Given the situation of COVID19, all ongoing processes are facing serious changes, with particular impact on the activities of SME’s, Universities, Municipalities, Managing Authorities, and other stakeholders. Moreover, particularly in the Algarve region, highly specialized and dependent of the tourism sector, the economic impact on sales and unemployment is enormous, since most people are now in the layoff, unemployed or in telework.
In the Action Plan for Portugal, the University of Algarve included the implementation of the Algarve Science and Technology Park and the RESTART partnership between the Division of Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer (CRIA), the Portuguese Association of Young Entrepreneurs (ANJE) and the Algarve Business Association (NERA).
Nevertheless, following the actions of INTRA project in this second phase, University of Algarve (trough CRIA) is continuously working alongside the Managing Authority (CCDR Algarve) in monitoring their activity towards the implementation of the actions plans for the next two years .
Hence, is important to present a short scenario of the situation in the country and in the region, for a better understanding, namely regarding the implementation of both projects selected to implemented in Phase 2, and the actual situation of SME’s, since this will greatly influence their activities and their internationalization processes.
Therefore, regarding both projects:
Algarve Science and Technology Park
Under the operational execution of the project and facing a period of economic growth and investment in the Algarve region, a need for additional investment was identified, since the construction budget line was undervalued.
This was an unexpected surprise since all budget was prepared in accordance with average market values, and by the maximum rates authorized by the managing authority. However, given the economic growth situation in the region, highly touristic and dependent on the construction sector, the medium prices for construction for square meters are now higher.
In response, a formal proposal for increasing budget and extension of execution (12 additional months) was submitted. Hence by January 2020, an increased amount for construction and human resources was approved, allowing the University to move ahead with the necessary procedures to launch the public procurement, namely validation by the national ministry of finance and launching of the international call.
However, despite the delay in this action (building of the Algarve Tech Park), the project is developing successfully, given that 3 main budget lines of the project are:
1. The building of the Data Center - public procurement is contracted, and the work is ongoing;
2. Clinical Simulation Center - public procurement is finalized. The contract is ready to be signed after validation by the national ministry since the amount is above 250k€. The building is scheduled to start in April 2020;
3. The building of the Tech Park for the acceleration of Companies – as indicated above.
Although the project was submitted with the proposed date of June 2019, due to some delays in the evaluation process, the notification of approval and the final contract with the operational program was signed in December 2019.
Therefore, a new calendar for the execution of the project was agreed with the managing authority, assuming the beginning of the project for January 2nd 2020.
Hence, the activities of the project until the end of January/mid-February have been focused on:
• Preparation of the regulation and operational scheme of the Business Ideas Contest
• Preparation of the 16 sessions of entrepreneurship in coordination with the 16 municipalities of the Algarve Region
• Preparation of public procurement procedures for the project.
However, given the appearance of COVID19, all project activities have been postponed to new dates, since the first actions were directed to attract the general population, and like most regions in the world, all actions directed to the aggregation of people has been cancelled. Moreover, regarding the regulation for the business idea contest, it also needs to be updated, since the initial dates need to change, as well as the visit to international ecosystems towards the connection and internationalization of SME’s and technologies, since all relevant markets selected are also closed due to COVID19.
Given this scenario, all project actions are suspended while the emergency state is declared at a national level. Nevertheless, the project is strategic to the beneficiary and to region and scheduled to be resumed after the COVID19 situation improves.
A request for extension is anticipated, being that any formal request will only happen during 2021.
Hugo F. Barros, University of Algarve, CRIA, CEO.