Portugal: IAPMEI acknowledges SMEs as drivers of the national economy

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 0094_President of IAPMEI_Miguel Cruz

The ‘PME Excelência’ (SME Excellence) is a recognition of excellence created by the IAPMEI (the Portuguese Agency for Competitiveness and Innovation), in partnership with ‘Turismo de Portugal’ and a group of nine banks, aiming to reward the best entrepreneurial performances within the different sectors of activity. It distinguishes the SMEs that are drivers of the national economy, enhancing their visibility and publicly recognising them.

In line with the ‘Think Small First – a Small Business Act for Europe’ (an instrument of EU 2020), the PME Excelência initiative has honoured 1,845 SMEs (67% more than 2013).

According to Professor Miguel Cruz, the President of IAPMEI, this increase stems mainly from the performance of Portuguese SMEs, in which their growing innovative capacity and market diversification reflect higher levels of competitiveness and internationalisation.

The increase in the number of ‘PME Excelência’ also reveals a strong involvement of the banking sector, enhancing the value and importance of this prize in recognising the quality and soundness of the companies awarded.

Most (60%) ‘excellent’ SMEs are exporters and they employ 38 staff on average. Most are located in the districts of Porto, Lisbon, Aveiro and Braga.  These SMEs are mainly from the industrial sector (36%) but also from the commercial (29%) and tourism sectors (13%), among others.

According to Aquiles de Barros, President of the Board of Directors of Castelbel, a manufacturer of fine toiletry soaps and one of the companies that received a prize, the company reached ‘the best results ever’ in 2013, and the unit established at Castelo da Maia had an ‘unforeseen’ invoicing turnover in 2014. Sales increased by 40%: from €3.8 million to €5.3 million. Their expectation was to reach €4 million.

Apart from the need of enlarging its premises, Castelbel had to reinforce the number of staff by 50%, from 76 at the end of 2013 to 114, by the end of last year.  The number is impressive when compared with the 9 employees hired when the company first launched in 1999.