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Portuguese startups in 2022: what trends to expect

We recently took a look at the 2021 Portuguese tech startup ecosystem. It was an exciting year across Europe, and Portugal was no exception – reaching the milestone of having 7 unicorns and becoming a bona fide hub of tech.

So, what can we expect in 2022?

From remote working to “remote-everything”

At a time when hybrid working is becoming the new normal, the big question for some is how to distinguish between their home and the office. Hybrid working offers a new way of looking at labour relations and offers greater flexibility – allowing people to live in a more comfortable and productive way. It also encourages a remote approach to other areas of people lives. From on-demand grocery shopping to e-commerce and Web3.0 technologies like blockchain. These industries are certainly benefiting from the shift to remote styles of life that have arisen during the pandemic.

In the coming years, people’s relationship with technology will deepen as larger segments of the population will come to rely (even) more on digital connections for work. This relationship will progressively extend to education, health and other social interactions. This transition presents immense challenges – the family/work balance; inequalities in access to information; the importance of physical and mental well-being. It is in these aspects that companies must act and offer new, more agile and collaborative solutions.

Gaming, mental health, education and tourism are some areas where startups can offer true innovation. Portugues startups are in a prime position to reinvent tourism tech in 2022, transforming experiences, mobility and museums. Keep an eye on Live Electric Tours, HiJiffy, Kitch, Replai or Hole19

The new space race

The recent launch of the James Webb telescope highlighted a renewed interest in the cosmos. 2021 was a milestone year for the new space economy and the “race” has been re-launched! 

The paradigm has changed and private companies are now setting the agenda. Throughout the year we watched the sprint between 3 competitors to transport the first space tourists: Virgin Galactic, Space X and Blue Origin. On the other hand, the frenzy over the launch of new satellites has intensified, with more than 1,400 being launched in this last year alone! These satellites will enable faster communications and more knowledge about everything that goes on Earth – from security, navigation or monitoring climate change.

Portugal’s national space agency, Portugal Space, has committed to a Space Port on the island of Santa Maria, Azores, and programmes with ESA, such as the ESA Space Solutions Portugal. Portuguese startups are also committing to the new space economy, namely Neuraspace, Tesselo or Spotlite, putting Portugal in the running to become a European space tech hub. 

The ageing challenge

We are faced with a challenge regarding demographics. Europeans are living longer than ever before and the age profile of society is rapidly developing. Demographic ageing means the proportion of people of working age in the EU is shrinking, while the number of older people is expanding. This pattern will continue in the next couple of decades and has profound implications, not only for individuals but also for governments and businesses.

It does, however, offer opportunities for startups to bring innovative solutions – in keeping people fit and healthy, in boosting skills development and so on.  

This new “longevity market” is largely underserved and startups can offer novel options for independent, healthy and secure living. Mental health, digital health, home services and activity tracking are among some of the trends that companies like Clynx, Tonic App, Nutrium or Wegho are tackling.

Sustainability and the blue economy

Campaigns towards reducing emissions and climate change are no longer just an awareness movement. Across the world, people are starting to realise that time is running out to protect our planet from the worst consequences of climate change. Consumers are demanding companies use resources carefully and avoid unnecessary waste. Scarcity, volatility of pricing, environmental damage and reputational benefits are strong drivers for a greater transition from a linear to a circular economy.

The focus on energy and particularly the shift to renewable energies is expected to continue in 2022 as action to reduce carbon emissions remains a priority. 

Portugal is at the forefront regarding renewables but also has a solid background in marine sciences and bioengineering. Portugal’s maritime history can help foster the development of the blue economy, and Blue Oasis Technology, Sensefinity, Undersee, or Omnifow are riding this wave. Startups like EcoX or Smartex.ai are developing solutions to reduce waste in detergent and textile productions.

Innovation and reinvention are the keys to success in changing times. Portuguese startups certainly have the talent and the engineering to keep growing and put Portugal firmly on the European startup map – let’s see what this new year brings!

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Jorge Pimenta
Jorge Pimenta
Innovation Director at IPN (Portugal) and passionate about technology and startups. He actively participates as a speaker, jury and mentor in acceleration programs. His main interests include space, sustainability, eHealth, and active aging.

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