In terms of R&D and innovation resources, and when compared to other Portuguese regions, Centro ranks second regarding PhDs in Science and Technological areas per 1,000 inhabitants (0.8 in 2017, the same as the national average) and ranks third concerning R&D researchers (FTE) in active population (0.70% in 2016, below the national average of 0.80%) (INE, 2019). In Centro, in 2017, 35.5% of the population aged 30-34 had tertiary education (Eurostat, 2019), which is above the national average (33.5%) but lower than the EU average (40.7%).
The number of employees in the high-tech sector has been increasing since 2012 until 2017, having a small decrease in 2018, with 20,500 employees (Eurostat, 2019). This represented 14.3% of the national employment in the sector and 1.9% of the total employment (against the EU average of 4.1%) (Eurostat, 2019).
Centro ranks also third among the Portuguese regions regarding the regional Gross Expenditure in Research and Development (GERD as percentage of regional GDP), which has been increasing over the years. According to the available Eurostat figures, in 2016 the R&D expenditures were at €447.2m, corresponding to 1.27% of the regional GDP (in line with the national average of 1.28% and below the EU average of 2.04%) (Eurostat, 2019).
The business activities are the main players regarding RTD activities in the region: in 2016, 52.0% of the expenditure in R&D was made by activities implemented by businesses; 45.6% by higher education institutions; 1.8% by the national government; and 0.6% by private non-profit institutions (INE, 2019).
Concerning patent registration, in 2012, Centro has reached 11.7 patent applications to the EPO per million inhabitants (Eurostat, 2019), which is the highest value for the country.
In 2017, Centro had the highest percentage, in the country, of households with internet access at home: 100% (Eurostat, 2019).
The region has three public universities, five polytechnic institutes, three technological centres, several private R&D units, and numerous incubators for innovative businesses. It is well endowed with relevant critical mass for high quality RTD activities in various scientific areas. It is worthwhile to mention particularly the following regional competences:
- Telecommunications and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) stimulated by the presence of the RTD unit of "Portugal Telecom", the largest telecommunications company in the country, as well as many spin-off and start-up companies in this field;
- Health services, as there are several hospitals in the region with national and international leading knowledge on various health topics supported by the universities of the region;
- Exploitation and transformation of natural resources such as water, forest, wind resources and geology. Quite a few clusters can be mentioned around resources such as wood, pulp, paper and forest, which are well assisted by local RTD infrastructure;
- The moulds industry that encompasses important business agglomerations with strong capacity for exports.
There are also other traditional industries of utmost importance to the region (e.g. number of SMEs) that are supported by good scientific and technological capacity of RTD units established in the region in fields such as ceramics, glass and cement and metallurgy/metal-mechanics.