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  1. The Governor General of Canada
  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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Keynote Address at the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) – “Brazil-Canada Partnerships and Enhancing the Innovation Ecosystem”

São Paulo, Brazil, April 26, 2012


Thank you for your warm welcome. I am delighted to be here to talk about the great potential for partnership between Brazil and Canada—between your vast and dynamic country of the south and ours of the north.

Of the frontier between North and South America, of the potential that unites our diverse cultures, histories and societies, the great Mexican writer and diplomat Carlos Fuentes, who I talked to just this morning, once said:

“This is a living frontier, which can be nourished by information, but, above all, by knowledge, by understanding, by the pursuit of enlightened self-interest on both parts.”

That’s one of the reasons why I’m visiting Brazil this week, from Brasilia to Rio de Janeiro and from Sao Paulo to Campinas. I want to explore the pursuit of shared goals with you today—goals of innovation and of partnership between Brazil and Canada. 

And I didn’t come alone. With me in Brazil this entire week is a large group of leading Canadians from the spheres of industry, academia and government, probably the largest group of Canadians to ever visit Brazil in the name of innovation, science and technology.   

We are here because the possibilities are great, and I think you will agree that, in the 21st century, working together across borders and disciplines is the best way to deepen our learning and enhance our innovation. That has always been my strong belief, throughout my career as a university administrator and, today, as governor general of Canada.

The sharing of knowledge collectively enlightens us. I also like to call this the diplomacy of knowledge, defined as our ability to work together and share our learning across disciplines and borders. When people achieve the right mixture of creativity, communication and co-operation, truly remarkable things can happen.

Canada and Brazil share proud traditions of learning, innovation and partnership. The Sao Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) has a long-standing relationship with International Science and Technology Partnerships Canada that has led to many fruitful exchanges between our two countries. And the agreement about to be signed by FAPESP and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada will likewise lead to wonderful opportunities for collaboration.  

What is particularly remarkable about partnerships in science and technology is that they can occur in areas where Canada and Brazil traditionally compete with each other—in agriculture and aerospace engineering, for example. In an S&T context, our mutual expertise makes us perfect collaborators as we build on our complementary strengths. 

I want to encourage such collaboration between Brazilians and Canadians. Formal agreements and other mechanisms—such as the Innovation Forum taking place tomorrow—can serve as the vehicles of our co-operation. We have much to learn together, and I want to speak for a moment about the emphasis Canada places upon learning—and how it makes us such a wonderful partner for Brazil. 

Canadians view learning as a basic and essential value. Our public education system, which strives to provide equality of opportunity while also encouraging excellence, has been the key driver in the building of our smart and caring society.

In a country as vast and diverse as Canada, the learning never ends—and I know the same is true of Brazil.

Let me now turn to another of the reasons why I am so optimistic about the role Canada can play as a smart nation in the world today: the great diversity of its people.

Canada has long been a beacon of tolerance and diversity, and today we continue to attract immigrants in large numbers from all over the world.

We have much in common. One of the great strengths of Brazilian culture has always been its ability to blend European, African, Asian and indigenous influences to produce new and original ideas and movements. In a similar vein, Canada has been referred to as a métis, or mixed, society, in reference to its origins as a shared project of Aboriginal and European peoples.

Today, our Canadian family has expanded to include peoples from all over the world.

This ability to not only accept, but also to welcome and celebrate diversity, gives us a tremendous advantage in today’s world. Besides being necessary to living together harmoniously, our embrace of diversity also provides us with a tremendous source of renewal and new ideas.

To share just one example, let me tell you about a woman named Cheryl Bartlett, the Canada Research Chair in Integrative Science.

Throughout her career, Ms. Bartlett has worked closely with elders from the Mi’kmaq Aboriginal community to integrate the traditional Mi’kmaq learning approaches into postsecondary science education.

The program uses an approach known as “two-eyed seeing”, or in other words one eye drawing on the best of modern science and another eye drawing from traditional ideas. The applications and results can be surprising.

This kind of dialogue and collaboration points the way forward. Just a few days ago, I delivered the opening address at the Canada 3.0 Conference—which includes a Brazilian delegation from the state of Paraiba, which will play host to the next edition of this conference later this year. One of the remarkable things about this conference, which forms part of the S&T Joint Action Plan signed by our two countries, is that it is taking place in Stratford, Ontario—one of Canada’s leading arts communities, best-known for its wonderful productions of plays by Shakespeare.

The choice of location was deliberate and based on the understanding that the arts and sciences are complimentary. The approach is similar to the “two-eyed seeing” I just mentioned. From Leonardo Da Vinci to Alexander Graham Bell to Alberto Santos-Dumont to Steve Jobs, great innovators have understood that there really is no dividing line between disciplines—all knowledge is interrelated.

While many of our greatest challenges arise through the interplay of complex problems, so too do our greatest advances often occur at the intersections between disciplines. Who knows what a greater understanding of quantum physics will be able to teach us about genetics, or what a better grasp of ecology can teach us about complex global networks? Discoveries in one field may cast very little light on another—or perhaps they will teach us a great deal.

And just as the intersections between disciplines can lead to new insights, so can the intersections between nations and peoples lead to exciting new possibilities.

The term innovation ecosystem is gaining currency as a metaphor for collaboration and discovery today. This approach speaks to the dynamic, non-static nature of innovation. As you know, the discovery of new horizons is not linear—innovation can be messy, slowed by false starts, dead ends and failed experiments.

And yet, it is through the continuous push and pull of ideas and insights from within and without that new discoveries are made, and that is why I am so enthusiastic about the prospect of greater partnership between Brazil and Canada. Our similarities are many, and so are our differences. It adds up to a new frontier of possibility.

As partners, our challenge is to identify and share specific needs and goals, and to constantly, relentlessly communicate. And I am pleased to note the growing number of spheres where we are joining in this kind of collaboration. 

A wonderful example is the Science Without Borders program, in which Canada looks forward to welcoming more than 12,000 Brazilian scholarship recipients to study in our country.

Already we see today an increasing number and variety of partnerships between Brazilians and Canadians.

Our success stories are increasing in number and variety. In the life sciences, researchers from Brazil and Canada are working together on Alzheimer’s treatment, cancer research and the DNA mapping of the most common breed of Brazilian cattle, the Zebu. I am also pleased to note our growing green technology collaboration that is bringing fuel-cell powered busses to Sao Paulo and improved oil spill response radar technology to the Brazilian oil and gas sector.

In recent years, Brazil and Canada have reached a number of important milestones which are accelerating exchanges and collaboration between our respective research communities. We started by signing a Science & Technology Agreement in 2008 and establishing a Science and Technology and Innovation Joint Committee in 2011, complete with working groups in four priority areas. And I have already mentioned the Canada 3.0 and Brazil 3.0 conferences.

In this wonderful variety, a unique innovation ecosystem is taking shape, and I look forward to seeing our relationship deepen and mature in the years to come.

As I often say, the most practical thing in the world is a good general theory, when continuously tested and refined against reality.

With this in mind, let our theory be that Canada and Brazil can thrive as partners in learning and innovation in the 21st century. And let us test that notion, by working together in a spirit of confidence, respect, curiosity and co-operation.

Thank you.