We’ll all be fine… in 2030

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In an optimistic view, Rui Coutinho, executive director of the Innovation Ecosystem at Nova SBE, outlined the panorama of innovation in Portugal in 2030, where collective effort has been rewarded with high levels of productivity and competitiveness.

The vision is clearly futuristic and probably too optimistic. But it is still a joy to hear Rui Coutinho, executive director of the Innovation Ecosystem at Nova SBE, outline the panorama of innovation in Portugal in 2030. A distant but achievable reality if we all do the necessary work to reach the defined goals.

Imagining that we are in 2030, says Rui Coutinho, there is a remarkable national evolution in the most diverse indicators. Because if, in 2022, the European Innovation Scoreboard indicated Portugal as a “moderate” innovator, with a performance of about 85% of the EU average, a performance that had even dropped compared to previous years. In 2030, it classifies us as a “strong innovator”, with a performance of 123.8% in relation to the EU average and growing at a fast pace: “Today, in 2030, we have not only closed the gap with our direct competitors, but we have overcome that distance and are leaders in innovation”.

And while there were indicators in 2022 where we were doing relatively well, such as an interesting number of foreign PhD students, broadband penetration capacity, or in government and public entity support for research, development in a business context, and tertiary educated population, we were not so well in the level of investment we made in innovation per employee, in technologies related to the environment and decarbonization, productivity, and the ability to collaborate within our SMEs. “We were still getting worse in what had to do with environment-related technologies, after growth in the first decade of the century.”

Portugal and the ability to sell innovative products

In 2030, Rui Coutinho prophesizes that national strength lies in the ability to sell innovative products, to generate employment in innovative activities and companies, in the ability to be a leader in the technologies that are decarbonizing the planet, and in generating collaboration in SMEs at the innovation level. Also here, 2030, there is room for improvement, namely in the number of patents that Portugal manages to register, in R&D investments in the public sector, in venture capital investments or in the mobility of scientific and technological employment.

In this journey into the future, Rui Coutinho talks about Portugal’s ability to sell innovative products, although he admits there is still a financial system associated with venture capital and entrepreneurship that needs work. “Even so, it is absolutely significant to point out that, in 2030, our progress as a country is substantial.”

This translates, in the executive director’s view, into the fact that innovation is not an end in itself, but a means to an end.

Using the World Competitiveness Ranking, Rui Coutinho recalls that in 2022, out of 63 countries analyzed by IMD, Portugal was in position 42 in terms of competitiveness. “We were losing competitiveness compared to previous years,” a performance that was hampered by categories such as government and public sector efficiency, but also business efficiency, low productivity and efficiency rates, and a very difficult management capacity of national companies.

However, with the country’s capacity to invest strategically in innovation, to make a quantitative and qualitative leap in the way it faces and incorporates innovation in its daily routine, whether in the public or private sector, in 2030 Portugal will occupy 16th place in this same ranking. At least in Rui Coutinho’s view. “We have grown and improved substantially, especially from the point of view of business efficiency and the quality of management of our companies. We made a remarkable collective effort, increasing productivity and improving working conditions.”

In his eight-year prognosis, the executive director highlights the collective path, namely in the structural bet on reinforcing the quality of management, in assuming that innovation is strategic, in decisively increasing investment in research and development, in reinforcing the strategic design of talent qualification, in substantially increasing productivity and competitiveness, and in significantly improving the average remuneration of people, thus managing to retain the best talent. “Remember the most qualified generation ever that ran away? We are managing to bring them back”. It looks like we’re really all going to be okay after all. But in 2030.

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