Regarding the level of regional development, Portugal can be characterized into four distinct territories in terms of activities that develop them:

  • A large northern and central coastal region, where industrial activities are concentrated, export based on labor intensity, natural resources, technology and scale;
  • A central and southern coastal region, where activities are concentrated in services based on knowledge and information oriented towards the domestic market and the export industrial activities based on scale and natural resources;
  • A region on the southern coast centered on service activities based mainly on services and tourism;
  • A large area of the “inside”, poorly inserted in internationalization, with activities focused on natural resources, including rural tourism, and some isolated clusters of industries based on the scale (automobile) or the intensity of work (shoes, clothing).

In terms of innovation, and in accordance with the Community Innovation Survey – CIS 2006, Business with Innovation Activities, by Region in Portugal were: 41% national total, Lisbon 44%, 36% Norte, Centro 47%.
To a national average of 12%, companies have introduced new products to market (goods and / or services) were 10% in the Norte, 12% in Centro and 15% in Lisbon.
The distribution of spending on innovation by Region, was in Portugal in Lisbon 46%, 32% in Norte and 12% in Centro.

The Norte is the region of the country where the economy grows less and where unemployment increases more. In a little amount of time passed from one of the most industrialized regions of Europe to one of the poorest.

Of the 273 European regions for which Eurostat provides values relative to GDP per capita in purchasing power parity, there are only 17 poorest regions in the norte of Portugal. The region experiences a rapid loss of purchasing power, to the point of presenting the income ‘per capita’ lowest in the EU-15. In 2004, emerged as the fifth poorest region. Eurostat data for 2005 gives it the terrible deed to lead the ‘ranking’ of poverty. The GDP ‘per capita’ is 58.8% in EU – 27. Worse, only regions of Poland, Bulgaria or Romania. In the late ’80s, the NorTE accounted for 64% of income “per capita” of Lisbon. Ten years later it recovered to 69% and regressed in a decade to the current 58%.

As for the labour market, the Norte is also the region of the country with the highest unemployment rate (now around 10% in 2008).
Moreover, Norte and Centro are also the regions of the continent where the population receives a lower salary.
The region has a very significant and prestigious international Universities, Polytechnic Institutes and Centres of Innovation and Technology, plus a set other state and private schools, higher education highly representative in student numbers and courses offered.
Regarding the composition of the entrepreneurial tissue, are included companies with great international prestige that lately has been reinforced in the region with the deployment of a multinational group of initiatives clearly aimed at the industry of new technologies and knowledge.

The Centro Region, in turn, has a population of around 1.7 million inhabitants, which corresponds to about 17% of the continental population, has a similar profile of norte, in coastal areas, where it is most significant development of institutions and companies with strong support in knowledge.
Centro Region is mainly constituted by micro enterprises, although SMEs shown a strong momentum, being competitive in domestic and foreign markets.

The higher education in the Centro is provided by three state universities, namely University of Aveiro, University of Coimbra and the University of Beira Interior, in Covilhã, and the private Catholic University in Viseu and International University in Figueira da Foz. In the region there are also six state polytechnics located in Aveiro, Castelo Branco, Coimbra, Guarda, Leiria and Viseu and various private institutes. In Centro Region there exists many research centres.
In Centro Region are located a number of technology centres, such as CENTIMFE or CTCV. There are also other important centres such as the PT Innovation (telecommunications), CBE (Centre for Biomass for Energy), the IBILI (Institute of Biomedical Research on Light and Image).

The situation diagnosed by these two regions is presented as a paradox, a situation of rampant poverty as measured by GDP, but rich in skilled resources, technology, in knowledge and business experience.

These two regions still account for more than half of national exports and for about two thirds of exports of technology products and are still among the most industrialized regions of Europe. In other words, have a business capacity installed. Have Universities, Institutes and Centres of Innovation and Technology of excellence, not only regarding the training of qualified staff, but also regarding scientific production and R & D developed.
In a European comparison the share of manufacturing in Norte / Centro coast (27.24%) is higher than that of Catalonia (SP) (22%), Emilia-Romagna (IT) (27.21%), Hamburg (14.3% ) and below the region of Baden-Wutttemburg also in Germany (31.56%). The problem is that the preponderance of industries is of average degree of incorporation of technology, which is not true of the Norte / Centro coast, where more than two thirds of production is low-tech.
The regions beyond of the strong scientific system, have a strong employment in knowledge-intensive services (16.4% of total employment), a huge installed capacity in the supply of graduates, masters and doctorates in scientific fields such as healthcare, life sciences, agricultural sciences , physics and mathematics, chemistry, environmental sciences, economics, management and marketing, ICT, electronics and systems, mechanical production and energy and materials.
These areas have universities and institutes and the R & D, technology centres, institutes of technologies, science parks and technology incubators and technology based on a substantial number.

The potential existent in these two regions, entrepreneurial skills, knowledge or science is installed at very competitive costs. What is missing is an articulation and overall performance of the players, the disclosure of their abilities and potential to attract investment and greater cooperation and interaction of all stakeholders in its development.

If the Norte and Centro, where nearly half of residents in Portugal live, did not recover from the current situation, the country, as a whole, will be doomed to be red lantern of the European Union.
There is no other path than accelerating the pace of this ‘new economy’, constituted by companies supported in knowledge and innovation, more robust and fitted with a competitiveness based on factors such as increased technology and customer value.