Technological start-ups[1] boost R&D businesses – These start-ups represent more than 25 per cent of the companies supported by ANI [2]

Portuguese science and technology based start-ups have assumed an increasingly decisive role in the enhancement of scientific knowledge in Portugal. In fact, nowadays they are one of the main players regarding the growth of the demand for tools aiming to support R&D business.

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It is estimated that over the last few years[3] Portuguese start-ups have mobilized over 170M€ in support of several programs under the management of the National Innovation Agency (ANI).

Every day companies take the name of Portugal to leading market positions in business segments to which our economy usually had no access.

Over time, the ANI has sought to “accelerate” this phenomenon by intervening at two different levels. On the one hand, by supporting the creation of business projects based on science and technology; on the other hand, by monitoring these start-ups’ R&D projects, which are supported by different incentive systems at financial and tax levels, both national and international.

When ANI was still known as ADI, it was innovated by launching Neotec, a program aiming to support the foundation of business projects with a scientific and technological basis. This resulted in the commercialization of R&D outcomes generated within the context of the Portuguese Scientific and Technological System. This program had quite interesting results. Over and above the financial support, it provided access to a set of technical and mentoring services, benefiting from a global investment of nearly 9M€ between 2005 and 2008, NEOTEC allowed the creation of 86 start-ups. The survival rate[4]  of these companies stood at nearly 80%, a much higher result by about 20% compared to the national total (80% vs 60%)[5].

Also, at a very early stage, ANI has promoted fiscal and tax support tools among R&D businesses, since their high scientific and technological production indicated ambitious and high quality projects. It was a winning bet, no doubt about it. In fact, from 2008 to 2015, start-ups represented 29% of all enterprises, having received almost 65M€ in financial incentives within the context of QREN – National Strategic Reference Framework and Portugal 2020. The Incentive Tax System for R&D businesses (SIFIDE) supported an average of 130 start-ups per year between 2008 and 2014. Those companies benefited from a total tax credit of nearly 100M€.

Within the framework of international programs, one outstanding example is the SME Instrument Horizonte 2020, a specific program that supports Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) in order to carry out near-market innovation activities.  This program has already provided around 8M€ to 35M€ to SME, mainly technology-based start-ups. In other words, 2016 is the best year ever regarding the Portuguese participation in the SME initiative. In the first quarter alone, Portugal has tripled the funding obtained in 2014 and 2015.

Currently, under the incentives managed by ANI, start-ups may apply for financial assistance from Portugal 2020 (within the context of R&D companies in co-branding, demonstration projects, mobilizing programs, R&D centers in co-branding, intellectual property protection and R&D internationalization). Start-ups may also apply for financial assistance from Horizonte 2020[6] and benefit from tax incentives within the scope of SIFIDE.


[1] Companies with less than five years on the market.
[2] National Strategic Reference Framework (projects based on co-promotion partnerships) and Portugal 2020 (co-promotion partnerships and demonstrators).
[3] QREN, PT2020 and SIFIDE (between 2008 and 2015) SME Instrument H2020 (2014 and 2015).
[4] Assessed at the end of the 4th year on the market.
[5] Source: Ferreira, João e Fernandes, João, “A capacitação do Projeto Empresarial – Contributo para a sua implementação e desenvolvimento”, Agência de Inovação, S.A. Lisboa, Portugal, CIEM2014 – 4ª Conferencia Ibérica de Empreendimento, Outubro de 2014
[6] ANI is a national contact point of Horizonte 2020 via GPPQ –  Gabinete de Promoção do Programa-Quadro (Promotion Office of the Framework Programme)



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