A 4-Week Program Changed Portugal’s Research Ecosystem

Portugal faced a challenge: turning research into startups and spinoffs to drive economic growth and innovation. The “From Portugal to the World: Innovation-to-Business Journey” program addressed this need.

The Challenge: Moving from Research to Market

Portuguese research institutions produced high-quality work but struggled to commercialize it. The UT-Austin Portugal Program, in partnership with the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT), recognized that researchers needed entrepreneurial skills to create market-ready products and services from their innovations. They reached out to Actionworks and we set about designing a program to meet their needs.

The Approach: Practical Entrepreneurship Education

We created a program focused on the realities of launching a business:

  1. Format: Four 3-hour virtual sessions over four weeks.
  2. Content: Lessons linked directly to steps for advancing business ideas.
  3. Leadership: Sessions run by experienced entrepreneurs.
  4. Learning Style: Participants engaged in hands-on activities, from group ideation and feedback to prototype teardowns to investor outreach and negotiation training.

Program Components

  • Entrepreneurial Thinking: Researchers learned to prioritize action and customer needs in their approach.
  • Market Testing: Participants practiced quick testing and refinement of their concepts based on feedback
  • Market Evaluation: Researchers learned methods for identifying and measuring their target markets.
  • Business Strategies: The program used learning by doing to equip participants to implement revenue models and pricing approaches for research-based startups.
  • Communication Skills: Participants improved their ability to explain complex ideas to investors and partners.


  • New Startups: Within four weeks, 15 founders iterated research-backed ideas into nascent ventures
  • New Funding: Participants used their skills to spin out a secure early-stage funding.
  • Industry Connections: Participants connected with industry leaders and learned how to create collaborations.
  • Increased Confidence: All participants reported feeling more capable in entrepreneurial tasks.
  • Participant Satisfaction: 100% of participants would recommend the course to others, with an estimated Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 9-10.
  • Real-World Application: 100% of participants agreed that instructors related the subject matter to real-world examples and problems.

Partnership with Texas Engineering Executive Education

This program benefited from a partnership with Texas Engineering Executive Education (TxEEE) at the University of Texas at Austin. TxEEE brought its expertise in professional development for engineers and technology professionals to the table, enhancing the program’s credibility and value.

Key aspects of this partnership included:

  1. Curriculum Input: TxEEE provided insights on structuring the program to meet high standards of executive education.
  2. Certificate of Completion: Participants received a certificate from TxEEE upon finishing the program. This certificate adds weight to participants’ professional credentials and demonstrates their commitment to entrepreneurial skills development.
  3. Global Perspective: The involvement of TxEEE introduced participants to international perspectives on technology entrepreneurship, broadening their outlook beyond the Portuguese ecosystem.
  4. Network Expansion: The partnership opened doors for participants to connect with the broader UT Austin network, potentially leading to future collaborations or opportunities.

The TxEEE certificate serves as tangible proof of the skills acquired during the program, which participants can use to bolster their credibility when seeking funding, partnerships, or support for their entrepreneurial ventures.

Participant Experience

“We became connected. It was a great group! I have never taken a class like this before where I worked with entrepreneurial researchers!”
—Sonia H.M. Marques

“My favorite module was How Entrepreneurs Take Notes. I appreciated seeing the American-flavored approach to taking your business international. A very powerful and interesting experience for me.”
—Hugo Oliveira

“I had already participated in other entrepreneurial programs but this was the best I’ve ever done. I regularly cancelled meetings to come to attend this program.”
—Anonymous Participant

Program Instructors


4x founder Cam has designed and scaled virtual programs to 20,000 entrepreneurs, researchers, and leaders in 30 countries across five continents.

His work with universities, corporations, and governments builds capacities around capital readiness, fundraising, and international scaling.

Alumni of his programs have been accepted to Y Combinator and Techstars, raised $187 million in investment, and achieved exits to Google and Etsy.


Mitch serves as an Independent Board Member of Inspire Semiconductor, Inc., a Toronto Stock Exchange listed company and Vitro Technology Corporation, an Austin based cyber security company. 

For the past 15 years Mitch has been the Executive Director of Innovation & Entrepreneurship at the University of Texas at Austin with responsibilities for leading the Austin Technology Incubator, the UT Austin Blackstone LaunchPad and the National Science Foundation I-Corps Southwest Node. He is an active angel investor and founded one of the first Angel Groups in 1999.

Benefits for Research Funding Organizations

This program offers research funders a way to:

  1. Expand the economic effects of their funding
  2. Promote innovation and entrepreneurship in academic settings
  3. Connect scientific discoveries with market needs
  4. Attract researchers by offering paths to entrepreneurship

Adapting the Program

This program was an outsized success; part two—focused on more rigorous venture development—will commence in 2025.

This was our third international program focused on researcher entrepreneurship. The first served PhDs at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia and the second focused on researchers with Climate Change AI at their Montreal gathering.

Are you part of an organization that needs to equip researchers with entrepreneurial and business skills? Are you charged with supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs in your community? Contact us and let’s talk.