In Portugal, awareness about social entrepreneurship is rising despite a clear lack of systematic supporting structures dedicated to social business. Although the number of incubators being set up in the country is increasing, this growth essentially concerns business incubators without a primary social component. This is the gap that the EIB Institute is addressing with IRIS, the Regional Social Innovation Incubator pilot project, located in Amarante in the Tâmega and Sousa region in the north of Portugal.
IRIS was launched in April 2017 in partnership with PortusPark, a leading Portuguese network of incubators and science and technology parks, involving other strategic partners such as the Municipality of Amarante and the Intermunicipal Community of Tâmega and Sousa (including 11 municipalities). It receives EU funds under the Portugal 2020 programme.
The social incubator’s objective is to strengthen the nascent Portuguese social entrepreneurship ecosystem by providing social start-ups with a supportive and enabling environment and tools, so that they can benefit from social investment opportunities, networks, partnerships, knowledge and information. At the same time, IRIS supports the development of one of the less developed regions in Portugal and will be fundamental in turning Amarante and the Tâmega and Sousa region into an EU benchmark for starting up, testing and growing new social entrepreneurship initiatives.
IRIS also provides synergies and complementarities with the growing European community of social entrepreneurs supported by the Institute through the Social Innovation Tournament by hosting an EIB Institute-financed residency for selected social innovation laureates and by being one of the hosts of the tournament’s annual Impact Bootcamp, to be attended by a mix of past successful participants from SIT projects and Portuguese entrepreneurs.