Jofebar is a company whose work I highly regard. It was established as a blacksmiths, and in 2008 launched a highly innovative solution for window frames. Today, 80% of its business is abroad, with a presence in 24 countries with local partners in most cases.
A very important step was taken in 2011 with the integration of a glass processing company, and the verticalisation of its business, increasing the creation of value.
Jofebar’s work often involves not only supplying and installing frames, but also dealing more broadly with blacksmithing and metal coatings. In the course of its development, Jofebar has combined two key aspects to its success as a company in the global market. On the one hand, active internationalisation; on the other, constant innovation and adding value. Active internationalisation occurs when a company controls overseas value-generating activities, be they production units or sales outlets. Partnerships with local groups can greatly help in gaining footholds in new markets. Internationalisation is of the utmost importance when it comes to a company that is active in mature domestic markets, with permanently increasing competition. On the other hand, economic globalisation of production and markets is an additional challenge for a company with a winning project. It is, therefore, necessary to seek to control a growing share of the added value, ensuring direct and faster access to new customers and markets, better capturing all the information about their behaviour. As the presence in a particular foreign market increases, it is fundamental to bring the operational base of a company closer to its own distribution, and even production, base. This was, indeed, the path followed by many of our innovative SME’s, as was and is the case of Jofebar. But in the process of internationalisation, a strong position must first be achieved in a particular market, and only then internationalise.
For internationalisation to succeed, it is very important to position the brand and have local partners, where available, to facilitate penetration in distribution channels. Brand awareness is an important asset, facilitating marketing. Business integration, driven by stable alliances and/or specific projects, will be the new driver for the deepening of bilateral relations and a factor in building a rich but complex web of international and intersectorial cross interests. The acquisition of a local company can enable this to be done quicker than others do. Finding a suitable target, at a reasonable price, is therefore a challenge of paramount importance. Another key element is to appoint managers with international experience, able to work in different cultural environments. The spectacular rebalancing of our balance of current payments owes much to the talent of numerous exporting SMEs, such as Jofebar, providing market share gains in key foreign markets and contributing decisively to the export to GDP ratio going up from 27% in 2009 to over 40% in 2015, and now approaching the average values of the European Union and in particular the Euro-zone countries.
As for the attitude of Jofebar towards the scaling up of the research and development process and its conversion into economic value through innovation, we should recall the successful path taken by Portugal from the beginning of the century. The role of the universities in this success was crucial because the majority of the entities responsible for the developments made depended directly or indirectly on them. Indeed, Portugal has launched the most advanced training programme to date, particularly in the areas of science and technology. It should be recalled that our evolution has been remarkable, especially in the first decade of this century. Between 2005 and 2009, Portugal was the EU country with the highest growth rate in R&D intensity as a percentage of GDP. In 5 years we had an increase of over 110%, whereas the European Union grew on average by 10%. R&D in Portugal today is closer to the EU average; we only need to remember that in 2000, Portugal’s record in this area was only about 35% of the European Union, but today it is nearer 65%. Since 2010, investment in R&D as a percentage of GDP has steadily declined, falling from more than 1.6% to less than 1.3%. It is important to adopt policies that once again approach the average EU values with regard to our research capacity and increase our knowledge transfer capacity, in which our deficit is still undeniable. We have greatly increased our research capacity, but our capacity to convert the knowledge generated into economic value still lags behind, which is a natural phase in a process of this nature. Increasing the proportion of researchers working in businesses or companies has to be a priority concern. The percentage of researchers per thousand active population in Portugal is higher than the EU average at 28. However, the percentage of researchers working in businesses and companies, measured in full-time, is around 20%, whereas the European Union average is about 50%, and in more advanced countries such as the United States, it is 80%.
The challenge facing Portugal involves encouraging research and innovation, as these are the decisive policies in the reduction of inequality. If Portugal wants to pursue its ambition to strengthen its competitiveness, it has to stimulate and support the increased effort in R&D. Public policies have to value the work of researchers in and for companies, and this needs to be reflected in their careers. We all have to be mobilised collectively, within a long-term strategy to transform our country into a more modern, more innovative and more just society. Never in our history have we had a generation so close to the most advanced European countries. None of us will forgive a failure. Our route to India, in the 21st century, must be travelled hand in hand with Science and Business, just as happened in the time of the Discoveries. In the 16th century, Science was embodied by the Nautical School of Sagres, where remarkable knowledge was generated and the information collected was processed to make the planning of new discoveries possible. Today, the role of those navigators falls on our businessmen and women.