Sponsored Feature

Why the HQA Visa Program is Quickly Gaining Momentum

Empowered Startups
IMI Official Partner


Though the elected government in Portugal has changed in recent months, politicians from all parties agree on several pillars that are integral to the country’s future prosperity.

For Portugal to grow and flourish in the years to come, a combination of investment, innovation, and opportunity must be part of the formula.

The benefits of investment are wide-ranging and include job creation, infrastructure development, and an increase in productive capacity for the economy.

Investing in research and development directly correlates to increased innovation, enhancing economic activity, health care outcomes, and public services while attracting further direct foreign investment.

The aforementioned elements also create opportunities for youth through education and skill development, allowing countries to retain young talent that might otherwise relocate for such prospects.      

All of this explains why Empowered Startups’ HQA Visa Program has grown in popularity and continues to gain traction both domestically and internationally.

The HQA Visa Program directly supports each of the pillars that Portugal intends to fortify. Accomplished investors, prominent researchers, and decision-makers at universities and polytechnics have hailed the residency program.

Empowered Startups’ President, Chris Lennon, recently told Portuguese Prime Minister Luís Montenegro that Empowered Startups expects to “bring over 50 million Euros of foreign direct investment” to Portugal over the next few years.

Startups: Catalysts for change

Portugal has a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem that is due in no small part to its vibrant startup community. Every investor in the HQA Visa Program creates a startup venture in Portugal that demonstrates the potential for significant growth.

Speaking at the recent Startup Capital Summit in Coimbra, João Rui Ferreira, Secretary of State for the Economy, stated that startups in Portugal are “great catalysts for change, challenging established conventions, bringing new technologies, transforming, more than the industry, an entire sector or set of sectors, some even with a very traditional basis, but which today are projected to a highly technological future.”

Ferreira explained, “we need a Portugal that is truly interconnected between the different dimensions of the economic and business world, from universities to technological innovation centers and companies.”

Empowered Startups introduces further expertise to Portugal’s economy by finding proven entrepreneurs with a track record of business success who are also keen to invest in startups beyond the ones they create.

 “One of the unique aspects of our HQA Visa Program is that the people we’re bringing to Portugal have the experience and resources to contribute to the entrepreneurial ecosystem in various ways,” explained Lennon.

He pointed out that “many of them are also Angel Investors who are eager to invest in compelling startups. These are accomplished businesspeople looking for attractive investment opportunities, and they are finding them thanks to our expansive Portuguese network and talented team.”

 “Working with Empowered Startups for my HQA Visa was an absolute pleasure. Their expertise and attention to detail made what could have been an overwhelming process smooth and straightforward,” revealed accomplished entrepreneur and investor Çağatay Çivici.

Çivici is a Turkish national who recently signed a research agreement with the University of Beira Interior Medical to improve the detection and diagnosis of abdominal afflictions. “From the initial consultation to the final submission, their team provided invaluable guidance and professional support, ensuring every aspect of my application was meticulously prepared. I highly recommend Empowered Startups for anyone navigating the complexities of the HQA process.”

Innovating through university research

Supporting R&D through higher education institutions is an essential component of the HQA Visa Program, which directs investment from its participants into Portuguese universities and polytechnics.

Such institutions are the backbone of the research environment in Portugal and require proper funding to support the innovative people and relevant technology needed to advance the state-of-the-art in various industries.

Empowered Startups has already grown its partnership network to 15 prominent Portuguese universities and polytechnics, which recognize the numerous advantages the HQA Visa Program offers.

Amílcar Falcão, Rector of the world-renowned University of Coimbra (UC), endorsed the program earlier this year when UC joined the expanding network of partner institutions.

“The agreement with Empowered Startups is another contribution to fulfilling, in the best way, one of the pillars of the University of Coimbra’s mission: the transfer of knowledge to society,” declared Falcão. “We are a leading university with a high number of patents and many projects capable of creating value. And I believe this partnership can bring positive results for all parties.”  

American entrepreneur and investor Vijay Vaidyanathan echoed Falcão’s optimism in May when he initiated his research project with the Polytechnic of Leiria.

Through building startups and accruing technical expertise for the past three decades, Vaidyanathan has experienced the highest levels of technological advancement and was clearly excited by what he witnessed in Portugal.

Vaidyanathan stated, “it was terrific to meet with the incredibly impressive researchers and students at Polytechnic of Leiria and talk about their fascinating applications of AI. I look forward to collaborating with them on new applications. The level of sophistication I’ve observed at European universities and Startup initiatives in these and related areas really should put Silicon Valley on notice!” 

Opportunity for young talent

Not only does the HQA Visa Program facilitate funding for the collaborative endeavors that transnational entrepreneurs and Portuguese researchers will partner on, but it also creates significant opportunities for researchers and students who face local factors that often force them to pursue such roles in other countries.

These projects keep young Portuguese PhD and Master’s students at Portuguese institutions and improve the chances of these talented individuals remaining in Portugal to contribute to the country’s future.

Prime Minister Luís Montenegro has repeatedly stated the importance of retaining such talent. His government recently created measures aimed at reducing the obstacles for young Portuguese people to settle in Portugal. “We need young people Portuguese in Portugal, so that we all have a better future,” Montenegro declared in late May, a message he has reiterated both domestically and abroad.

The HQA Visa Program tangibly supports this initiative, specifically by partnering with universities and polytechnics in several smaller communities throughout Portugal’s interior, where the issue of talent retention has been most evident.

“This reinforces the work we have been doing to put the scientific and technological knowledge produced at our institution at the service of the community through practical, innovative solutions aimed at solving society’s challenges,” asserted Sara Proença, Director of the INOPOL Entrepreneurship Academy of the Polytechnic of Coimbra.

She continued, “we are convinced that the strategic collaboration that we have now begun with Empowered Startups will provide new opportunities for researchers and the academic community of the Polytechnic of Coimbra while also acting as a catalyst for the economic and social development of the region.”

Nuno Almeida, Pro-President of IP Leiria, is equally optimistic. “We expect growth in the transfer of technology and knowledge between academia and industry with a higher potential for internationalization.

The connection with the regional economic environment will generate a myriad of opportunities aligned with the strategic plan 2030.”

The future is bright

Having delivered more than 80 transnational investors to Portugal through its HQA Visa Program, Empowered Startups has directed more than €5 million of direct investment to the country and its higher education research facilities. While the immediate advantages are evident, the future benefits will materialize into even greater rewards for the Western European nation.      

“Empowered Startups has been bringing direct investment to Portugal’s startup ecosystem and higher education institutions for more than half a decade through our HQA Visa Program.

As the program continues to mature and expand throughout the country, the dividends it is bringing to Portugal are growing quickly,” expressed Lennon.

For more information on the HQA Visa Program can be found on Empowered Startups’ website.