Life Sciences sector in Portugal

While the Portuguese National Healthcare System (SNS) faces major restructuring, opportunities arise for suppliers of cost saving solutions, with local players very open to international partnerships.

Market overview

Life Sciences / Healthcare have been having a growing importance in Portugal’s economy. For instance, exports of pharmaceutical products and medical devices have grown from €335 million in 2005 up to €730 million in 2011. If we consider medical, personalised medicine and Ambient Assisted Living services exports total more than €1 billion.

25% of national research funds go to Life Sciences and related fields. R&D based companies, namely biotechnology ones, have known a boom during the last decade that was not sustained as they were relying on state controlled venture capital only. A reform of state venture capital provision (€600 million) has enabled the launch of a new fund to support start-ups.

Companies, academia, R&D, and Government bodies are part of the Health Cluster Portugal, established in 2008. Currently approx. 130 members are part of it embracing the whole spectrum of life sciences in the country. Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies had a turnover of 1.25 billion Euros in 2011, while medical devices and services accounted for 570 million.

Public and private healthcare providers are trying to integrate their offer looking at attracting more and more medical tourism to Portugal. The Health Cluster and relevant Government bodies are working with these players aiming at establishing a single Portuguese offer in this area. Within Europe the UK is one of the main target markets for this given the number of British citizens residing in the country and visiting every year.

Champalimaud Foundation – Following the €500 million inherited from the Portuguese entrepreneur António Champalimaud, the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown was officially opened in October 2010. It’s a medical research centre that put Lisbon at the forefront of advances against cancer as well as in neuroscience.

Key opportunities

UK expertise in life sciences is highly regarded in Portugal with local players very open to international partnerships and R&D collaborations.

While the Portuguese Government implements measures aimed at the sustainability of the National Healthcare System (SNS), opportunities arise for suppliers of cost saving solutions, such as:

  • technologies and medical devices

  • personalised medicine

  • assisted living

There are many links with British companies, universities, and R&D institutions. It is common to find PhD’s who got their degrees in the UK running their businesses in areas like biotechnology. With a focus on oncology, and to some extent also neuroscience, the Champalimaud Foundation is at the forefront of R&D in the country.

Platform to Angola

Portuguese distributors of medical devices and other ranges of healthcare products are selling into Angola (2nd market for Portuguese healthcare exports – 16.6%) and relevant British suppliers may step into the African market using this route. This also offers training opportunities as staff in Angola need to get familiar with the use of new technologies and devices.

Pharmaceutical companies are also more and more active in Angola and trying to persuade the country to adopt relevant regulation based on the Portuguese issued by INFARMED.

Angola is also a target market as Portugal tries to integrate its medical tourism offer. Besides, Brazil and Mozambique as other Portuguese speaking markets can also be in the horizon when partnering with a Portuguese company as this may be active in one or more of those countries.

Latest export opportunities – Life Sciences

Latest export opportunities – Portugal

Getting into the market

Public procurement is a key route into the Portuguese public healthcare system. A local partner / distributor will be essential for a UK company looking at bidding within relevant tenders. It will also be important to supply private healthcare players as he can keep regular contact with customers.

Moreover, when appointing a local partner a British company should bear in mind the possibility of using an agreement with a Portuguese company to supply other Portuguese speaking markets, such as Angola, Brazil, and Mozambique.

More about doing business in Portugal


Market intelligence is critical when doing business overseas, and UKTI can provide bespoke market research and support during overseas visits though our chargeable Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS).

To commission research or for general advice about the market, get in touch with our specialists in country – or contact your local international trade team.

  • Paulo Coimbra, British Embassy Lisbon. Tel: +351 21 392 4058 or email: [email protected]

  • Cláudia Luís, British Embassy Lisbon. Tel: +351 21 392 4059 or email: [email protected].

Contact your local international trade team

UKTI Events

UKTI runs a range of events for exporters, including seminars in the UK, trade missions to overseas markets and support for attendance at overseas trade shows.

Latest events – Life Sciences

Useful links

More about OMIS and other UKTI services for exporters

Sectors: Science
Countries: Portugal
Export Action Plan