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CoLAB ForestWISE officially created and coordinated by INESC TEC

On 16 March, the Collaborative Laboratory (CoLAB) ForestWISE, coordinated by INESC TEC, was presented publicly with the signature of a memorandum of understanding with the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) at the Forest Ciência Viva Centre in Proença-a-Nova.

11th April 2018

The event, included in the national meetings of the Roadmap of Innovation, was attended by the Portuguese Prime Minister, António Costa, Minister of Science, Manuel Heitor, Minister for Agriculture, Capoulas dos Santos, President of Proença-a-Nova City Council, João Lobo and President of Ciência Viva, Rosalia Vargas, among other leading figures.

ForestWISE - Collaborative Laboratory for Forest and Fire Integrated Management - which is part of a Collaborative Laboratories that will be created by the Portuguese Government, aims at developing applied research, innovation and transfer of technology activities in order to enhance the competitiveness of Portuguese forest and minimise the negative effects of wildland fire.

The memorandum of understanding was signed between CoLAB and FCT, represented by INESC TEC’s president, José Manuel Mendonça and FCT’s vice president, Helena Pereira, respectively. It emphasises the joint efforts of universities, public sector and industry, on a holistic and multidisciplinary approach to address fire issues and the need for forest enhancement and the sustainable development of forest-based industry.

memorandum of understanding signature

In his speech, António Costa emphasized precisely the importance knowing the forest, from which we can get "not only the wood for paper pulp, but much more and that needs to be identified. We need to have a deeper understanding of the dynamics of forest life and know what needs to be done in order for the forest be more productive and more resilient”.

But the fire issue remains on the agenda and on the priorities of the country, so this is a "collaborative laboratory on which the country has no doubt about its relevance," said the Prime Minister, "because of the need to have a forest with a higher fire resistance, but also because Portugal needs better surveillance and intervention techniques in case of fire. We all have a lot of expectation in the knowledge that can stem from this hope that it can be put into practice.”

Also the president of the Mission Structure for the Integrated Rural Fire Management System, Tiago Oliveira, stressed that "the fire issue and the forest viability are very complex problems, for that reason they are only solved by a persistent application of knowledge, a robust development of science and an ability to communicate and engage stakeholders to understand the different perspectives of these problems”. For Tiago Oliveira, "science, knowledge, cooperation between institutions are the keywords of this CoLAB process".

José Manuel Mendonça reaffirmed the commitment of the CoLAB’s members and partners to address the challenge made by the Portuguese Government. The ForestWISE has two purposes: “one is related to the forest high added value resources, export capacity and economic value, involving great companies and stakeholders of the forest area; the other is concerned with fires, which are the greatest scourge faced by our country. These two goals, one more private and aimed at economic value, the other more public and with broad social impact, are completely interlinked. The CoLAB's mission is to "build critical mass, aggregate research groups, join efforts" to respond to the country’s need in these areas, in a more innovative and effective way.

ForestWISE is being scheduled to start by the end of April, but its location has not yet been decided. This CoLAB consists of 17 members and 4 acceding members. The corporate business are The Navigator Company, Sonae Arauco, Altri, Europac, Amorim, EDP Distribuição, REN and Microsoft. The Universities and Research Institutes are: INESC TEC, School of Agriculture (ISA), Universidade of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, Universidade of Coimbra, Universidade of Évora and Universidade of Aveiro. Other public entities are the Mission Structure/ Agency for Integrated Rural Fire Management (AGIF), National Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics (IPMA) and National Institute for Agrarian and Veterinarian Research (INIAV).
Before signing the memorandum of understanding, the CoLAB associated and partners had the opportunity to present their research and technologies results linked to ForestWISE’s fields of action.

INESC TEC exhibited the Vital Jacket, a heart monitoring shirt to monitor the vital signs of firefighters; and the European project FOCUS, an innovative platform that makes it possible to plan and control the forest-to-mill operations, innovative systems that will help authorities prevent and suppress wildland fires. These projects were presented to Prime Minister and his delegation by Duarte Dias, researcher of Centre for Biomedical Engineering Research (C-BER), Alexandra Marques researcher of Centre for Enterprise Systems Engineering (CESE) and Abílio Pacheco, researcher of Centre for Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship (CITE).

In his closing speech, António Costa stressed the importance of the forest as a key factor in the country's enrichment. “Forest needs to be seen as a crucial factor for territorial enhancement of these areas. We need a forest that is more resilient to fires and that is a source of enrichment and not a security treat to people and their properties.”, concluded the Prime Minister.

The researchers mentioned in this news piece are associated with INESC TEC and UP-FEUP.