A new decade. A new framework for European Funding
In recent times, no other year has been as challenging as 2020. The turn of the decade brought with it a worldwide pandemic and an abrupt stop to the economic growth in most countries.
These are, without a doubt, the most testing times for most, if not all, Portuguese companies, overlapping with institutional transitions that would be challenging by themselves. Specifically, 2020 marks the ending of an operational program for European funding, and the beginning of a new one.
The European cooperation and the mechanisms of support and funding from the European Union to the member states are of vital importance, specifically for countries such as Portugal, which still trail the wealthiest countries in the continent.
The year 2020 marks the passing of major funding programs for the member states. In Portugal, we reach the end of the Portugal 2020 program and are now entering the new Portugal 2030 framework.
Portugal 2020 was the partnership agreement between Portugal and the European Commission for the period 2014-2020. It defined the principles that support and materialize the policy strategy for economic, social, and territorial development throughout this period. Portugal 2020 was the successor of the previous funding program for the 2007-2013 period, the National Strategic Reference Frameworks (in Portugal known as “Quadro de Referência Estratégico Nacional – QREN”)
Portugal 2020 gathers the five European Structural and Investment Funds:
- European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)
- European Social Fund (ESF)
- Cohesion Fund (CF)
- European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD)
- European maritime and fisheries fund (EMFF)
These funds are managed by the EU countries themselves through partnership agreements with the European Commission, which outline the funding application in the six-year period. These agreements lead to the creation of several investment programmes, which in turn channel the funds to the different regions and projects.
The investment areas in which these funds are applied include major areas of vital importance for each country, but as well challenging issues that are crucial for the alignment of growth trajectories between the member states:
- Jobs, growth, and investment
- Digital single market
- Energy union and climate
- Internal market
- Economic and monetary union
- Justice and fundamental rights
The criteria for the application of these funds are aligned with the Europe 2020 Strategy, specifically with the Smart, Sustainable, and Inclusive Growth.
These funds are vital for less vibrant economies such as the Portuguese one, and without them, it would be very hard for these countries to catch up with the fastest-growing countries in Europe. It is not just about giving money to the governments and companies of these countries but to assure that there is a concrete strategy and that the funding truly helps the countries explore their economic specializations and maximize their growth.
In fact, these funds are particularly important for Portugal since the country has a very high potential in terms of scientific and technological research. Through the Research Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation, the country’s potential can be unleashed, making the most use of its resources and know-how and investing in them, without worrying about taking money from the sectors of the society that need it the most.
With the transition to Portugal 2030, a new framework of strategic investment to be implemented between 2021 and 2027, new priorities arise for a country like Portugal while keeping focus on endemic limitations of the Portuguese economy.
Portugal 2030 strategy is built around four major theme agendas:
- People first – demographic balance, more inclusion, less inequality
- Innovation and qualification
- Sustainability of resources and climate changes
- External competitiveness and internal cohesion
With the purpose of addressing these agendas, eight main axes of priorities and strategic goals have been defined for Portugal 2030:
- Innovation and Knowledge
- Qualification, Training, and Jobs
- Demographic Sustainability
- Energy and climate changes
- Ocean Economy
- Competitiveness and cohesion of coastal territories
- Competitiveness and cohesion of interior territories
With this new program, the European Union hopes to address specific problems of the Portuguese economy, such as an ageing population or a chaotic territorial planning (Portugal is still one of the worst countries in Europe as far as forest fires are concerned), while appealing to the strengths and competitive advantages of this small but very capable country.
Associations such as Vector B2B are at the forefront of the Portuguese scientific and medical research sector. VectorB2B is a clear example of the top tier services that our country offers to the world, contributing to Portugal’s affirmation as a cutting-edge service provider, in an ever-changing world. Specifically, Vector B2B gathers the scattered capabilities of the Portuguese scientific research sector, leading to the accumulation of know-how and the increase in R&D competitiveness internationally, a cornerstone of the European Strategy for countries like Portugal.
As a collaborative laboratory to whom was granted funding from the Portugal 2020 operational program, Vector B2B is the embodiment of the spirit within the whole European Strategy, with a clear emphasys on highly qualified human resources, not just scientific, but in all the other company departments.
Starting up in such a demanding area is extremely hard, which makes European funding a very important part of the project implementation. These funds are critical for the kick-start of companies like Vector B2B, creating the foundations for an effective employment of these highly qualified workers. In the future, such companies will have their full financial independence, while occupying a relevant position in the Portuguese medical research sector and in the national economy as well.
With this strategy, the European Union guarantees that each countries’ specific advantages are explored in the most efficient way and that companies, in smaller countries such as Portugal, can compete with their counterparts in more developed countries.
Bruno Nobre – VectorB2B – Financial & Project Manager