Sense, Predict, Act

Open innovation program to co-develop natural disaster Early Warning System capabilities for Brazil, before replicating to rest of the developing world

Dec 04 2011
The Planetary Skin Institute (PSI) and Brazil’s Ministry of Science, Technology & Innovation (MCTI)) today announced that they are undertaking a major multi-year collaborative R&D program. The R&D program is in partnership with leading national and international R&D partners with support from a Technical Cooperation agreement between CAF – Development Bank of Latin America and PSI so as to fast track the development of Brazil’s National Early Warning System for Natural Disasters, with a view to scaling it later to Latin America and the rest of the developing world. This public good open innovation program is in line with IPCC’s Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX) published in November, 2011. The SREX assesses scientific issues that range from the relationship between climate change and extreme weather and climate events to the implications of these events for society and sustainable development. Climate extremes, exposure, and vulnerability are influenced by a wide range of factors, including climate change, natural climate variability, and socioeconomic development. Disaster risk management and adaptation to climate change focus on reducing exposure and vulnerability and increasing resilience to the potential adverse impacts of climate extremes, even though risks cannot fully be eliminated. For specific context, about 12 million Brazilians were affected by different disasters between 1994 and 2003. Such alarming numbers rank Brazil as the country with the largest number of people affected by natural disasters in the Americas. Given the absence of usual natural disasters causing severe impact, such as earthquakes and hurricanes, the great loss of life and property endured by Brazilian people calls for mechanisms to increase social resilience to natural disasters. The vast territorial extent and large population of Brazil renders it vulnerable to a variety of natural disasters depending on the region (e.g., severe storms, torrents, flash floods, landslides, droughts, wildfires, gales, hail, coastal storm surges). The resulting conditions take a toll on hundreds of thousands to millions of people every year besides damages to property, infrastructure, and ultimately economic growth. The majority of natural disasters are related to climate variability and extremes (extreme rainfall events of high intensity for short periods of time or low intensity for long periods that cause massive floods, torrents, landslides, etc. at one end and droughts, extensive crop failures, wild fires, etc. at the other). Frequently, due to lack of early warning, government actions are typically taken after the event has occurred. In the absence of an early warning system, and the resulting inability to prevent and mitigate the damage, government authorities and the society are limited to attenuating its consequences and often with very limited information to guide proper resource allocation to address the consequences. The lack of state-of-the-art National Early Warning System capabilities and capacity is prevalent in all South American nations (and the developing world more generally). Having a fully operational Early Warning System is a foundational component towards enabling a proactive mitigation strategy to increase resiliency and adaptation to increasing weather extremes and climate change-related disasters. Given the high fatality rate in Rio de Janeiro State in early 2011, the importance of dealing with natural disasters comprehensively and nationwide is now a top federal government initiative of President Dilma Rousseff’s cabinet. In this context, in July 2011, the National Center for Monitoring and Early Warning System (CEMADEN) was created by Presidential Decree under the Ministry of Science, Technology & Innovation (MCTI). CEMADEN’s central hub is based in Cachoeira Paulista, São Paulo taking advantage of MCTI’s assets and capacbilities there. PSI is in the process of establishing an ‘Early Warning System Innovation Lab’ hosted there as part of the overall collaborative framework.


Dr. Carlos Nobre, National Secretary for R&D Policies and Programs, Brazil’s Ministry of Science, Technology & Innovation (MCTI): “CEMADEN will provide quality early warning of natural disasters and we hope to reduce the casualty rates by 50% in 4 years and by 80% in 8 years in Brazil. The partnership between CEMADEN and PSI is decisively contributing to achieving the goal of developing and implementing an state-of-the-art early warning system.” Dr. Reinhardt Fuck, Executive Director, CEMADEN/ MCTI: “CEMADEN is establishing a monitoring and early warning system of natural disasters, aiming at reducing casualties and damages to infrastructure and property. The collaboration between CEMADEN and PSI is a unique and valuable partnership to co-develop an Early Warning System, which in time will deliver risk management services to all Brazilians.” Enrique Garcia, President of CAF - Development Bank of Latin America: “We are proud to catalyze Brazil’s MCTI-PSI open innovation program on early warning systems for natural disasters, as we consider this new information infrastructure critical for informed risk management of our shareholder country governments in Latin America and beyond. We look forward to partnering with MCTI, PSI and key Latin American governments to replicate and scale the capabilities of the Brazilian early warning system to the region as a whole in the future.” Dr Pete Worden, NASA Ames Research Center Director: “NASA's unique capabilities are constantly being called into use to observe our home planet and gather relevant and actionable information to deal with natural disasters. We support Planetary Skin Institute’s open innovation approach to solving global and regional challenges.” Dr. Charlie Kennel, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science, Scripps Institution of Oceanography: “As time and climate change progress, the resilience of societies will be measured in part by how they respond to natural disasters, and their governance by how they anticipate natural disasters. PSI's collaboration with Brazil's Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation is a constructive response to the challenge that Brazil and all countries face.” Dr Dominic Waughray, Senior Director, Head of Environmental Initiatives at the World Economic Forum: “Environmental shocks and natural disasters are placing increasing stress on Brazil's economic and social development. From the 2010 drought in the Amazon to more localised and frequent landslides around the fringes of urban areas, Brazil is at the forefront of need for natural disaster early warning systems. This exciting collaboration between the Planetary Skin Institute and the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation is a great step forward. By providing practical information at the right time and at the right scale, the impact of such events can be mitigated and more resilience can be built into the management of interrelated food, energy and water security issues - the fundamentals for environmentally sustainable development in Brazil and elsewhere.” Dr. Mark Kenber, Chief Executive Officer of The Climate Group: “A successful climate change strategy requires a full understanding of the risks, the vulnerabilities and an ability to respond to them in an effective and timely fashion. Key to this is having access to timely and accurate information to act and the Natural Disaster Early Warning System being developed by the MCTI-PSI partnership will provide just this, first in Brazil and then across the globe.” Dr Vipin Kumar, Dean and Professor, Department of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Minnesota: “There is a tremendous opportunity to make sense of the torrent of space-to- ground sensor network data, and structured and unstructured datasets with the use of advanced geospatial data mining capabilities to significantly improve the characterization of the risks and vulnerabilities of countries as part of their early warning systems for natural disasters. We are proud to partner with the MCTI-PSI open innovation partnership to help in this effort first in Brazil and in then in the wider developing world in future phases.” Juan Carlos Castilla-Rubio, Chief Executive Officer, Planetary Skin Institute: “The Planetary Skin Institute is proud to partner with Brazil’s Ministry of Science, Technology & Innovation with CAF’s support, to co-develop this mission-critical risk management infrastructure first in Brazil, then across Latin America and in the developing world at large.” * * * # # # # # # Planetary Skin Institute (PSI) is a global non-profit research and development organization that aims to improve the lives of millions of people around the world by developing risk and resource management decision services to address the growing challenges of resource scarcity, the land-water-energy-food-climate nexus and the increasing impact and frequency of weather extremes. PSI collaborates with research and development partners across multiple sectors to identify, conceptualize, and incubate replicable and scalable innovations, that could significantly increase the resilience of low-income communities, increase food, water, and energy security and protect key ecosystems and biodiversity. For more information on Planetary Skin Institute and its work please visit For more information on PSI please contact