Business and Shared Services Centre supports smart growth in Portugal’s Centro region
A business centre project in the ancient town of Fundão, in Portugal’s rural Centro region is reversing population loss and economic decline. The Business and Shared Services Centre provides infrastructure and skills for smart, sustainable businesses, with a focus on information and communication technologies for education (TICE). The centre has attracted specialist companies to the region, while a support programme is developing local IT skills for the new work. Dozens of follow-on innovative start-ups and projects in diverse industries add to the jobs and income generated by the centre.
" For the first time in decades, Fundão has a positive migratory balance and is on the radar of national and international investors. This is thanks to this centre. "
Fundáo municipality developed empty buildings to provide office space for innovative industries, along with shared research and staff facilities. Separate business incubation and co-working areas support entrepreneurs. Specialist training, computing lessons in schools and other IT skills promotions ensure that employers can recruit skilled staff locally.
The centre now hosts 14 TICE businesses, including four multinationals, which have created over 500 highly-qualified jobs. It has also led to around 70 start-ups and over 200 privately-funded innovative projects in its first four years.
Transforming the economy
The Business and Shared Services Centre – Centro de Negócios e Serviços Partilhados (CNSP) in Portuguese – was developed as part of the response to the exodus of young people from Fundáo due to the lack of job prospects and high unemployment. The centre adapted the economy to a globalised, digital age. It promotes growth areas such as software development, robotics and business services while modernising traditional sectors.
Technical facilities at the centre include a digital fabrication lab (Fab Lab), a training centre, an open-source Internet of Things centre, a plant biotechnology centre and a centre for software validation and certification. Users share costs or pay for services, making them financially self-sustaining.
Courses at the training centre, funded by participants or businesses, cover high-demand skills such as industrial management, software development and machine programming. Software developer boot camps alone have trained 240 unemployed people, nearly all now working for CNSP partner companies.
IT skills development extends to the whole population. All children in Fundão’s schools follow computer programming classes from age 6 to 12, a first in Portugal. Other actions engage older people as IT mentors or encourage women to choose high-tech careers.
The CNSP project began in 2013 as part of an innovation plan in its wider area. Led by Fundáo municipality, the project consortium included government organisations, universities, schools, civic associations, businesses, financial institutions and other innovation centres.
A 15-year old pavilion was the first home for the centre, which soon expanded to other renovated buildings. Prosperity followed. Unemployment is down in the municipality by 50 % since 2012. People are now moving to the area, creating demand for new housing and rental homes. Fundão is also now home to several EU innovation projects. Overall, the initiative has contributed EUR 5 million annually to the local economy.
Fundáo’s initiatives have inspired policies in other regions. In 2015, Fundão also won the European Enterprise Promotion Awards, and in 2016, Municipality of the Year in a Portugal-wide competition. The municipality is now helping the Portuguese government promote business spaces while actions, such as IT lessons in schools, are being integrated into national public policy.
“The Business Centre is ideal for us. It is in the centre of Fundão, with access to all the external services we need. Most of our employees can walk to work, for a relaxed, healthy lifestyle. The municipality’s creation of facilities for IT companies, including ours, is a sign of its commitment to recovering the region’s intellectual capital. Companies no longer need to set up in a big city to have skilled workers and be competitive in the high-tech market.
Mário Castro, Product Owner, Fruition Partners
“I moved to Fundão from Porto to find a new career. A programming boot camp at the centre gave me the skills that got me a job at an IT multinational that is a major employer here. Every day I feel rewarded and happy about coming to work. It’s like a family and doors just keep opening. I’m looking forward to a great future here.”
Sofia Rodrigues, Developer, Fruition Partners
Total investment and EU funding
Total investment for the project “Business and Shared Services Centre (CNSP)” is EUR 2 473 667, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 2 102 617 through the “Centro” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period. The investment falls under the priority “Competitiveness, innovation, knowledge”.