The Success Stories

The scientific cooperation between Bavaria, Quebec and Alberta : 4 questions to Dr. Florence Gauzy

Dr. Florence Gauzy, Senior Scientific Officer, Bavarian Office for International Research Cooperation, Bavarian Research Alliance

The scientific cooperation between Bavarian and Quebec researchers is one of the cooperation domains covered by the bilateral partnership uniting the two regions since 1989 and spans several areas of science. With Alberta, the cooperation targets foremost issues related to energy sources, as well as technological transfer. Dr. Florence Gauzy, Director of the Coordination Office Bavaria/Quebec/Alberta/International at the Bavarian Research Alliance (Bayerische Forschungsallianz – bayFOR), is at the center of these transatlantic scientific exchanges and collaborations. She also sees to fostering the research cooperation between Bavaria and its partner regions: Upper Austria, Shandong, Sao Paulo, Western Cape, Georgia (US), and Quebec.

What is your role within the Bavaria-Quebec cooperation?

There are two main sides to it: On the one hand, I try to help initiate large-scale research projects, depending on the common research fields of both regions. In that case, my role is to convey ideas, to connect persons or institutions that don’t know each other but work on similar subjects, to make them meet each other and to suggest a particular research topic that could fit with a call for projects I am aware of. For instance we recently put together a joint initiative with our Quebec partners in the field of neurosciences of ageing: our goal is to broaden knowledge and care of dementia praecox.

On the other hand, I am the contact person for scientists already engaged in the preliminary phases of a common project who are turning to me in order for me to find the appropriate institutions (e.g. for grant applications). In that case, even before the grant quest starts, my role is to advise: I have to evaluate the relevance of the project itself (with several criteria such as the partners’ excellency, the precision of the topic definition, if the project’s goals are realistic when opposed to its means, etc.), and its chances of success within the initial call for projects. Then I have to decide what kind of support the project should be targeting: The grants we apply to are international as much as European, federal or local. An extensive part of my job is also to assist with the everyday managing of the project once the grants have been obtained.

Do you know right away which kind of project will « work »? Have you already been surprised?

One always has to bear in mind that the bigger the grant application, the tougher the international competition. Nevertheless, experience gets you a good deal of flair. Any given project will be promising depending on several factors, which pertain as much to the composition of the research team itself as to the work schedule and the technical, logistic means and human resources allocated towards a targeted goal. There is also the possible influence a project could have on subsequent research endeavours. But as much as all these criteria give me some liberty in the preliminary assessment I do on a project, the corner stone thereof always is scientific excellency. I will not hesitate and ask of the project partners that they return to the drawing table, be it in order to find further partners, or to better define their project so that it fits with the call for projects they are applying to. We may also change the financial scope – if it broadens the chances of actually receiving a grant…
This is my greatest asset : That way, we establish a relationship based on mutual trust. From a general point of view, I am very open to dialogue, since it’s the exchange of ideas that will create new ones. It is the quest for individual, made-to-measure solutions that will bring better results.

I was most surprised by the several million Euro grant obtained by TIRCON, a multi-party research project that was born out of an existing Bavarian-Canadian research cooperation on a rather unexpected, non-mainstream topic – a very rare neurological disease that affects children and young adults. We were delighted that the European Commission encouraged our ambitious research project. Allowing research subventions of that amount was a courageous decision on their part, proving there is a vision on the relevance of this topic for the rest of neuroscience.

Did the Bavaria-Quebec cooperation change over the years? Its volume, your role, the topics covered…

When I first arrived (2007), we were essentially answering on a case-by-case basis to the demands that we were getting from already existing teams of scientists. Initiating common projects as part of my role appeared somewhat later, as on the Bavarian as well as on the Quebec side there were partners in the ministries that got along very well and wanted to bring the partnership to another level. With the dialogue and constant exchanges that we foster in our bilateral cooperation, there was a kind of healthy rivalry that gave way to extremely profitable transatlantic encounters and contact-making.

The excellent collaboration with OURANOS consortium, headquartered in Montreal, stands as an example of successful intensive exchange throughout the years, paving the way to several research projects on climate change modeling and impacts on ecosystems and hydrographic systems.

At the core of the Bavaria-Quebec cooperation are high-tech sectors serving the aerospace industry, medicine (primarily neurology) and medical technologies, new materials, and environment and energy efficiency. For these projects we have internal mobility funding for scientists, and also regularly apply for grants from other governmental institutions.

You also sit on the board of ARIA, can you tell us more?

ARIA is the Alberta Research and Innovation Authority: A consulting committee, a kind of think tank the provincial government created to be advised on its innovation and research policy. I was appointed there in 2010 as a specialist for international research cooperation with an experience in public administration. On the board are 9 other members, 4 only of which are Canadian. We meet twice a year to discuss the general orientations the government is considering and to put forward recommendations on this subject. The issues revolve mainly around the need for economic diversification: Our job is to help Alberta define and develop new sectors of activity, and how to finance them.

Web site of bayFOR (Bavarian Alliance for Research)