After suffering several cancellations due to pandemic rules and lockdowns, the IPBN was finally able to establish its presence in Porto in April, 2022 with the IPBN Porto Conference. Invest Porto covered the IPBN’s first-ever conference in the city, held at the Porto Innovation Hub, in a release on their website explaining that, “the municipality presented its strategy for attracting investment and talent before an audience…to representatives of companies operating in Porto and national companies considering expansion to Ireland.”
The Irish Ambassador to Portugal, H.E. Ralph Victory, attended the event and gave an opening address that stressed the fact that "in order to be efficient, Ireland must listen, build new partnerships and be present in places where it has not yet been…Growing the links between Ireland and Portugal, in particular with the Porto region, has become even more important as together we face the economic crisis and others that come in the future.”
Geoffrey Graham, Chair of the IPBN, seconded the sentiment by saying that this would be the first of many more IPBN conferences to come to Porto, given the "synergies between IPBN and Porto City Council….(as) the growth of Porto is important for the sustainability of the network".
The conference proceeded with remarks from the director of Economy of Porto City Council, Rui Monteiro, who deemed the event "proof of how resilient a city we are.” He went on to say that Porto’s mission is a simple one: “to help you achieve your goals, your dreams,” before going on to introduce a presentation by Invest Porto in attracting investment to the City of Bridges.
Following the welcome, IPBN member company Global Shares, represented by Corporate Communication Manager Aisling Riordan, detailed their experience in opening a new office in Porto this year in the UPTEC building - Science and Technology Park of the University of Porto and how their recruitment process, targeting at least 80 people working in the field of Information Technology has gone thus far. The company is responsible for managing employee stock plans for startups, tech unicorns, and some of the world's biggest corporate brands. Aisling said that in Porto, “access to a highly qualified workforce, a thriving scene in the fintech area, and quality of life” were major deciding factors for the company to choose Porto as a home away from home.
Next, Porto City Council's Director of Economy took part in a panel moderated by IPBN board member Aoife Healy aside Global Shares' Aisling Riordan, and Philomène Dias, Director of Inward Investment at AICEP Portugal Global - Portugal's Agency for Investment and Foreign Trade. The panel discussed the predetermined theme, “Doing Business & Investing in Porto."
In response to how these figures can each help companies interested in opening offices in Porto, Philomène said, “The first stage is to provide useful information to look at the market…We provide information on the talent they are looking for, the competition…in Portugal,…organize a site visit program…[and] visits with HR companies, lawyers, real estate companies,… and local universities. Our experience never stops.” Rui Monteiro said, from the City’s perspective, “We can provide specific information that is important to the company’s business plan…Each company is different from the other so we can have a tailor-made approach…and give full support during that journey…We connect people…and put investors in the center of the ecosystem.” Aisling mentioned that Porto “ticks all the boxes. The greatest impression for me is this driving proactive scene that is very innovative…That for me is huge.”
IPBN member companies Musicmaker, Vitae Professionals, and Craftable Software concluded the conference by presenting their own case studies taken from their experiences in owning and operating businesses in Porto as an award-winning Irish company in the area of music and events, a healthcare recruitment company, and a software firm respectively.
John Paul Prior has been the manager of Musicmaker for about 15 years. Since moving to Porto recently, he became aware of instruments made locally in Portugal. Now, he says, “Product that would otherwise have been bought in China we started buying here from Braga. We’ll probably do in excess of about 30,000€ worth of Portuguese instruments this year and we hope to expand that.” So how and why Porto? Two words: Novo mundo. Managing from afar for the last 18 months, he has been delegating responsibility, passion, and leadership to the shop in Dublin from afar. “The reality of working remotely is that…trust is key. The second element is that the IT infrastructure is in place.” Porto is an amazing city. Eighteen months ago I would have been sitting in a car in traffic on my way to work, listening to Calm mindfulness apps, but now I have this. It’s sunny, I have the ocean crashing in front of me, I’m going to walk along the Douro, beside these amazing bridges, I’m gonna go to work really focused, and then I’m going to watch a champions league game in Dragão…It’s a life-work balance when you’re in Porto…and a lot of people who are remote workers are going to being an awful lot to the city too.”
Nuno Pinto from Vitae Professionals, a healthcare equipment company based in Portugal with offices in Porto. Born here and having lived in the UK for 10 years, Nuno returned to his hometown knowing that the city was the right one for him. The company has been recruiting across the world, expanding its search to Ireland post-Brexit, and placing its healthcare professionals in hospitals on a worldwide scale. “Living in Porto…it’s safe and welcoming…the schools are known for their sociology, HR, … and nursing degrees, and we can easily attract people from across the world to live here in Porto.”
Managing Director of Craftable Software Helder Soares described his company as an answer to keeping highly trained IT professionals at work with a purpose, as a software house that builds teams to be the arms of the company. We build a team and put that team on the company…Ideally for every customer, we want to be an extension to our partners…So why Porto? Portugal has some really good universities…to get the job done…with good English, Spanish, and German levels…and the city has all the parks that you need to maintain talent with a good work-life balance…Porto people don’t live for the day, we tend to build long-lasting relationships.” Lastly, Helder reviewed the Portuguese connection to Ireland, citing the pleasant drive along Ireland’s famous ring road (the longest coastal road in the world) as the journey in Portugal that Craftable Software wants to provide.
Perhaps the famous Porto francesinha can help with that process!
Following our annual St. Patrick’s Day Sustainability conference, the IPBN was led on an exclusive tour of the Hub Criativo do Beato in Lisbon and Ombria resort grounds in the Algarve to do a deep dive into what these projects are offering toward a greener future and what steps they have taken to ensure sustainability stays a number-one priority.
Following the IPBN’s Blue Economy Conference in Sep 2021, there have been many milestone achievements worth mentioning. However, steps in the right direction need to be made more quickly and more often as alarming climate disasters continue to ravage the planet.