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The Portuguese economy contracted in 2011-13 in the wake of the global financial crisis. However, GDP is forecast to grow in real terms in 2014. The government has taken significant action to restore the sustainability of public finances and restart growth. On-going reforms aim to improve product and labour market regulation, upgrade education and skills, and enhance innovation.

Hot Issues

Hot Issues are major national STI policy priorities, as self-reported by countries in their responses to the OECD STIO 2014 policy questionnaire.

Reforming and improving public research system (including university research)

Portugal’s public R&D expenditure as a share of GDP is at the OECD median, but its shares of top 500 universities, and scientific publications over GDP exceed it (Panel 1a, b, c). Reform of the public research system has been an STI policy priority for a long time. The 2007-13 National Strategic Plan for Research and Innovation (NSPRI) emphasised co-operative innovation projects, fellowships and research contracts. Except in 2011, the public R&D budget increased steadily during the decade to 2013. Policy emphasis has recently shifted from expansion to excellence and effectiveness, and initiatives to support career development (e.g. the Investigator Programme and the PhD programmes) and build research infrastructures have been introduced. Academic PRIs will be evaluated to identify their research capabilities of strategic interest.

Commercialisation of public research results

Exploitation of public research results is a major bottleneck, as Portugal lacks a tradition of linking scientific research with innovation. Industry-financed public R&D is among the lowest among OECD countries (Panel 1o). In 2012, the University Technology Enterprise Network (UTEN), created in 2007, supported commercialisation of public research with a budget of USD 2.7 million (EUR 1.6 million). The national S&T funding agency, Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT), through the Portuguese Technology Transfer Initiative of 2012, promotes knowledge diffusion from large European agencies (e.g. CERN, ESO, ESA) to Portuguese firms, with a focus on the space industry.

Encouraging innovation in firms and supporting entrepreneurship and SMEs

Portugal’s business R&D expenditureand innovation output performance are below the OECD median (Panel 1d, e, f, g), owing to its specialisation in low- and medium-low-technology industries and to the small share of investment in R&D by large companies compared with other European countries. The government has three major initiatives to stimulate business R&D and support business innovation. SI I&DT, an R&D incentive, seeks to intensify BERD, increase firm competitiveness and foster co-operation among STI actors. SI Inovação targets the development of new goods, services and processes in export-oriented firms in strategic sectors. SI Qualificação PME aims to increase the competitiveness of SMEs through financing to enhance their productivity, flexibility and responsiveness to the global market. In 2013, the first two initiatives sponsored 847 projects with a budget of USD 1 258 million (EUR 755 million). However, BERD increased only from 0.6% to 0.7% of GDP between 2007 and 2012.

Improving overall human resources, skills and capacity building

Expenditures on tertiary education are at the OECD median, but the share of tertiary-educated adults is well below (Panel 1s, t). The government has taken steps to reorganise vocational and education training (VET) and is considering the creation of professional schools to match the skills supply better to industry needs. To improve the supply of high-level STI workforce, the FCT allocated an average of USD 251.7 million (EUR 151 million) a year during 2011-13 to fund PhD studies and postdoctoral training for an average of approximately 11 000 fellowships a year. The FCT is redesigning its support for human resources by reducing the emphasis on individual PhD fellowships and moving towards supporting PhD programmes as a whole and integrating training support into research and institutional grants. The FCT’s Investigator Programme of 2012 supports the recruitment of talented scientific researchers to work in Portuguese research centres under five-year contracts. In 2012, 159 national and non-resident researchers were selected for funding and a further 209 were selected in 2013 through an international peer-review process. It has a goal of 1 000 researchers by 2016.

Country Charts

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Selected Highlights

STI policy governance

Policy co-ordination was only institutionalised in 2011 with the creation of two high-level advisory councils for research and innovation, the National Council for Science and Technology (CNCT) and the National Council on Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CNEI), both chaired by the prime minister. The government is currently preparing a National Strategy for Research and Innovation (NSPRI) for 2014-20. It will introduce multi-level governance mechanisms at national and regional levels and co-ordinate research and innovation efforts around strategic areas/sectors and different innovation actors with a view to better translating research results into innovative goods, services and processes. A working group created in 2013 will co-ordinate the preparation of the new plan by the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Education and Science in collaboration with sectoral ministries and regional agencies.

New challenges

The National Strategy for Research and Innovation (2014-20) addresses social challenges such as ageing and climate change. The Exploratory Projects (2013-15) support blue-sky research in emerging fields with a budget of USD 12.4 million (EUR 8.5 million). They favour multidisciplinarity, industry involvement, co-funding and the participation of young researchers.

Innovative entrepreneurship

Portugal’s business environment is very conducive to entrepreneurship, although provision of venture capital is at the median of OECD countries (Panel 1j, h).Various initiatives support business innovation, entrepreneurship and SMEs. The Financial Support to Company Growth (FINCRESCE) programme aims to improve financing conditions for firms with good innovative capabilities and risk profiles. The Strategic Initiative for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, approved in 2011, focuses on strengthening knowledge and capacities, reinforcing innovation and entrepreneurship, and promoting innovation financing. SIFIDE provides fixed and incremental tax credits for R&D and supports the hiring of doctoral-level graduates in companies. In 2013, the government launched INOVA, Creative Youngsters: Entrepreneurs for the 21st century programme to develop an environment that favours innovation and creativity in primary and secondary schools. The programme seeks to foster youngsters’ analytical capabilities and the mind-sets needed to identify business opportunities, take risks and face competition.

ICT and Internet infrastructures

While Portugal’s ICT investment as a share of GDP is at the OECD median (Panel 1k), levels of public and private use of ICT infrastructures lag behind (Panel 1l, m). During 2013-15, the above-mentioned Early Bird initiative gives priority to research in ICT and applications.


Portugal performs well on international co-patenting but less so on international co-authorship of S&T publications (Panel 1r, q). Measures are being designed to overcome barriers to better international co-operation, such as weak participation of SMEs and large companies in European initiatives and a lack of co-ordination among national actors to act jointly at the European and international level.