COTEC's 4th National Innovation Meeting showed the decisive role that this organization is playing in promoting, stimulating and supporting innovative companies.
24 new companies have recently joined the COTEC Network of Innovative SME, raising to 54 the total number of member companies. These companies employ over 3,700 people, their total turnover exceeds 280 million euros - 50% of which from exports - and their investment in R&D accounts for 20% of turnover, well above the national average.
But if the primary ambition is to be part of the Network, the second is to win the COTEC-BPI Award. This year there were two ex aequo winners: ALERT Life Sciences Computing and Frulact. The first case is extraordinary. Jorge Guimaraes, 40, C.E.O., received the Bial Grand Prize Medicine in 1998 for his research study on gene cloning and bioinformatics. He decided to use the 75 thousand euros prize to found MNI - Médicos Na Internet, specialized in providing healthcare services via the Internet. From there, it evolved into the development of clinical software, and ALERT was born. Today the company employs over 300 people, has revenues of over 12 million euros, has expanded to Spain, Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the U.S.A., its product has over 31,000 users, and its technology was adopted by over 500 healthcare institutions. This state-of-the-art technology developed during the last seven years by Portuguese minds in Portugal, must be really good, because Jorge Guimaraes does not hesitate in stating that "today we are considered the Apple of healthcare."
Besides the decisive part that COTEC's president, Artur Santos Silva, and the general-director, Rui Guimaraes, have had in promoting innovation, it is more than fair to highlight the pedagogic way in which the President of the Republic has approached this subject. In his speech, Cavaco Silva renewed his appeal to young people by asking them not to give up on Portugal, when thinking about their professional career.
The President announced his decision to support the Associação Aprender a Empreender (Learning to be an Entrepreneur Association), which runs the program A Empresa ("The Company"), aimed at high-school students. The program's purpose is to stimulate young people to acquire knowledge on entrepreneurial activities and develop specific projects.
Additionally, the President referred to the difficulties that young entrepreneurs come across to find investors willing to take risk on new projects. He invited companies to open their doors to young entrepreneurs and researchers, and to share their internationalization experiences. He also reminded that he had launched, one year ago, the idea of a Globalization Council which will have its second meeting in September.
These are solid steps of a President committed in improving and modernizing the country's economy. And this is the message that passes on and bears fruit.