Research center also seeks to collaborate with meeting the UN’s sustainable development goals

The research and technologies related to the subject of climate change will gain even more emphasis, over the next five years, at the FAPESP Shell Research Centre for Gas Innovation (RCGI), headquartered in the University of São Paulo (USP). The center performs advanced studies for the sustainable use of natural gas, biogas, and hydrogen and the management, transportation, storage, and use of CO2, all of which is funded by Shell and by the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP). The subject was one of the highlights of the second day of the online workshop “RCGI in Review – 5 years of gas innovation”, streamed live on YouTube on October 1, which reported on the main achievements during the first five years of the Research Centre’s work.

In 2021, five new research programs will be launched regarding this subject, according to the RCGI’s Scientific Director, Professor Julio Meneghini, who presented the results of the CO2 Abatement program. “We agree with the importance of not only doing good research, but also of causing an impact on society and of transforming it, while pushing the frontiers of knowledge,” said engineer and Professor Gustavo Assi, RCGI’s Director for Diffusion of Knowledge. “We all know that climate change has been a hot topic for some time, but it is growing in importance. It could even be thought of as a new pandemic or the next tragedy we will have to face.”

The Technical and Scientific Coordinator of Shell Brasil, Alexandre Breda, stated that climate change presents society with an enormous challenge, but he believes that the RCGI has an important role to play, as do other centers, worldwide, which deal with the issue in the areas of technology and of public policies. “There is no silver bullet for this, but I believe we can place numerous bricks in this wall.” As an example, he mentioned the RCGI’s research on optimized gaskets for sealing joints that are capable of preventing the leakage of methane gas from pneumatic machinery. Methane gas is one of the main greenhouse gases responsible for global warming.

The workshop’s participants also expressed their concern regarding how the RCGI can make a difference working toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) established by the United Nations (UN). There are 17 goals and 169 targets, which call for actions promoting an end to poverty, food and agricultural safety, health, education, gender equality, water and sanitation, energy, sustainable economic growth, and others. Mechatronics Engineer Bruno Carmo, Coordinator of the Geophysics program, feels that because the RCGI is a large center, connected with more than 400 researchers, it holds a position of distinction in making the SDG relevant to the academic environment, as well as to the entire nation.

Assi emphasized the importance of communication for transforming public perceptions regarding climate change and who develops the technology for fighting climate change. “These days, science has often been denied, including in relation to the climate. We, located in the middle, between industry and academe, can increase the public perception of the subjects involved with the objectives of sustainable development. We are a voice within society, having the capacity of not only setting forth new knowledge, but also of influencing the thinking of the next generation of professionals. We hold a privileged and responsible position.”

While stressing the weighty importance of disseminating knowledge among the RCGI’s main pillars, Assi revealed the main accomplishments of the Centre in this area, including the organization of workshops and scientific events and the establishment of the RCGI’s own identity. He also emphasized the need for communicating the results of the research projects in an appropriate manner in the various spheres, in order to reach everyone, from the internal public of the institution to the public in general. “It is necessary to give information in such a manner that good changes are naturally developed in society; this is how knowledge is cultivated.”

In her presentation, the RCGI’s Director of Human Resources and Leadership, Karen Mascarenhas, told the story of the beginning of the RCGI, whose idea arose from a call by FAPESP for proposals to be presented to it, in 2013, and she explained how the model of open innovation works, a triple helix, with the support of USP, the funding agency, and Shell. After its founding in December 2015, by gathering a multidisciplinary team of excellence, and five years later, the RCGI has published 283 papers in scientific magazines and journals, 19 books, 71 chapters of books, has 18 laboratories, has been awarded four prizes, and registered three patents. Fifty-seven international and 37 national partnerships were formed. “We have the right people, the resources and, now, an adequate piece of property,” said Shell’s Breda. “This is only the beginning.”

The video of the second part of the workshop, with the report on the first five years of the RCGI can be seen at: