The Labex Program is an innovative initiative of international cooperation developed by the Brazilian Agricultural Research Organization – Embrapa. For over a decade this program is successfully creating opportunities for monitoring scientific and technological advances, for identifying trends and opportunities and implementing R&D activities in partnership with multiple international organizations. From the pioneering work of Labex USA and the establishment of Labex France, later converted into Labex Europe, Embrapa and partner institutions had the opportunity to embark on new forms of collaboration and networking; to prospect trends and future scenarios for agricultural research; to expand its participation in international R&D programs; to access knowledge on new processes, standards and procedures of scientific and technological innovation; to enhance the exchange of organizational knowledge and management practices, among other benefits. Programs and cooperative projects have been identified and enabled on multiple topics, from the exchange of genetic resources to the development of processes, products, information and knowledge in cutting edge areas, such as biotechnology and nanotechnology. The intense exchange with partner institutions allowed researchers, leaders and managers to access new capacities and networks and to increase the exchange of information and knowledge.
Now Embrapa extends the Labex Program to Asia. Talks to open a Labex in Asia began in 2005, when Brazil and South Korea signed a Memorandum of Understanding seeking to enhance cooperation in science and technology. Two years later, in 2007, a delegation of the Rural Development Administration – RDA, the Korean agricultural research organization, visited Embrapa and in November 2008 the two institutions signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the implementation of the Virtual Laboratory of Embrapa (Labex Korea) in South Korea and the Virtual Laboratory of RDA (RAVL) in Brazil. The decision to implement a Labex in South Korea, with the creation, by RDA of a similar structure in Brazil, is a fact that generates unprecedented opportunities for improving the Labex concept, since both organizations will embrace the same challenges and a learning process together, towards maximum benefits for both sides.
However, it is important to consider that the significant distance between Brazil and South Korea limits opportunities of face-to-face interaction as well as frequent exchanges of personnel. In these circumstances, cooperation will be dependent on active implementation of innovative strategies to facilitate communication, for increasing flows of information and for enhancing interaction. The incorporation of new information and communication strategies, particularly Web-based tools and processes will be necessary to complement the traditional mechanisms of interaction and cooperation. This web platform is intended to serve this purpose, becoming a resource to promote communication, information sharing and interaction between Brazilian and Korean teams.