Thanks to advances in science and technology, the research-based pharmaceutical industry is entering an exciting new era in medicines development.

As well as driving medical progress by researching, developing and bringing new medicines that improve health and quality of life for patients around the world, the research-based pharmaceutical industry is a key asset of the European economy. It is one of Europe’s top performing high-technology sectors.

The research-based pharmaceutical industry can play a critical role in restoring Europe to growth and ensuring future competitiveness in an advancing global economy. In 2016 it invested an estimated €35,000 million in R&D in Europe. It directly employs some 745,000 people and generates three to four times more employment indirectly – upstream and downstream – than it does directly.

According to EUROSTAT data, the pharmaceutical industry is the high technology sector with the highest added-value per person employed, significantly higher than the average value for high-tech and manufacturing industries. The pharmaceutical industry is also the sector with the highest ratio of R&D investment to net sales. According to the 2016 EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sector amounts to 19.1% of total business R&D expenditure worldwide.


The Health sector is a prominent, fast-evolving sector in Portugal, which has experienced a remarkable evolution during the last couple of decades.

R&D in the pharmaceutical industry

According to the Global Competitiveness Index 2016-17 of the World Economic Forum, Portugal ranks in the 25th place regarding the quality of its institutes of scientific research.

The R&D ecosystem in Portugal is composed of public and private sectors. For example, in 2015, the business sector was responsible for the execution of 46% of the total expenditure in R&D and hosted 11,785 researchers. The Portuguese higher education was responsible for an equal percentage, although gathering 25,045 researchers.

In the health sector in particular, the investment in R&D increased around 128% during the last 10 years and the number of scientific publications by Portuguese researchers (including co-publications with international institutions) has keep up with this trend with an increase of 123% in the same period.

Portugal thus hosts a vibrant and innovative R&D ecosystem, supported by several institutions scientific and technologic-oriented, present throughout the whole chain of value of the health and medicines sector, including the clinical trials. This ecosystem has its roots in a higher education system of renowned quality.

In line with the Portugal’s strategic focus on innovation and knowledge, the country, as a whole, displays many other research centres of excellence in the areas of the life sciences such as: Research Institute for Medicines (Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Lisbon); Champalimaud Neuroscience Programme (D. Anna de Sommer Champalimaud and Dr. Carlos Montez Champalimaud Foundation); iMM (Institute of Molecular Medicine); GHTM – Global Health and Tropical Medicine (Portuguese Institute of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine); Public Health Research Center (National School of Public Health); Institute for Biomedicine (University of Aveiro); Centre for Biomedical Research (University of Algarve); or the Health Sciences Research Centre (University of Beira Interior).

Health Cluster in Portugal

Several research Institutes throughout the country, together with health authorities, universities, hospitals and pharmaceutical industry, form the Health Cluster Portugal, a platform located in the region of Porto, that intends to turn Portugal into a competitive player in the research, devising, developing, manufacturing and commercialization of products and services of high added value related to health, and able to compete in a framework of excellence of the international markets.

The Portuguese Health industry is rooted in a dynamic of innovation and research. The Health Cluster Portugal states:

“The Portuguese pharmaceutical and medical device industries have grown above the country’s average in recent years, with a marked rise in the exports to countries such as the USA, Germany, UK, Angola, Spain, and France. In 2014, the value of Portuguese exports of goods from the health sector was EUR 1,216 million, representing a growth of 94% comparatively to 2008. This value includes the export of basic pharmaceutical products (104 million), pharmaceutical preparations (840 million), irradiation, electromedical and electrotherapeutic equipment (12 million), and medical and dental instruments and supplies (260 million), not including sales of e-health solutions and services.”

Pharmaceutical industry in Portugal flash info

The sectors’ exports already surpass those of the more “traditional” ones, such as wine and cork.

In the below map you can find a summary of this important industry in Portugal:

Infographic Pharmaceutics

Portuguese Companies

Examples: Azevedos/Sofarimex, Bial, Basí, Medinfar, Tecnimede

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