“In a conversation with Oeiras Valley, Ambassador António Martins da Cruz, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Oeiras Valley Investment Agency (OVIA), spoke about the agency’s efforts in recent years to attract investment to the municipality and shared his thoughts on Oeiras Valley’s present and future.
A Portuguese politician and diplomat, he also represented Portugal as Ambassador to NATO, the WEU and in Spain. He was Minister of Foreign Affairs and holds a law degree from the University of Lisbon and a degree in European Studies and Community Law from the University of Geneva.
What is your assessment of OVIA’s first few years?
The Oeiras Valley Investment Agency was created a year and a half ago. What have we attempted to do during this time? In the Municipality of Oeiras, OVIA is an expression of its economic diplomacy, it is a completely private agency, a non-profit association. In agreement with the Oeiras City Council and specifically with its president, Mr. Isaltino Morais, OVIA was created to attract investment, especially foreign, but also national, to the municipality. In other words, we don’t want to bring in industrial investment. Truthfully, there’s not even space in Oeiras for that and it isn’t the municipality’s calling. We would rather bring in technological investment and innovation, such as the six technology and business parks that already exist in the municipality.
Our mission is to try and attract investment within these parameters, highlighting some important elements, such as the location of the Municipality of Oeiras, its quality of life characteristics – which is very important – the parks, the gardens, the seafront, and education. In Oeiras we have international schools, several universities and technical institutes, which sets us apart from other municipalities when it comes to the quality of life. We are thus trying to express the excellence of the municipality for this type of investment.
What about the Oeiras Valley project?
Oeiras Valley is basically a philosophy of life, with quality, supported in these technological innovation projects, in education and in culture. And in all of this, Oeiras wants to be different from other municipalities, but without getting into any confrontation.
Oeiras has its plan and it’s sticking to it. Especially in these domains. The Oeiras Valley concept implies all of this and it begins precisely with quality of life. At the moment, other municipalities are unlikely to compare in this regard, due to the location, the strategic importance of the investments that have been made there, and the people who live there. For example, Oeiras is the only municipality in the country where, if a student finishes high school and the family hasn’t got the means to pay for their university studies, the municipality pays for it, which is something extraordinary on a national level. On the one hand, because it’s the only municipality that does it, but then, on the other hand, because it’s a statement of how much Oeiras values quality of life through education and teaching, obviously following innovation and technology.
How do you analyze the municipality’s investment in science, technology and education from a strategic point of view?
This choice for science, technology, innovation and education was made by Mr. Isaltino Morais many years ago, when he first took over as Mayor of Oeiras, and it has been a constant over the last 20 years.
Oeiras can’t compete with other municipalities where there is a huge industrial concentration, so it rightly decided to specialize in this type of investment: technology parks, innovation, education and quality of life.
We are going through an evolution in the Portuguese economy. Thirty years ago, it was generally dedicated to exports, mainly of products that weren’t very elaborate. Textiles, footwear and all the other products that Portugal used to produce have been overtaken by other continents, especially Asia, with globalization. Portugal had to increasingly specialize in something which Oeiras succeeded in ahead of everyone else. That is, innovation, technology, education – the key elements that attract investment at the moment. Hence the success we have had when introducing Oeiras abroad.
What ongoing investments does OVIA have?
Our focus has been very clear. What have we been trying to do? Attract foreign investment to Oeiras. What do we do? We meet with groups of businesspeople who come to Portugal.
In the last two or three months, we’ve had meetings with more than forty Indian investors who have come to Portugal in search for a place where to invest. We’ve also carried out missions abroad. For example, for three days, we had a meeting in London with twelve or thirteen investment funds, one of which has already expressed an interest in a concrete investment. We have an ongoing dialog to discuss this potential opportunity which amounts to around EUR 140 or 150 million.
We carried out a mission as part of an Oeiras City Council delegation to China, where we spent six days, specifically in Beijing, meeting with various Chinese technology companies that are interested in coming to Portugal.
We also accompanied a very important project, which is perhaps the largest real estate investment in Oeiras. We are talking about around EUR 400 million invested by a Chinese group with a Portuguese group, Teixeira Duarte, which also has its headquarters in Oeiras. The project aims to build a technology park, in principle for any company, but preferably for Chinese companies, and also nine residential buildings.
We do two things, essentially. Introduce Oeiras to investors, investment funds and companies. And then monitor the process of those who are interested in investing in Oeiras. According to information from Mr. Francisco Rocha Gonçalves, Deputy Mayor of Oeiras, at the moment there are plans to invest around EUR 2 billion in the municipality, which is very important.
In addition, we have to bear in mind that Oeiras currently has a Financial District – two of the four largest Portuguese banks are there. One has been there for a long time and the other will settle there in the next few months. We now have a Media City, where the two private television networks in Portugal have their spots and are to be joined by several newspapers and an important media group in the coming months.
All of this gives us the density and volume to attract investment. Again, what do we do? We are a fast track to speed up investments in Oeiras, if possible and in compliance with the law, presenting the opportunities and following the entire path that leads to the investment coming to fruition, whether it has been brought in by us or by some company.
On the other hand, the second part of our mission is to internationalize the companies that are in Oeiras. When we go abroad, we always either take with us associates from the agency or, in the presentation we make, we add the presentations of companies that are already in the municipality and which express an interest in us promoting their work. These are the main parameters of our action.”