Could you tell us about your membership structure?
Members of the SCDE are presently some of the most relevant global technology companies in Portugal. There are also certain Portuguese companies that are excellent case studies in this new digital world. Some of them are start-ups that later became global in their activities. We also have academic members that focus on these issues. While some are from the University of Lisbon, others are located in Porto, Aveiro, and other parts of the country. We have a far more decentralized approach. For our work, it is crucial that SCDE has the perspective of someone with experience in the public sector. Their experience, feedback, and input are particularly useful for us. We are a diverse group, with a great deal of different perspectives and approaches. At the end of the day, we all have the same objective, which is to make Portugal a more pro-digital country. In that sense, we aim to promote economic development in the country as well as a better social balance.
What does your cooperation with top research institutes in Portugal involve? How do these synergies contribute towards achieving the goals of Portugal 4.0?
The change can, and should be, made in Portugal. It must involve a comprehensive and holistic approach; all partnerships are, therefore, relevant. The great challenge is to have wider adoption of technology by the entire population working together. Research centers are extremely useful, as are associations with industry, to work more closely with people in the field. We need to be there and better linked with the structure of the real economy. The merging of these perspectives is the most valuable thing we can achieve here.
What steps can you take to help foster a culture of innovation in the various clusters present in Portugal?
The big challenge is to make sure examples of innovation in the country are not exceptions, but the standard. They must become more holistic and comprehensive. In some global rankings, we are ranked in either first or second. We are leaders in industries because of fantastic companies, some of which are small but win global competitions. Some of them are members of the council, like TalkDesk and Farfetch, companies that see a great deal of global success. Our goal is not only to have local champions; SCDE can be far more useful by bringing greater innovation to all those companies. Those with a family-based governance are the ones that need to transform the most and cross into this new digital world. At the end of the day, all countries need to move and grow in the same direction. That is why our members are not the final target of the council. What matters is how we contribute, pro bono, to our society and benefit the Portuguese economy.
What additional incentives need to be implemented to better support start-ups and foster additional growth in technology-intensive industries?
Portugal has a cultural problem with risk as well as with the funding of companies. The global financial crisis greatly impacted the banking system in the last few years. Most of our economy was based on funding through banks. That affected funding, though we are currently overcoming the crisis. On the other side, what should be more balanced, which was not previously, is having more investors bringing new capital to companies. We first need to change the cultural approach from investors and the companies from their management side with shareholders and stakeholders. We should start learning from what has happened in other countries, such as the US, to make it less European in that sense. Beyond that, we need to have more incentives to encourage a shift in this direction. Our public-sector system, fiscal policy, and the labor market need to be further modernized to help channel money to these companies more fluidly. We are working on this through SCDE and have clear objectives and concrete proposals already in place. We expect to have new proposals drafted before the next national budget is discussed.
What more needs to be done to raise awareness of Portugal's brand to bring in more investment?
We are on the right track. We can see the difference between the current state of Portugal's economy compared to what it was during the crisis. Furthermore, we are definitely much better off now than we were before the crisis. Now, globally the Portuguese economy is seen in a completely different and better light. While we are on the right track, we have a long road to travel. For that reason, there are many things that should be done, for example, from the perception perspective. We should help brand Portugal as being the most pro-digital country in the world. We must be extremely ambitious. If we get this label through concrete measures, it will be easier to attract the attention of investors. There are many things to be done. The proposals we are preparing can contribute to that. From the regulatory and legislative perspective, the labor market, as well as other areas, we follow the latest technological trends. Things have been changing the past three years, and they will continue to change. Portugal can follow these trends and also be the first to take concrete actions. If we can do that, then we can position Portugal as an innovator the way it deserves to be seen.
What are some of the top priorities and initiatives for SCDE going forward?
As a country, we still have certain structural issues, such as our debt, as well as a demographic problem that is fairly challenging. We should be aware that while the situation is better, we have to deal with core structural issues. From the perspective of the council, the core objective is to make Portugal more pro-digital. While it may not be possible immediately, the aim should be to make Portugal number one in the world. We should do this in the next three years. We now face a turning point in the global economy. The challenges coming alongside—AI, blockchain, and other new technologies—will definitely change the business model. Some companies are leading their sectors from a competitive perspective. However, they may not exist in two years' time because of the many rapid developments underway. In that sense, all the opportunities are open. Either we will be the first in line or completely excluded from this new era of economic growth and opportunities for all. The mindset of the country, the political, social, and economic aspects all need to be better understood. That is my first goal as leader of SCDE. The Portuguese people are quick to execute what needs to be done. We must get them in the right mindset to understand what they should do. We want to bring people's mindset to the digital era.