“Maintaining community spirit is key”: SANJOTEC is on a roll

“Maintaining community spirit is key”: SANJOTEC is on a roll

In conversation with Ana Sampaio, Head of Operations at SANJOTEC – Science & Technology Park of S. João da Madeira, we found out how this 15-year history has transformed the ecosystem.

This content is available in Portuguese.


– How did SANJOTEC come about? What kind of projects do you incubate?

SANJOTEC is a Science and Technology Park focused on supporting entrepreneurship and accelerating technology-based projects. Positioned in a heavily industrial region, it has been creating a business ecosystem linked to Industry 4.0 and the development of new products, and currently has a universe of 50 business projects at different stages of development, the vast majority of which have a strong export component.

The creation of SANJOTEC 15 years ago has helped to support the development of the region and the city of S. João da Madeira, taking advantage of the strongly industrial heritage that resided in the manufacture of hats, footwear and the automobile industry, making it possible to add value and boost the transition from an economic structure based on traditional industries, developing an integrated and complementary ecosystem between these and the technological and creative industries.

SANJOTEC has thus contributed to boosting a competitive industrial cluster, where complementary companies, competitors, suppliers and associated institutions are concentrated, fostering the development of synergies, as well as speeding up the transfer of technology between S&T System units and companies in the region.


– Do you have any areas of specialization?

SANJOTEC focuses on encouraging technology-based business projects, particularly in the areas of Industry 4.0, Robotics, Industrial Automation, Biotechnology, Chemistry, Design and Information Technology, while also supporting projects in the areas of Creative Industries or Social Innovation.

The figures for the companies in this ecosystem have been impressive. Turnover amounted to €67 million in 2023, 72% of which were exports. More than 400 qualified jobs have been created in the region (27% female). It should also be noted that 90% of this universe has higher education, and there is also a strong tendency to recruit foreign employees and attract international talent.


– What does your incubation model consist of?

Sanjotec aims to support startups throughout their different stages of development through specifically developed programs, which can include physical or virtual incubation, depending on the needs of the business projects.

We provide entrepreneurs with essential physical resources, such as workspaces, meeting rooms, training rooms and other equipment, such as the Happiness Room and Reading Corner, but also offers a diverse range of advanced services, mentoring and individualized monitoring of entrepreneurial projects, as well as access to a whole network of established strategic partnerships.

SANJOTEC has also developed CREATECH, a customized training and acceleration program for entrepreneurial projects at different stages. At an early stage, it is aimed at raising awareness, generating talent and supporting the transformation of the idea into a business and subsequent incubation and training in the startup’s early life. At a later stage, this program supports the maturing of startups, enabling them to grow sustainably, in terms of acceleration and internationalization.


– Can you tell us the story of a startup that made a difference in the incubator? And where has incubating with you made a difference?

Fortunately, SANJOTEC has a portfolio of reference companies and success stories, including cases of attracting foreign investment. A good example is CreativeSystems / Sensormatic, a pioneer in the implementation of RFID technology in various sectors, currently the European RFID Competence Center for Johnson Controls Retail Solutions.

The areas are diverse, ranging from sectors in which the region specializes, such as footwear, to other emerging sectors, such as Adventech, a pioneer in the Iberian Peninsula, which creates Industrial Effluent Treatment Units with cutting-edge technology. More recently, there has also been a focus on aerospace, with successful companies such as Spin.Works, which develops structures and actuating mechanisms, guidance systems, navigation and automatic landing on other celestial bodies (Moon, Mars, asteroids).

This growth has been helped by SANJOTEC’s ability over the years not only to increase the added value of the services and resources provided and adapt them to the needs of companies, but also by the creation and ongoing strengthening of a set of partnerships for employability, entrepreneurship and innovation with leading organizations.


– Failure is also part of the journey. What do you learn most from something that didn’t go well?

It’s often difficult for entrepreneurs to accept that their projects don’t achieve the success they hoped for, and even for us, who believe in their potential, to see that many end up not resisting, even though the ideas may initially have a lot of potential and be disruptive. Helping entrepreneurs understand that failure is part of the whole process and helping them find a new direction for their projects is important.

But this also helps us to understand that it is important to provide greater support and to try to invest more and more in better services and resources available to entrepreneurs and adapted not only to their realities, but also to the evolution we see around us.



– What is your incubator’s differentiating factor? In other words, what is it about you that uniquely enhances the success of the startups you incubate?

By providing spaces and responses suited to the needs and stages of development of the companies, this ecosystem is characterized by enabling higher rates of survival and business sustainability, allowing the transition to host areas for maturing companies in the PCT, providing the right environment with strategic proximity to the Traditional, Technological and Creative Industries, and to the entities of the R&I system.

In addition, various actions are promoted to promote entrepreneurship, from interaction and raising awareness of different audiences for entrepreneurship and innovation (young people and university students), to holding meetings between entrepreneurs and entities in the R&I system, getting closer to industry and R&D+i centers, Open Days with initiatives to open up and engage with the community, capacity-building and training initiatives, informal networking events among the community, as well as investment arenas to facilitate access to venture capital with partner entities.


– Community is one of the factors that distinguishes an incubator from an office center. How do you take care of yours and what plans do you have to make it more cohesive and fertile?

Maintaining community spirit is fundamental in incubation structures. We even know that it’s through these interactions between startups that partnerships emerge, and even a lot of learning (even from the mistakes that other colleagues have already made). At the time of COVID and with the adoption of teleworking by many companies, we have seen some difficulties in continuing to foster this spirit, so we have to constantly adapt to realities and challenges.

We have therefore made a strong commitment to fostering more informal meetings to share knowledge and introduce new companies to the community, with initiatives such as the ‘Breakfast Meetings‘ or even ‘SUNTECH‘, which we are holding now in July and where we aim to bring the community together in a relaxed atmosphere with music and cocktail drinks.

We have also recently invested in making new spaces available that provide better conditions for our community, namely new leisure spaces that provide well-being for the community, such as the Happiness Room – which has table football, ping-pong, darts, among others – the Reading & Gambling Corner – with a set of 100 books that are changed every month, in partnership with the city library – and also a Pilates Studio and even a Tech Mums Room. In addition, this year we inaugurated a new Bar – Byte Bistrô – completely refurbished, where we hope it will be a meeting point for the community.


– What are the main challenges for incubation in your specific context?

The entrepreneurial projects supported by SANJOTEC have different profiles and realities, and it is a major challenge to provide a response tailored to their needs. We support and boost business ideas in their embryonic stages, as well as companies in the expansion and growth phase.

In addition, in our context of encouraging technology-based business projects geared towards Industry 4.0, Robotics and Industrial Automation, we can see that there is currently a lack of infrastructure available to host projects, given the needs that this type of company presents in its acceleration phase. There is therefore a need to strengthen and create infrastructures that enable projects of this kind to grow, in particular the installation of laboratories and suitable industrial spaces.


– Do you want to share any news with us? Any events or initiatives that we should all keep on our agenda?

We think it’s important to mention that SANJOTEC has recently invested in developing its green policy and establishing a new, more sustainable positioning – SANJOTEC GREEN+, with the aim of creating a greener Ecosystem, contributing to sustainable development in the environmental, economic and social dimensions. In this context, we have already launched a number of initiatives, such as investing in the well-being component by providing new spaces for companies. We have also invested in water saving, energy saving, installing chargers for electric vehicles, among other measures that will be implemented throughout the year, such as a Circular Entrepreneurship Bootcamp and a Training action in this area. We will also be launching the ‘INnovate My City’ competition in September, which will challenge entrepreneurs to propose solutions to the city’s urban problems and will include a cash prize.



#IncubXdiscoveries is Startup Portugal’s monthly feature that will help you discover Portuguese incubators. What projects they incubate, how they manage their community and what success stories they’ve had and future projects are some of the topics covered in these interviews.

If you’d like to find out more about SANJOTEC, either because you’d like to see your project incubated in this region or because you’d like to establish a partnership, contact the Startup Portugal team at incubadoras@startupportugal.com.

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Startup Portugal Team • July 5, 2024