What are the trends and opportunities for business ventures in 2021?

Portugal Ventures spoke with four of its Ignition Partners to find out what they believe are the key trends and business opportunities for next year. Their insight is invaluable, but the pathway is only for those who show resilience and perseverance.

Read the outlooks of Jorge Pimenta (Pedro Nunes Institute), Hugo Valadas (Pact), Eduardo Costa (PCI Aveiro) and Luís Rodrigues (Startup Braga) here.


According to Jorge Pimenta, Project Manager at the Pedro Nunes Institute, “the technological transition of many sectors is taking place at a rapid pace due to the inevitable digital transformation. Implementation of  solutions driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) will transform access, data sharing, and distribution, quite literally, to a customer’s door. Sustainability is no longer a goal, it’s a requirement. This crisis has exposed layers of environmental damage that need to urgently be reversed, creating opportunities to rethink logistics chains, product life cycles and sharing/common use platforms. Finally, changes in consumption habits will pave the way to design more immersive and personalised experiences. The need for escape in tourism and leisure, albeit digitized, encourages the creation of digital content, such as eSports, but also wearables/the Internet of Bodies (IoB) which open up a world of possibilities for engagement.

Hugo Valadas, PACT New Business Development, states that “most tourism destinations around the world went from overtourism to no tourism at all overnight”. As a result, the quality of life of inhabitants has improved: less pollution, much less litter and waste, cleaner coastlines and waterways. It is too soon to tell what will happen in the future, but when tourism finally picks up again tourists will find that what were once temporary measures will be a permanent requirement: limited contact, more sanitisation, temperature screenings and physical distancing. Not to mention the compulsory wearing of masks on board aircraft and in airports. Smart tourists will feel safer choosing destinations with good governance and health services. They will travel less, but stay longer”.

Eduardo Costa, Business Developer at PCI, University of Aveiro Incubator, believes that “the most relevant trend and opportunity in the tourism sector for Portugal will likely be hyperlocal tourism. This unprecedented situation has changed how the Portuguese choose to spend their holidays. Limited movement and travel restrictions have forced the Portuguese to vacation in their own country  and closer to home, in general travelling by car up to 300 km. This is expected to continue until the pandemic is brought under control and all containment measures and travel restrictions are lifted. Trips, as a family or with a small group of close friends, will be shorter to ensure health and safety conditions, and physical distancing”.

Luís Rodrigues, Director of Startup Braga, in turn believes that in 2021 “5G, despite the divisive arguments between the regulatory authority and operators, is expected to see significant advancements in 2021, thereby delivering on its promise to revolutionise different industries, the interconnectivity of all things, and offer efficiency gains and scale in industrial development”. The head of the innovation hub further says that “climate change is fortunately an increasingly cross-cutting concern in society, and will certainly lead to new consumption habits and greater demand at all levels: from corporate sustainability policies to public decision-makers who are increasing expected to design smart city policies. The same concern should also fuel a stronger commitment to science and to the exploitation of different economic resources such as the ocean, space, new materials, water and associated technologies”. He also believes that life sciences and biotech will also come to the fore, “not only because of the constraints imposed by the current pandemic crisis, but also because of the extraordinary opportunity to position Portugal as ‘Europe’s Factory’ in these sectors by developing high value added products, from medicines to medical devices”.


“Crisis breeds opportunity” the maxim that goes hand-in-hand with hope in difficult times, such as those brought on by the pandemic.

According to Jorge Pimenta, the “new business models will leverage these opportunities despite legal constraints, fears and uncertainties. In times of change, companies need to redesign themselves to take advantage of behavioural changes, using technology to tackle the new paradigm: Remote/Digital.”

Hugo Valadas believes that “lower population density areas will see a boost in the local economy with tourist visits. Nearby tourist locations will be promoted. The monitoring of people (temperature screening) in airports, metro stations, museums, stadiums, etc. will be par for the course, so tech-based companies in this sector will benefit. Also in this sector, companies that provide real-time information to travellers, health and safety advice or provide automated check-ins may see opportunities arise. Business meetings, family holidays and leisure activities will tend to increasingly take place in virtual worlds”.

Eduardo Costa says of the opportunities in the tourism sector that “these will centre around the type of consumer offer. What kind of experiences can we offer people who already know the region, know the language, and even know the country, while guaranteeing all levels of public health safety? This question summarises the immediate challenge for restaurants, hotels, lodging, and tour operators in general. They all need to understand this new tourist profile and design an offer that will entice them and thus enhance the value to ‘their country’, while balancing business needs with customer expectations”.

“Digital medicine and other technologies that tackle population ageing and isolation” are areas that Luís Rodrigues believes will offer new business opportunities. New materials and products, in line with the goal of sustainability and a circular economy, will also be worth exploring next year, along with the digitalization of public services and the development of solutions to mitigate the effects of COVID-19. Luís Rodrigues adds that there is also a market for new mobility solutions, as well as new solutions that address the workplace paradigm shift and the future of labour relations, and stresses the importance of investing in new technologies for the education sector.