The Current Situation of Biomaterial Companies in Portugal
Biotechnology and biomaterials have been gaining increasing importance in the Portuguese economy in recent years, as the country is increasingly focused on innovation and technology, aligned with European and global trends. However, despite the potential for industry growth, there are still several challenges that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as well as new companies in the sector are facing.
In this article, we will discuss the current situation of biomaterial companies in Portugal with Dr. Bárbara Gomes and the difficulties they face in obtaining the necessary financing for the development of their projects.
Dr. Bárbara Gomes is the CEO of AccelBio. She has ten years of professional experience in the field of biomedical research and has received several awards, such as the 2020 SPBf Young Biophysicist Award. Since 2017, she has been involved in funding research and technology transfer opportunities, and was part of several projects. Responsible for technology transfer, she oversees a portfolio of about twenty patents each year, facilitates funding requests that have already collected over 20 million euros, and also encourages and mediates collaborations with private companies. In addition, Bárbara participated in the first group of the Women’s Leadership Program, established by the European Innovation Council. She has a MSc in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Coimbra and a PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Lisbon, in collaboration with Columbia University, US.
AccelBio is a collaborative laboratory that aims to bridge the gap between biomedical science and the market, with a range of partners covering all the necessary skills and knowledge to drive drug discovery. AccelBio selects cutting-edge fundamental discoveries in research and technology platforms, guiding the transformation of revolutionary science into viable and attractive assets for investment.
In recent years, Portugal has become a hub of innovation and technology, with a large number of start-up companies being founded in the country. However, despite the growth of the industry, there are still challenges that biomaterials companies in Portugal are facing. According to Dr. Bárbara Gomes, these include a lack of investment and funding, a lack of exposure for biomaterials and biomedical research, and an underdeveloped ecosystem of collaboration between companies and academic researchers.
Lack of Investment and Funding for Biomaterial Companies
Small and medium-sized biomaterial companies and new companies in the biomaterial industry in Portugal are facing several challenges. One of the main issues is the lack of investment and funding for their projects. Since these companies are usually small and do not have much capital, they often struggle to find investors to finance their projects. This is due to the fact that most investors do not see these companies as attractive investments due to their small size, lack of access to capital and associated risk. As a result, these companies often struggle to find investors to finance their projects. The lack of investment and funding also affects these companies’ ability to develop and bring their products to market. Without the necessary funding, it is difficult for these companies to invest in research and development of new products, as well as cover the costs of manufacturing and marketing. This makes it difficult to compete in the market and be successful.
The Need for Less Bureaucratic and Faster Funding Programs
Another important issue that biomaterial companies in Portugal face is the lack of access to funding programs. Although there are several government-funded programs, these are very bureaucratic and slow. Having an inside perspective on many of the startups and small and medium-sized companies, Dr. Gomes finds that many companies end up not accessing funding programs because it is not possible to allocate human resources exclusively to the preparation of the application and subsequent project management, given that we are dealing with companies with limited resources. This makes it difficult for companies to access the necessary funding to develop their projects. To address this issue, Dr. Gomes suggests that the competent entities need to develop more efficient and less bureaucratic funding programs. Such programs should be designed to be easily accessible to companies and should provide the necessary funding for them to develop their projects. It is also necessary for these programs to have agility and shorter response times, in order to provide a prompt response to companies, who often find themselves having to choose between abandoning research projects or proceeding with all their own funds with the faith that funding projects will be approved. Using Dr. Gomes words, “these situations are unsustainable!”. If some of these improvements can be applied, it is certain that it will help companies to secure their research projects and will allow more companies to access these incentives, and
to bring their products to market.
Lack of Dissemination of Biomaterials and Biomedical Research
The lack of dissemination of biomaterials and biomedical research is also a difficulty that biomaterial companies face in Portugal. Although there is much research done in the field, it is often not well publicized and not easily accessible. According to Dr. Gomes, this happens because despite there being many dissemination initiatives spread across the country, they have a small impact and there is no concerted effort between them. There is also no major initiative that can add value and create large scale impact. This makes it difficult for companies to stay updated on the latest advances in the field, as well as develop products based on the latest research.
Poorly Developed Collaboration Ecosystem between Companies and Academic Researchers
In addition to the lack of investment and funding and the lack of dissemination of biomaterials and biomedical research, there is also a poorly developed collaboration ecosystem between companies and academic researchers. Unlike in other countries, according to Dr. Gomes, Portugal lacks external partnership positions between the academic and business sectors, as not all companies and universities have that partnership position. This lack of collaboration makes it difficult for companies to benefit from the latest advances in the field, as well as develop their own products based on the latest research. In order to create a more collaborative environment, companies need to develop mechanisms to identify potential partners, as well as to foster collaboration between the parties. This can be done through the establishment of networks and the development of joint research projects. Companies need to find solutions to find technologies that serve their interests, technology that is developed by academic researchers. One way to do this is through “scouting”, where specialized personnel from companies have the responsibility and goal of finding relevant technology for the company. This can help ensure that companies can benefit from the latest research and advances in the field. Such initiatives can help create a more collaborative environment and increase the level of collaboration between companies and academic researchers.
We conclude that biomaterial companies in Portugal are facing various challenges. These include, among others, lack of investment and financing, lack of dissemination of biomaterials and biomedical research, and a poorly developed collaboration ecosystem between companies and academic researchers. The very pleasant and enlightening conversation with Dr. Gomes revealed that, in order to address these issues, companies need to find ways to access necessary resources – either technological resources, through greater cooperation with the academic sector, or through company “scouting”, or financial resources, where the government needs to develop less bureaucratic and less time-consuming financing programs. It is also of utmost importance to promote and create support for greater dissemination of open partnership meetings for all companies in the area and for all academics to create better networking opportunities for the parties. By addressing these issues, more companies can access the necessary financing to bring their products to market, allowing them to succeed in the sector. Meanwhile, researchers will have the opportunity to develop their projects and see them become a reality. These synergies will advance technology and stimulate the economy, and will consequently have a positive impact on our quality of life. Implementing the proposed measures, is, therefore, a win-win situation for all.
Authors: Fábio Grilo