Q: What are some of Lisbon’s most exciting trends and specialisms, particularly in the tech scene?
A: Lisbon is today a city of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship, which actively promotes the creation of networks, experimental spaces and co-creation. It is a living lab in which public entities, businesses, universities, research centres, technological institutes and citizens collaborate in areas such as AI, augmented reality, virtual reality, social innovation and robotics. To foster this, we have innovative and vibrant spaces such as Startup Lisbon, NOW, Idea Hub, Village Underground, LACs, Beta-I and Casa do Impacto, to name just a few.
Q: Are there any incentives you will be launching to attract foreign talent and capital to Lisbon's tech scene?
A: The city and national government have maintained and reinforced the support of the start-up ecosystem (for example, with Startup Lisbon and Startup Portugal), which we combine with new tools such as TechVoucher and TechVisa to promote the attraction of more skills to the city and to the country.
It is not only the number of international companies that is growing and expanding in the city. In 2018 the number of foreign residents in the city grew 25% and the number of international students enrolled in city universities increased by 11%, showing an acceleration in the growth trend that started after 2014.
Q: What is your solution to making Lisbon’s housing market more affordable, improving transport, and encouraging the growth of venture capital in the city?
A: We are promoting a big programme of affordable rents. This was launched to make available thousands of affordable housing units in 15 different locations inside Lisbon, combining public and private investment. We are also working closely with the national government to use government-owned buildings for this programme, and to increase the number of student residences to increase housing availability and lower prices.
At the same time, Lisbon has integrated the bus company Carris in the municipality, and is investing in the renewal of its fleet. This has triggered multiple changes to the public transport system, namely introducing a single ticket with access to all the metropolitan area for bus, tram, train and boats. It has also seen the implementation of a family pass that enables all family members to access public transport for a maximum of €80 per month in the metropolitan area and €60 inside Lisbon. An individual pays €40 in the metropolitan area and €30 inside Lisbon.
In parallel, we are encouraging the use of shared mobility and cycling. In the past two years, bike lanes in Lisbon have grown by one-third and the city has embraced the goal of achieving 200 kilometres of bike lanes by 2021 as part of the European Green Capital commitment. This, aligned with the public investment on a network of 1400 public bicycles, supported by 140 charging stations, is promoting soft mobility as a true alternative and it has triggered private investments in bicycles, kick-scooters and electrical scooters, with there now being more than 6000 shared vehicles.
Like any early-stage entrepreneurial ecosystem, Lisbon faces the challenge of access to venture capital, an issue that is usually only ‘solved’ in bigger and more mature ecosystems. But Lisbon has some specific characteristics regarding global start-up connectivity that allow us to address that issue at this early stage, and therefore attract more venture capitalists and business angels to our local ecosystem.
Q: How do you expect the recently passed Portuguese legislative elections to affect Lisbon’s tech scene and foreign investment climate more generally?
A: We don’t expect to make changes in policies regarding support to entrepreneurs. The polices followed are accepted between the centre parties and we believe that they will continue to be implemented and reinforced in the future.