Luís Castro Henriques: “Portugal is an important partner”

Luís Castro Henriques, Chairman & CEO AICEP – Portuguese Trade and Investment Agency, about the opportunities of the Portuguese presentation at the HANNOVER MESSE 2022.

How important is the Partner Country presentation at the HANNOVER MESSE 2022 for the Portuguese industry? 

HANNOVER MESSE is a unique opportunity to showcase Portugal to the world’s main industry players, to strengthen the commitment of the Portuguese offer with German and other international companies and attract foreign investment to Portugal. Above all, it is an opportunity to strategically define Portugal’s role in the new global context and to identify the areas where our country can affirm itself as a European reference for the supply and development of industrial products.

Which strengths of the Portuguese Economy will be presented to the visitors at the fair?

The country will showcase its competitive advantages to attract scientific, technological, and productive investment, showing that Portugal Makes Sense to invest, develop industrial partnerships, source, expand, triumph and innovate.

At HANNOVER MESSE Portugal will present companies of excellence, namely in the sectors of equipment and metalworking, mobility, automotive and aeronautics, textiles and technical plastics, moulds, production technologies, digital technologies and renewable energies. Portuguese participation aims to surprise the German industrialists and media by arousing their curiosity about Portugal, impress opinion-makers with proof of innovation and skills, and attract visitors to our stands to establish business contacts with Portuguese companies.

We are heading to Hannover with a relevant Portuguese Delegation with a clear message. Portugal is an important partner of German industry and a country where German companies find talent, innovation, reliability, and commitment with success. The more than 550 German companies already operating successfully in Portugal know this. We want now to deliver this message to a broader audience, specially to the German Mittelstand. With almost nine centuries of history, today Portugal is a competitive, leading-edge, and attractive country for business and investment.

Which are Portugal’s activities to enhance the European energy transition?

Portugal is committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and is a leading EU country in the energy transition. It was also the fourth country in Europe to eliminate coal in electricity production (from December 2021). The country ranks 9th in global contribution to Planet & Climate in the Good Country Index and is taking firm steps to reduce energy consumption, make more efficient use of its resources, achieve better sustainable mobility, reach higher security of supply and diversify renewable energy resources.

Portugal and the Portuguese companies have knowledge and experience in energy solutions, which has allowed the sector to increase its notoriety and international recognition. Renewable Energies currently represent around 1.6 per cent of Portuguese GDP, having generated more than 45 thousand jobs in recent years, which shows Portugal’s competitiveness in this area. The country’s strategic geographic position benefits the growth of all Renewable Energies, creating opportunities and competitive advantages for exporting goods and services in this sector.

The Portuguese Government has assumed a strong commitment to the Renewable Energies sector, presenting as essential the National Strategy for Green Hydrogen, which promotes the progressive insertion of hydrogen in the various sectors of the economy, allowing the transition to a decarbonized economy. This strategy also aims to create a green hydrogen export hub for Europe, being an essential advance for the growth of the sector’s internationalization. As an ambitious and forward-looking country, Portugal and Portuguese companies have developed innovative technologies in mobility based on clean energy, including hydrogen.

Within the scope of innovation and sustainability, several Portuguese companies have developed urban mobility solutions for Smart Cities, from the production of hydrogen to storage in chargers and circulation of hydrogen-powered buses. Also, Portugal was the first country in the world to deploy a fully interoperable and integrated nationwide network of EV charging stations. This network, managed by the Portuguese system, is operating since 2010. In the Energy Solutions area, Portugal will take 13 innovative Portuguese companies with advanced technological solutions in renewable energies to HANNOVER MESSE 2022.

A significant investment is being made on the Human Resources to be able to upgrade themselves to the challenges industry 4.0 has brought to the shop floor.

How can companies from Portugal help the German and worldwide industry with the digitalization and industry 4.0?

Portugal and Portuguese companies can very well be the right partner to face the challenges worldwide industry is facing as its transitions to digitalization and industry 4.0. It is considered that Industry 4.0 aims to transform industrial units into more efficient and productive organizations, through the implementation of various technologies based on digital and intelligent systems. The impact on the entire value chain is quite considerable and the opportunities are immense. Portugal is witnessing a gradual reformulation of the industries’ processes, responding to specific needs that arise in their activity, motivated by customer requirements, the evolution of competition itself, or even the reskilling of manpower.

The Portuguese Government has developed and put in place a program called “Indústria 4.0” aiming to identify Portuguese’s industry needs in the i4.0 context and guide actions (public and private) to foster its acceleration. This tool was designed to support the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies and concepts in the Portuguese industrial system and to make Portugal an attractive investment pole in the Industry 4.0 context. This program allows for Portuguese companies to share their knowledge and practices and, at the same time, have access to public funding to support the transition process for new methods and processes that are associated to Industry 4.0.

Also worth mentioning is the role played by the Portuguese Academia in this process. Development of technological solutions such as Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS), the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) and working with Portuguese industry for its incorporation into Smart Factories is now a reality. Automation processes, development of robotics solutions to bridge any manpower constraints and Manufacturing Execution Systems-MES solutions, all of these are the outcomes of this industrial revolution in place. When we look at Portuguese companies in the metalworks and automotive components industries this is now a reality, with a direct impact on the services they can provide to their customers. Not only the digitalization of procedures is now a standard practice at many of these companies, but a significant investment is being made on the Human Resources to be able to upgrade themselves to the challenges industry 4.0 has brought to the shop floor.

In Portugal, German companies can find not only a supplier partner, but a partner where R&D is an everyday tool for the development of the solutions being sought after. Portuguese companies are now developing solutions that range from the digitalization of the production line to the minimization of energy consumption to maximize overall productivity. The mindset of the companies is one of partnership, a partnership for growth. We are quite confident that at Hannover Messe, German companies will have access to some of the best examples of Portuguese innovation applied to the challenges of Industry 4.0.

The ambitious goal is to generate 3,000 new IT professionals in 3 years.

How does Portugal ensure the necessary qualification of the workforce for these future tasks of the industry?

Portugal has made a tremendous effort in boosting higher education enrolment. The percentage of the population between 30 and 34 years-old with a college degree has quadrupled in the last 20 years, from 9.8% in 1998 to 39.6% in 2020. The country is making efforts to shift to an even wider talent pool on Tech, to respond to the increased demand in the field; it is doing so by creating and developing reskilling programs – such as the Upskill, developed under the Action Plan for the Digital Transition of Portugal, joining the business sector, the network of Polytechnic Institutes and the National Employment and Training Office. This program has a national scope and aims to provide intensive training in IT to new professionals and then prepare them for work placement, following the specific needs identified by the participant companies. The ambitious goal is to generate 3,000 new IT professionals in 3 years.

This effort is also translated in the Portuguese Recovery and Resilience Plan, which allocated 22% of its total amount to Digital Transition, including digital inclusion of people through education, training in digital skills and promotion of digital literacy, digital transformation of the business sector and digitalisation of the State.

Another key focus area is professional teaching in Portugal. The country offers a wide range of schools and qualifications for young people to learn professional crafts that allow them to face the challenges and demands the industry has for them. The Professional Schools can deliver professionals qualified in areas such as metallurgical and metalworking or IT, or diversified skills that may range from tooling to coding; all of them with a dedicated approach to the industry. The goal is to promote youth training and career insertion in the industry either by an apprenticeship system or through a technological specialization course.

This is an area where demand is growing. Currently more than 70,000 youngsters are enrolled in professional schools all over the country and they are top quality professionals as shown by the employment figures. The feedback from employers is very good, confirming how satisfied they are with the quality and performance of these professionals. The Portuguese Government also funds Adult Education and Training – EFA and Training of Training Professionals programs to bring new competences to Human Resources already working and that feel the need to upgrade their set of skills.

We believe that Talent is one of the driving forces in attracting new investors to Portugal and secure a successful industrial presence. Focus will shift more and more from cost and quantity of labour to the relevance of specialized skill sets and education of talent. As we are witnessing a growing demand for scientific and technical skills, we are confident that success will come to with those locations capable of producing, attracting and retaining the most highly skilled talent pool.

Which are the highlights the visitors of the Hanover Fair 2022 shouldn’t miss at the Partner Country Portugal presentation?

Under the motto Portugal Makes Sense, Portugal will attend the HANNOVER MESSE 2022 with a strong exhibition presence, reflected in four pavilions: a Central Pavilion and three Satellite Pavilions. The Portuguese participation will highlight three areas of focus: Engineered Parts & Solutions with 69 companies at Hall 3, Energy Solutions with 13 companies at Hall 13, and Digital Ecosystems with 15 companies at Hall 5. Portugal will also be present with 13 companies at Hall 9 for Automation, Motion & Drives.

Portugal will showcase products and solutions developed and produced in Portugal, with Portuguese talent, in Portuguese companies, highlighting the technologies used, particularly in the areas of green Hydrogen, Smart Cities, Smart Materials, Smart Manufacturing, industrial IoT, Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality, among others. The Central Pavilion will also have the testimony of major German companies operating in Portugal (Bosch, Continental, Grohe, Leica, Schmitt and Siemens), presenting products and solutions developed and produced in Portugal with Portuguese talent.

A Conference Programme will also take place in the Portuguese Central Pavilion during the four days of the fair, as well as the Partner Country Night, a networking event on the 1st of June. After seeing and getting to know Portugal’s offer at the fair, we believe that German companies will think: if they don’t have a partnership with Portugal yet, it’s because they haven’t thought about it yet, because Portugal Makes Sense.

von Stéphane Itasse
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