The Plug and Play Ventures is one of the biggest startups accelerators in the world and is getting ready to enter in Portugal. The news is fresh, it just came out from the debate that closed the first day of the Portugal Mobi Summit, gathering specialists from Europe and the US to look into intelligent investment in sustainable mobility. “We are studying partnerships to achieve that in the next few years” revealed Fan We, senior partner of the North American multinational, that immediately broke the initial ice between the guests by showing “quite the enthusiasm” with the talent, the incentives and the infrastructures that the Portuguese market offers to foreign investors.
These are good perspectives for the country’s economy, but that does not surprise the Secretary of State for Planning, José Gomes Mendes. After all, as Gomes Mendes reminded us, two thirds of the startups based in Portugal are foreign. “And that is a reflection of our capacity of developing technologies with major innovation centers in Lisbon, Porto or Braga”.
Some of the work is already being made for technologies to stand out between competition. But there is still so much more to do. And it’s not only Portugal that must be efficient in its investments, warns Patrick Child, Deputy General Director for Research and Innovation of the European Commission: “We have more innovative ideas, but data shows that we are not capable of transforming those good projects into business models or products with the capacity to reach international markets”.
It’s outside of Europe, therefore, that talent finds its opportunity. To turn that page means to know how to capitalize ideas and to gain scale, defends Patrick Child, admitting that the next EU framework will need to be focused on that aspect. “We need to work with member states to be able to test the answers and to uniform a juridical framework that can make a common strategy viable”.
The lack of data is also a weak point for European countries, adds Daniel Serra, Director of the South Hub of Innovation in Urban Mobility of the European Innovation and Technology Institute. It’s actually the “Achilles’ heel” for those who ambition to lead the technology and AI market: “We have to find a new cooperation model with companies from other countries, mainly North American, which hold that information.”
The United States, that was mentioned so many times in this debate, is the main comparison point with Europe. Americans dominate the technological market and seem to have no obstacles when the challenge is to win at a planetary scale in business models. There is even a hint of jealousy between the European guests, but Fan We, from Plug and Play Ventures is convinced that “realities are not comparable”. The internal market “is huge”, the language is the same and the tradition of capturing talent in any part of the world is secular.
These are very competitive advantages, that is true, but Europe needs to know how to take advantage from “the richness of its diversity” reminds Patrick Child, highlighting the added value of European countries being able to generate global legislation and to act as a “centralized economic area”.
“To have a wide and strong market in the European Union is an advantage, and to bet in those areas where we are strong, is another one” says the Deputy General Director for Research and Innovation of the European Commission. Aviation is a good example, such as renewable energy. In that aspect, actually, Portugal is “a success case” stated Child, incentivizing Portuguese people not to waste their good investments and to work side by side with Europe.