14 June 2021

Brazil is more than samba dancing, football and sun-drenched beaches – and it’s more than rain forests and a controversial president. It’s also a country with important research and many talented scientists. Just ask Petter Krus, the biggest Brazilophile at LiU, who has spent ten years building bridges between Sweden and the largest country in South America.

Petter Krus together with professor Viktor De Negri and professor Xiaoping Ouyang (Zhejiang University, China). Petter Krus together with professor Viktor De Negri and professor Xiaoping Ouyang (Zhejiang University, China).

An adventure

Brazil? When LiU professor Petter Krus was invited ten years ago to participate in building up bilateral collaboration, he didn’t know much about this country of 200 million, across the Atlantic from Europe. Music and dance, football wizards, and a haven for muggers – that was probably what first came to his mind.

Four researchers: Rovilson Mafalda, Romulo Gonçalves Lins, Luciana Pereira and Petter Krus.    Four researchers: Rovilson Mafalda, Romulo Gonçalves Lins, Luciana Pereira and Petter Krus.

“Yes, I guess that’s what I thought about”, he remembers, laughing. “Like most other Swedes, I had an extremely diffuse picture of Brazil.”

“But I didn’t hesitate in accepting. It’s been an adventure for me, and I’m sure my work has been useful, maybe more so when I’m there than when I’m here. Brazil is on a positive pathway, the universities and other centres are expanding, and it’s extremely gratifying to contribute to this.”

Funding from Wallenberg

The organisational framework for the collaboration is the Swedish Brazilian Research and Innovation Centre (CISB), which was set up by Saab as part of the Gripen contract, and will celebrate its 10th anniversary in May this year. Petter Krus was a pioneer in the project and since 2015 has held the Wallenberg professorship at the Brazilian Aeronautics Institute of Technology (ITA), 100 km outside São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city with twelve million inhabitants.

Petter Krus at the Brazilian rocket base in Alcântara, Maranhão.Petter Krus at the Brazilian rocket base in Alcântara, Maranhão.

Briefly, his work involves creating networks through conferences and workshops, arranging exchange visits for students and doctoral students, lecturing, and conducting joint research projects. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, he would travel to Brazil 4-6 times a year, spending around two months there.

"The collaboration has continued during the pandemic, and hasn’t actually been affected very much. If you’re using remote methods to meet people, it doesn’t matter if you’re in Sweden or somewhere else. You could argue that it’s easier to maintain continuity when you don’t have to be at the same physical location”, says Petter Krus, who has even participated in some virtual Afterwork evenings with colleagues in South America.

“When it’s four o’clock there, it’s nine here, so it works well.”

Window to the world

For Brazil, the collaboration provides access to Swedish expertise and, as Petter Krus describes it, a window on the world. While it is true that the country is large and can be considered wealthy from many points of view, at the same time it lies in something of an academic shadow, partially as a result of the Portuguese language. It has many collaborations with partners in the US, Germany and France, but these are often characterised by an uneven balance of power, with Brazil as junior partner.

View from the university UFABC Santo Andre, Sao Paulo.View from the university UFABC Santo Andre, Sao Paulo.

For Sweden, this gives advantages as a collaboration partner for Brazil.

“The image of Sweden is positive, and the Brazilians don’t feel that they come to us cap-in-hand. We’re big enough for Brazil to be interested in collaboration, and at the same time small enough not to be perceived as a threat.”

What does the collaboration mean for Sweden and LiU?

“As a general principle – all collaboration is good collaboration. The exchange visits for students and researchers are an opportunity for them to grow. And then to put it bluntly – you get more done if you can convince someone else to do some of the work. And scientific articles are better received if they are the result of international collaboration.”

“Many younger researchers in Brazil are extremely ambitious, and eager for international contacts. We gain a great deal from collaboration with them.”

Network and contacts

Petter Krus and Henrique Raduenz.Petter Krus and Henrique Raduenz, PhD-student from Brazil.

One important explanation for the success of the Brazil project was that Petter Krus quickly met Brazilian researchers to work with. Not only were they working in the same fields – aeronautical engineering and hydraulic engineering – the personal chemistry between them worked well. The latter is necessary for productive collaboration.

It is also worthy of notice that important networks aren’t only those that reach to the other side of the Earth, but also those within Sweden. Without the Brazil project, Petter Krus would probably never have met Dan Henningson (Royal Institute of Technology) or Tomas Grönstedt (Chalmers University of Technology), with whom he shares the Wallenberg professorship. The three together founded a few years ago the Swedish Aeronautics Research Center (SARC).

“And I’ve got to know several LiU researchers on conferences in Brazil. I actually met Filiz Karabag (associate professor in the Division of Project, Innovations and Entrepreneurship) for the first time in Brazil. At the time, we’d been working in the same department for five years”, says Petter Krus.

“We were both somewhat surprised.”

Brief facts: CSIB

A report from 2018 shows that Swedish Brazilian Research and Innovation Centre (CSIB) formed in 2011 had achieved the following results:

• Six bilateral research projects
• 31 people working directly in the project (13 of them in Sweden)
• Total project funding of USD 0.93 million (approximately SEK 8 million)
• Eight scientific publications (followed by a further eight after 2018)
• Nine departmental agreements.

The research centre was originally created as part of the Gripen contract with Brazil, and has subsequently been given a broader commission. It is mainly financed by Saab, with several other Swedish industrial companies such as Volvo and Scania also involved. In addition to LiU, several other Swedish universities are active in its operations.

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