur Institute in Montevideo. The day began with a welcoming committee by Fernando Amestoy (Director of the Technology Park), Laura Vera (Projects and Business Manager) and John Saegaert (General Manager) who, after presenting the work carried out and the structure of the Pando Technology Park, accompanied the group on a visit to the facilities. This park is an academic unit of the Faculty of Chemistry dedicated to research, development and innovation (R&D&I) in Chemistry, Biotechnology, Materials Science and Environment.
The second part of the day continued with a visit to the Pasteur Institute of Montevideo where Carlos Batthyany (Executive Director), Daniela Hirschfeld (Head of Communication) and José Badano (Academic Director) welcomed the group and presented part of the history of the institute and the work carried out by the institution. This was followed by a tour of the laboratories and facilities. One of the highlights of the visit was to see the facilities, who are experts in the analysis of SARS-CoV-2, and to learn about the leading role it played during the pandemic, both in the detection of active cases and in the joint work with local authorities to manage the epidemiological situation.
The final conclusions and acknowledgments were given by Inmaculada Figueroa, Carlos Batthyany, Claudia Romano (Manager of the Uruguayan Agency for International Cooperation) and Alberto Majó (Advisor to the Ministry of Education and Culture of Uruguay (MEC)). Inmaculada Figueroa firstly showed results and projections and then thanked all parties. She also acknowledged what still lies ahead for EU-LAC RESINFRA, recognising the importance of Research Infrastructures and the values implicit in multi-regional cooperation, which are fundamental to face the future challenges at a global level but especially for Europe and Latin America.