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R&D Activities in Portugal show the Largest Growth in any EU country

 - 13/12/2008

Logo of the Survey on National Scientific and  Technological Potential 2007 Portugal was the EU country which showed the largest growth in R&D expenditure in terms of GDP from 2005 to 2007, reaching 1.18% of GDP when in 2005 it was just 0.81% of GDP. Portugal is now close to Spain (1.22%) and Ireland (1.31%), and has passed Hungary (0.97%), Italy (1.09%) and Estonia (1.14%).

R&D expenditure in terms of GDP more than doubled from to 2005 to 2007, reaching 0.61% of GDP when in 2005 it was just 0.29% of GDP. For the first time R&D expenditure in companies was greater than the amount recorded for other institutions. The number of companies with R&D activities showed unparalleled growth, rising from around 930 in 2005 to more than 1,500 in 2007.

There was a large increase in the number of researchers in the active population, rising from 3.8‰ in 2005 to 5.0‰ in 2007, with the number of researchers equivalent to full time posts doubling in the last ten years (from around 14 thousand in 1997 to around 28 thousand in 2007). The number of researchers in the active population is now close to the EU27 average (5.6‰), although this is still lower that the OCDE average (7.0‰).

The number of researchers in companies more than doubled from 2005 to 2007, moving from around 4 thousand to 8.6 thousand, and was accompanied by an increase in the number of researchers which companies stated as having PhDs  (around 360 in 2007).

The number of national scientific publications internationally referenced multiplied by 2.3 in the last 10 years, with an increase of around 25% from 2004 to 2007 (research carried out on the Web of Knowledge on 21 November 2008). The authors of these papers show a high level of internationalisation in Portuguese science, given that 48% of the publications were co-authored by researchers working in Portugal and abroad.

The number of new doctoral theses concluded or recognised in Portugal in 2007 almost achieved the target of 1,500 new PhDs per year established in 2005 for 2010, with it being expected that this will further rise considerably in the next few years due to the large number of PhD scholarships awarded by Science and Technology Foundation (FCT), IP in recent years, from 1,172 in 2005 to 2,078 em 2007, going considerably beyond the target set down in 2005 which suggested an increase of 60% in PhD and post-doc scholarships by 2010.

The new data regarding R&D expenditure and the researchers are included in the provisional official data of the 2007 Survey on National Scientific and Technological Potential (IPCTN 2007) (content in portuguese) now published by the Office for Strategy, Planning, Evaluation and International Relations (GPEARI) of the Ministry for Science, Technology and Higher Education. IPCTN is a census type of survey carried out every two years according to the methodology outlined in the Frascati Manual. The chief results of the survey into 2007 activities, carried out in 2008, is now available on the official EUROSTAT website.

The increase in R&D expenditure from 2005 to 2007 reflects the political priority given to scientific and technological development and, in particular, to the Commitment to Science for Portugal’s Future.

The large increase in R&D expenditure in companies which was seen from 2005 to 2007 is totally without parallel in Portugal, given that it corresponds in real terms to a doubling, when the largest two year growth ever prior to this was the 65% one recorded from 1999 to 2001.

The growth now verified in companies reflects the use made of the scientific development and the technological capacity which has become available in Portugal in the last 12 years, from 1995 to 2007, a period in which total expenditure on R&D in real terms almost tripled (despite the decrease from 2001 to 2003 and the fact that it was only in 2005 that this returned to the value seen in 2001), just as the number of (equivalent) full time researcher posts almost tripled, the number with doctorates more than tripled, and the number of internationally recognised academic papers almost quadrupled.

The growth now witnessed in companies is also partially related to the repositioning and Strengthening of fiscal and incentives for R&D in enterprises (text in Portuguese) decided upon in August 2005. In fact, 527 companies applied for SIFIDE – Sistema de Incentivos Fiscais à I&D Empresarial (The Tax Relief Scheme for R&D in companies) in 2006 and 2007, when between 1997 and 2003 this figure was around 395 companies.

As regards Higher Education, data from the IPCTN 2007 show that:

  • R&D expenditure in the Higher Education sector in real terms grew 26% from 2005 to 2007, becoming 30% of national expenditure on R&D.
  • The number of researchers in Higher Education increased around 20%, from 10,956 (equivalent) full time posts to 13,096 in 2007, which corresponds to 47% of the researchers in Portugal.
  • The qualifications of the academic staff in Higher Education reached unparalleled levels in Portugal, with staff with doctorates in state universities reaching 65% of the total number of academic staff (it was 43% in January 2005). In fact the number of staff with PhDs in state universities increased from 6,177 in January 2005 to 9,217 at the end of 2007. At the same time, staff with PhDs reached 15% of the teaching staff in state polytechnics (the figure was 9.5% in 2005) and 31% in private universities (it was 23% in 2005).

With regard to the Company sector:

  • The financial services, insurance, ICT services are those which have had the greatest expenditure on R&D and, as well, those which most increased from 2005 to 2007, along with the automobile and energy industries. All of these sectors increased their expenditure on R&D activities by six fold at least. R&D expenditure in the food industry rose 3.5 times and in the pharmaceutical industry it increased around 1.5 times that of the 2005-2007 period.
  • R&D company expenditure continued to be mainly financed by funds from the companies themselves (around 89% of the total, excluding tax relief).

Data available from EUROSTAT further show that:

  • Portugal rose three positions in the EU27, moving into 15th position in terms of R&D expenditure in relation to GDP (it was18th in 2005).
  • Portugal was the European country with the largest growth in total R&D expenditure in relation to GDP between 2005 and 2007 - around 46%. This was considerably higher than the EU27 whose growth in this period was 1.01%.
  • Portugal was the country where R&D expenditure in companies in relation to GDP grew most between 2005 and 2007 - around 97%, considerably higher than the EU27 average which was 1.01%.

IPCTN 2007 has shown the drastic reform in the distribution of R&D expenditure in Portugal from 1995 to 2007, with R&D expenditure in companies moving from 21% to 51% of the total, while R&D expenditure by the State went from 27% to 9% (expenditure in universities went from 37% to 30% and in the IPSFL Polytechnic institutions from 15% to 10% from 1995 to 2007, a period in which this grew considerably in absolute values in real terms - 114% and 77%, respectively).

For more information see the document R&D Expenditure and the no. of researchers in Portugal in 2007 - Listing of provisional data from the Survey on National Scientific and Technology Potential IPCTN 2007 (content in portuguese).

Last updated ( 25/08/2011 )