“Norte 2020 is the program that has the most money in the country”
FNAC at Braga Parque received, on Friday night, the last session of the Fibrenamics conference cycle “Innovative Products with Fiber”. After the previous six sessions discussed how they were developed, financed and how some innovative products were transferred to the market, the seventh and last session was dedicated to the debate on the balance sheet of the National Strategic Reference Framework (QREN) and to the financing opportunities of Portugal 2020. The gathering gathered around two dozen people, including Carlos Neves, vice president of the Northern Regional Coordination and Development Commission (CCDR-N), Filipe Soutinho, CEO of IDT Consulting, and Raul Fangueiro, coordinator of the Fibrenamics Platform at the University of Minho (UM).
Carlos Neves started by saying that “the QREN brought a lot of good things”, and that “our economy today demonstrates the added value of having more knowledge intensity in companies”. Raul Fangueiro agreed with his debate colleague, stating that the QREN “brought the necessary instruments to make the University-Company connection”. The coordinator of the Fibrenamics platform at UM also said that “we have moved from the quality paradigm to the innovation paradigm” and explained that “to create innovation, knowledge is needed”. Filipe Soutinho, a consultant who helps many companies in the context of these financing frameworks, was adamant in stating that “innovation is one of the best ways to earn money”, and that it is very interesting to understand what happened to the so-called traditional sectors. In fact, according to data presented by Filipe Soutinho and corroborated by Carlos Neves, traditional sectors such as textiles and footwear exceeded expectations by taking advantage of knowledge to add value to their products.
Regarding the future, the panel of speakers was unanimously optimistic, saying that now that the innovative culture is installed “the focus is to make the knowledge produced reach the companies”, according to Carlos Neves. Filipe Soutinho points out that there are still some flaws in the program, such as the fact that “all the rules of the game” regarding the use of funds are not yet known, but recognizes that major improvements have been made from one frame to the next. These improvements are also due to the good results, and according to the vice president of CCDR-N, "North 2020 is the program that has the most money in the country". Raul Fangueiro also recognized the work of the managing entities of the programs, but made it clear that, in his opinion, “the QREN has arrived to show who has results” and that it is time to be pragmatic and bet on the institutions that actually present them, giving as an example of excellence, the work of the University of Minho, the Fibrenamics platform and others, which are experts in University-Company relations, bringing innovations that matter to the market. In fact, the success of Fibrenamics' projects goes through the ‘market-oriented research’ paradigm, which, he pointed out, was one of the great failures of the NSRF: “the little support for companies for placing products on the market”. Closing the debate, Carlos Neves acknowledged that there is work to be done, but left the alert: “this idea that funds can solve all of our problems is fallacious”.