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Research, Development and Innovation (R&D&I)

1. ICT Research & Development as a strategic asset for Portugal

Research & Development in ICT (ICT R&D) is one of the most valued source and driver for innovation in our days, since Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are recognized as transversal and enabling technologies with increasing influence in business competitiveness and in the implementation of potential solutions to deal with exigencies and challenges emerging from the contemporaneous economy and society.

European Commission assigns a central role to ICT R&D, counting on its horizontal character and strategic potential to address societal challenges and to back the ambition to make European Union the innovation global leader (see the role reserved to ICT in Horizon 2020).

ICT contribute positively for the affirmation and expansion of the scientific and technological base of the National Innovation System, powering the Portuguese performance in the necessary response to economic opportunities and to societal challenges.

ICT R&D: a key driver for innovation

ICT as scientific and technologic domain and as economic activity constitutes a central reference in the mobilization of resources in the National R&D and Innovation System (FCT, 2013):

  • Around one third of the Portuguese R&D expenses (32%, in 2009) is concentrated in two ICT areas (“Electrical engineering, Electronic engineering, Information engineering”, “Computer and Information sciences”). “Electrical engineering, Electronic engineering, Information engineering” is the scientific area that mobilizes the biggest portion of R&D expenses in Portugal, followed by “Computer and Information sciences” (22% and 10% in 2009, respectively);
  • More than a half of the Portuguese R&D expenses (56% in 2009) aims socioeconomic goals which are increasingly dependent of the integration and use of ICT, as a cognitive, technological and productive resource (“Industrial production and technology”, 24%, “Transportation, Telecommunication and other Infrastructures”, 19% and “Health”, 13%);
  • Enterprises are key-actors in the mobilization of resources to ICT R&D. More than a half of R&D expenses by enterprises is in scientific areas related to ICT. On the other hand, and in the funding perspective, ICT enterprises cover about 1/3 of the total business R&D expenses.

ICT are among the areas that most contributes to the scientific and technological production, in Portugal:

  • “Instruments & Instrumentation” and “Telecommunications” are listed among the scientific and technological domains with the biggest annual average growth rate in what concerns number of publications, in the last 5 years (22% and 21%, respectively).
  • “Electrical & Electronic Engineering” is the area among “Engineering Sciences & Technologies” concerning the number of publications recognized internationally between 2005 and 2010, appearing in that period as the principal area in the scientific production of regions (NUT 2) “Lisboa” and ”Centro”, the second major area in the the region “Norte” and the third in “Madeira”.
  • Despite the relative weak performance of Portugal in what respects patent applications, “Information Technologies” is the area which presents the higher intensity patents applications (European via) during the period 2000-2008, about the double of the second largest area.

ICT appears as a competitive advantage for the Portuguese Innovation System. Portuguese R&D teams participating in ICT projects under the E.U. Framework Programme have an average of awarded funding that exceeds or is the same as the European average on the following themes:

  • Future Networks and Internet;
  • Cognitive Systems and Robotics;
  • Trustworthy ICT;
  • ICT for Energy Efficiency;
  • ICT for the Enterprise;
  • Digital Libraries;
  • ICT for Health;
  • Embedded Systems;
  • ICT for Transport;
  • Software, Services and Internet connected objects.

Considering the rigorousness of the eligibility criteria in the European Union Framework-Programmes, which value scientific quality (sanctioned by “peer-to-peer” evaluation and by other relevant “stakeholders” evaluation, as enterprises, for example), one can consider that having funding awarded levels similar or above of E.U. average can be seen as a recognition from European Commission (central actor in the decision process about the future of R&D and Innovation in Europe) about the quality of projects and involved teams.

Appropriate and competitive electronic infrastructures

Electronic infrastructures for Science and Technology are resources with increasing influence and relevance in Portugal. They are drivers for the National R&D and Innovation System transformation, because, recurring to last-generation potent computational platforms, they facilitate collaboration and the insertion of national teams in worldwide networks, and they allow accessing, processing and treating of unprecedent amounts of information in shorter periods of time. In this context, the following facts are to be highlighted:

  • Universalization of the coverage of the Portuguese National Research and Education Network (called "Rede Ciência Tecnologia e Sociedade - RCTS) and the strengthening of international connection of Portugal (available bandwidth is 20G/s, since Portugal joined GÉANT Network, the pan-European research and education network).
  • The Portuguese National Grid Initiative (INGRID) – which coordinates and maintains a infrastructure of distributed computation to scientific applications, based on a computational resources network in “grid” – reached levels of universal coverage e reinforced his international integration.
  • There is a considerable increase of the availability and the use of open access scientific publications, as well an increase of the number, the coverage and the supply of institutional repositories of scientific information (from the implementation of “b-on - Knowledge Library Online” and of “RCAAP - Portuguese Scientific Open Access Repository”, respectively).

2. Challenges and the vision for the future

“Digital Agenda for Europe”, the political instrument which defines the role of ICT in the vision expressed by “Europe 2020 Strategy”, advocates the reinforcing of European ICT scientific and technological capacity as one of the key-factors for the affirmation of Europe at a global level.

Agenda Portugal Digital (the Portuguese Digital Agenda) transposes the European ambitions to the national context and synthetizes the principal challenges to the future of ICT R&D and Innovation in Portugal, listing specific measures to strengthening and developing:

  1. of ICT R&D and Innovation potential, with special emphasis on integration between R&D centres and enterprises and to research and innovation in emerging areas;
  2. the supply of advanced new generation services: applications with contents and services that add economic value and use the potential that New Generation Networks (NGN) offer; and online services in the non-higher education – boosting the use and development of NGN;
  3. of e-Science: support to innovation and activities from the scientific community; support to remote collaborative work, through supercomputing; access to digital scientific libraries and to Open Access Repositories for results of R&D projects, other academic and data publications and R&D in the cloud computing;
  4. of Future Internet and the promotion of “Internet of Things (IoT)”: R&D in “Internet of Things”; national industry of “Software, Services and Internet connected objects”; public infrastructures of Internet connected objects from several domains - “Smart Cities”; “Intelligent Transport Systems”; “Smart Energy Networks”; “Intelligent Systems for health care”; connection with national private business infrastructures, IoT interoperable services market, at a European scale; and
  5. of ICT for maritime activities: sea and atmosphere observation; maritime environment and atmosphere monitoring, at national and E.U. partners level.

ICT R&D and Innovation future will depend mainly on our capacity and hability to power and to boost the potential already identified (installed and/or emerging). Being so, the following issues cannot be avoided:

  • Politic coordination (articulation and conciliation of politics and instruments of support/incentive);
  • Intensification of the relationship between scientific and technological knowledge production centres and the enterprises;
  • Affirmation and growth (in terms of dimension and at the market) of the Portuguese enterprises born with global vision and vocation (with special attention to Start-ups);
  • Promotion of international leadership for Portuguese R&D teams in the areas where their capacity and quality are recognized.

The success of our response implies a vision for the future where ICT are a fundamental and unavoidable variable to the development of society and economy and to the affirmation of Portuguese Language and of Portugal worldwide.