[SANTIAGO] Argentina and Chile have held their first joint meeting on science and technology, aimed at promoting cooperation in research and development, technology transfer and business collaborations between the two countries.
Nearly 200 scientists from 60 research institutions attended the event, held in Santiago from 6-9 September. Along with Argentinean and Chilean entrepreneurs, they took part in 150 bi-national meetings, most of them about biotechnology, agriculture, atomic energy, fish farming, and space technologies.
"This is the very first time that we have had such a comprehensive joint meeting on science cooperation," Carlos Enrique Abihaggle, the Argentinean ambassador to Chile, told SciDev.Net. "It is like a dream come true."
In the meeting's opening session, Jorge Yutronic, director of the Chilean Fund for the Promotion of Scientific and Technological Development (FONDEF), remarked that universities dominate research in Chile and that there is little private investment in research and development. He presented plans to close this gap by promoting public-private partnerships and invited Argentinean researchers and institutions to join such efforts.
Areas of research with potential for joint ventures between universities and private enterprises from the two countries include the search for vaccines for the salmon farming industry, GM crop research, and use of bacteria for refining minerals, said Yutronic.
In another of the meeting's sessions, representatives of both nations' armies announced joint plans to develop an online training system to prepare military units for international peacekeeping operations. A bilateral technological committee will carry out the initiative over the next two years.
"We will build a simulation system to analyse the logistics and coordination of international peacekeeping operations and to train the personnel in different cooperation scenarios," explained Lieutenant Colonel Sergio Quijada of the Chilean army.
Commenting on the meeting in the in the Argentinean newspaper La Nacion, Lino Barañao, president of the Argentinean National Agency for the Promotion of Science and Technology said that past disagreements between Chile and Argentina make cooperation difficult.
"However, I am optimistic," said Barañao. "Integration is the path we must take."
In November 2004, a similar international cooperation event — called Science, Technology and Society — will take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Organised by the Argentinean and Brazilian Associations for Scientific Progress, it will bring together around 250 researchers from both countries, as well as from other South American nations.
Participants will present advances in their fields and will discuss regional issues such as science policies in South America, funding for innovation, ethics of research, and technology transfer to Argentinean and Brazilian industries.