The number of companies active in Portugal dedicated to research and development in biotechnology as their main activity reached 98 companies in 2019, with more than 600 employees. These are some of the conclusions of the new study launched by the Portuguese Bioindustry Association (P-BIO).
The study “Portugal Biotech: trends, opportunities and challenges in the biotechnology sector in Portugal” focuses on companies that develop as their main activity R&D and innovation in the area of biotechnology in Portugal and reveals that from 2011 to 2019, the turnover of this type of companies increased by 33%. The biotechnology sector is booming in our country. Exports represent more than 60% of turnover for 53% of the companies analyzed.
The study presentation session, which took place on December 3rd, was attended by João Cerejeira, scientific coordinator of the study, as well as Fernando Alexandre (Universidade do Minho) and moderation by Simão Soares, President of P- BIO João Cerejeira, stated that the biotechnology sector “shows resilience in periods of crisis, including more recently during the pandemic”, he added.
“90% of the turnover is concentrated in 30 companies. This is a type of business with special characteristics, as a considerable number of companies wait up to four years of time to launch the product on the market, and 44.1% of the companies do not have a product on the market“, he also said, João Cerejeira. According to the study, the main target markets of companies are in the areas of human health (36.0%), agrifood (20.0%) and environment (16.0%).
In Portugal, biotechnology occupies 5th place in the 35 technological classifications related to patent publications. More than 80% of all patents published by Portuguese biotechnology companies took place in the last ten years. “In Portugal, the sector is relatively small”, but the number of patents is “above what would be expected for its size, which is a positive aspect”, pointed out João Cerejeira. However, “a large part of the investment is made, in about a third of the cases, with recourse to own funds”.
The study also points to some obstacles to the growth of companies, such as access to finance, the lack of private investors, the size of the market, regulatory issues and the underdevelopment of the biotechnological ecosystem. According to the study, this is a sector with highly qualified teams, in which around 86% have at least a degree. 59% of employees are women and the average age of employees is below the national average: 51% are under 35 years of age, compared to 32% nationally.
“The area of biotechnology is going to be essential”, highlights Fernando Alexandre, being “an area that brings enormous hope to solve several problems facing humanity, for example, in the case of the climate crisis”. For further development, the challenge is to “integrate with other sectors of the economy”, underlined Simão Soares at the session.
The objectives of this study were to characterize the trends, opportunities and challenges of the Portuguese biotechnology sector. In this way, it is intended that it can be an instrument to support the growth and development of this sector, as well as guide the development of new policies. The study was developed within the scope of BioData.pt, the Portuguese biological data infrastructure, and results from a broader and more complete analysis of a first study on the Portuguese Biotechnology Industry, launched by P-BIO in 2016.
More information here.