In a rural town threatened by depopulation, a strong and determined smart territorial innovation strategy, known as the Fundão Innovation Plan, has created an innovation ecosystem that is a reference in Portugal, attracting 16 IT companies, creating 1,000 skilled jobs, generating 80 start-ups, and supporting 250 private investment projects, while investing in R&D and pioneering initiatives in professional retraining and digital skills.


Strong points 

  • Attracting investment and promoting the creation of skilled jobs.
  • Stimulating the innovation ecosystem.
  • Encourage urban regeneration and socio-economic revitalisation of the city centre.
  • Involve the local and regional community, working in partnership.

Key stakeholders 

Cova da Beira Living Lab, certified by the European Network of Living Labs (ENoLL). The consortium consists of public entities, universities, and schools; civic and development; businesses; financial institutions, among others.
On the other hand, collaboration within national and international networks and partnerships has been crucial.


City strategy 

  • Small rural town in Central Portugal facing depopulation and economic decline.
  • Since 2012, implemented the Fundão Innovation Plan to enhance competitiveness, attract investment, and create jobs.
  • Focus on address globalization and digital economy, while preserving traditional sectors as agri-food, industry, tourism.
  • Establishment of a specialized support team, infrastructures, wide range of partners, competitive incentives, mobility programmes, and digital skills promotion.
  • Fundão is a smart, sustainable, and inclusive city, that focuses on its low density and rural dimension.

Results and impacts 

  • Supported 250+ private investment projects (€150M+ investment).
  • Created 1,000+ skilled jobs in information and communication technologies and 1,000+ jobs in traditional sectors.
  • Positive migration balance since 2015, hosting 70+ nationalities.
  • Accelerated 80+ start-ups, with 3 in national top 25.
  • Universal computer programming in public schools


  • Coordinating diverse stakeholders.
  • Sustaining investment in a rural environment.
  • Developing a skilled workforce from a rural population.
  • Integrating new technologies with traditional industries.
  • Ensuring local acceptance of rapid changes.

Enabling conditions 

  • Strong leadership and strategic vision.
  • Comprehensive innovation ecosystem.
  • Strategic partnerships and networks.
  • Investment in education and retraining.
  • Economic diversification.
  • Community engagement and urban regeneration.

Transfer tips

  • Leverage city's strengths to attract investment and innovation.
  • Invest in education and training for new industries.
  • Build strong partnerships.
  • Keep community central to development plans.
  • Recognize transformation as a long-term, flexible process.

Similar content