Viewpoint: Portugal’s experience could inspire Widening countries in their strengthening research systems

04 Oct 2023 | Viewpoint

A sustained effort to diversify funding sources has enbled steady progress. Now, almost 40 years after joining the EU, that Portugal is in sight of meeting the target of spending 3% of GDP on research by 2030

Manuel Heitor, director of the Technology Policy Lab at the University of Lisbon and former Portuguese science minister. Photo: European Union

Almost 40 years after joining the EU - and 50 years after the Carnation Revolution and its transition to democracy, in 2021 Portugal reached two important milestones. First, more than 40% of the population aged between 30 and 34 had a higher education diploma, up from only 15% in the 1990s. Second, more than half of 20-year-olds were studying at university, up from only 20% in the early 1990s and around 15% at the end of the 1970s.

In parallel, ambitious national policies led to an increase in research spending, from 0.5% in the early 1990s, to over 1.7% of GDP in 2022. That may leave some way to go to hit the EU target of 3% in 2030, but in the private sector R&D expenditure almost doubled in between 2015 and 2022, surpassing 1.1% of GDP in 2022 - compared to 0.6% in 2015. This was accompanied by a significant increase in exports of higher value-added goods and services, with the contribution of EU structural…

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