26 : Brazil and UTC, A lasting bond

26 : Brazil and UTC, A lasting bond

The main original feature of this training course in comparison with the Brazilian model rely on including two 6 month industrial placement periods. The Brazilian ministry in charge of Education at first was circumspect about this novel training scheme, but then came to accept it”, says François Canon who participated in the adventure alongside Francis Goubel, François Langevin and Catherine Marcq. The relationship between UTC and the University of Pernambuco goes back to the 1970s when the first group of PhD students came to Compiegne. Then thanks to a four-party agreement between the Confédération nationale des industries, the Federation of Industries of Pernambuco, UTC and the Federal University, a course specifically in biomedical engineering was created in 2001.

Intrinsic quality of biomedical engineers recognized by the medics

All this was quite relevant: Recife is the 3rd medical pole in Brazil, after Sao Paolo and Belo Horizonte (capital of the State of Minas Gerais). A pharmaceutical pole will soon be located here, as well as technological infrastructure specialized in blood, in a partnership with a French laboratory for fractioning and biotechnologies”, adds Professor Silva, in charge of this training course in Recife. “Since 2001, about 100 Brazilian students have followed this 5 year course. As we adapt the contents to market manpower needs, our graduates quickly find job openings in the dozen or so specialist companies that work in medical engineering round the medical pole and in the hospital establishments, where their contribution was in terms of improvements to hospital resource management”. Procurement, quality control, maintenance, etc. The early skepticism of the establishments was quickly lifted! “The maturity of our graduates (and hence the course) was recognized by the creating of an independent Department of biomedical engineering in 2013, on the UTC model”; Since 2008, several Brazilian students doing biomedical engineering studies have had the opportunity to spend a year at UTC in Compiegne in the framework of the bilateral exchange programme “Brafitec”, an acronym combining Brazil, France, Engineer, Technology). They have 6 months in class work and 6 months in placements.

New research projects worth developing

In parallel to training programmes, UTC’s BMBI Laboratory and the food department off UFPE ran a joint research project for 4 years on the consequences of early age de-nutrition on bio muscular functions. All told, some half a dozen theses were awarded under the Capes-Cofecub agreement, established between ‘Coordination of training for HE staff’ on the Brazilian side and the French ministries in charge of Foreign Affairs and Higher Education. “Problems of de-nutrition represent a health challenge in this poor area of Brazil”, recalls Francis Canon. “We transferred our tools to carry out assessment campaigns in the Brazilian hinterland and we found that malnutrition (or de nutrition) when the fetus is developing or in early childhood, can alter definitively the muscular capacity of the person and hence act on his/her metabolism. Thus, and paradoxically, de nutrition can lead to obesity in the adults.

Promoting a new profession

There were also technology transfers, notably via the local Federation of Brazil’s North East States industries, relating to a tool to asses neuro-muscular functions for de-nutrition cases. “The federation were very interested in technology transfers but today, apart from student exchanges, the partnerships are in need of a new impetus. There are still some important links between our establishments, trough for example publishing of joint scientific papers over and above this specific subject. And there are also opportunities, notably through ‘Science without frontiers’. Brazil has a shortfall of qualified engineers and consequently the Government has been financing, since end 2011, much more training and research programmes in the universities, underscores Francis Canon. Another opportunity of note: creation of a specific biomedical engineering department which opens up new horizons for the training of specialists in the field “I met with François Langevin to discuss about a training course in technical hospital management, something out hospitals needs here” says Ascendino Silva. “We could also enlarge our discussions to bio-mechanical engineering, a sector in which UTC’s expertise is recognized. We may also promote the profession of biomedical engineer, which is as yet not well known in Brazil and we could engage in research activities that would be more technology intensive than academic”. In liaison with the desire to set up double degrees, UTC and the University of Pernabuco are currently studying the feasibility of training in hospital technical management.

A unique, biomedical training course, in Brazil