• The report assesses the current status of business digitalisation in Portugal, identifies barriers and suggests targeted solutions

The European Investment Bank (EIB) and COTEC Portugal presented a report on “The Digitalisation of small and medium-sized enterprises in Portugal: models for financing digital projects”.

The study was carried out by the EIB under a European Investment Advisory Hub (EIAH or Advisory Hub) assignment for COTEC, the Portuguese Business Association for Innovation with a mandate from the Portuguese Ministry of Economy to address the innovation and digitalisation of Portuguese companies. The Advisory Hub – a partnership between the EIB Group and the European Commission – provides targeted support to identify, prepare and develop investment projects across the European Union, building on the expertise of the EIB and its partner institutions.

At an event held in Lisbon, EIB Vice-President Emma Navarro and COTEC Portugal Board President Isabel Furtado presented the key conclusions of the report, which provides an analysis of the current status of the digitalisation of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Portugal.

The study explains that SMEs continue to play a key role in the Portuguese economy, representing more than three quarters of the country’s workforce. It also finds that while the access to finance conditions of SMEs in Portugal have improved in recent years, Portuguese companies still need to step up their efforts to invest more in digitalisation in order to converge with the EU average, particularly those working in traditional sectors such as construction, retail and hospitality.

The report identifies the main barriers preventing digital adoption among Portuguese SMEs, namely those related to financing mechanisms. It outlines recommendations for increasing the technical and managerial know-how needed to implement digital projects, identifying clusters and digital innovation hubs as key partners to encourage the digitalisation of smaller companies in Portugal.

At the report launch event, EIB Vice-President Emma Navarro stated: “We are glad to join forces with COTEC to foster the digitalisation of small and medium-sized Portuguese companies, a step that is crucial for them to continue growing and that also represents an opportunity to strengthen their competitiveness and to promote their internationalisation. The study we are presenting today provides valuable information and tools to accelerate this process and is a good example of how Portugal can benefit from the expertise of the European Investment Advisory Hub to develop innovative financial solutions for SMEs.”

Isabel Furtado, President of the Board of COTEC, said: “We are very pleased with the results of the project developed with the EIB and expect the recommendations of the report to have a positive impact on the financing instruments to support SMEs’ innovation strategies, contributing to a higher degree of digitalisation of business processes and an acceleration of the productivity and competitiveness of Portuguese companies, SMEs in particular.

Jorge Portugal, COTEC’s General Manager, highlighted the findings of the report, emphasising the importance for the banking system to develop tools to recognise companies with innovative processes, which as a rule have a higher growth potential, export more and generally pay higher salaries, thus reducing financing risks. The financing of innovative companies is an opportunity to accelerate the sustainable growth of the Portuguese economy.

About EIB support for SMEs in Portugal

SMEs with fewer than 250 employees and turnover under EUR 50m represent 78% of the Portuguese workforce and are the backbone of the Portuguese economy. For this reason, SME financing represents roughly 50% of the EIB Group’s activity in Portugal, with more than EUR 900m in support for 3 950 SMEs provided in 2018 alone (2018 EIB Activity report in Portugal available here).

Background information:

About the Advisory Hub

The European Investment Advisory Hub is designed to act as a single access point to various types of advisory and technical assistance services. It supports the identification, preparation and development of investment projects across the European Union. The Hub is a partnership between the European Investment Bank Group and the European Commission as part of the Investment Plan for Europe. Developing a local presence across the European Union is a key objective of the European Investment Advisory Hub in order to adapt and tailor the technical assistance it provides. See more information here.

COTEC Portugal

COTEC Portugal is a leading Portuguese association for advancing technology diffusion and business innovation cooperation. Its associates encompass multinationals, major national corporations, and SMEs, operating in a wide range of sectors, whose gross added value represents more than 16% of national GDP and 8% of private employment. COTEC has a mandate from the Portuguese Ministry of Economy to support research and innovation funding and accelerate digitalisation, which includes exploring different funding mechanisms and models that could significantly increase the amount of financing to support the digitalisation of SMEs.