Five years after setting up a research and development (R&D) centre in Portugal, which currently employs nearly 600 professionals, Danish giant Vestas plans to reach around “one thousand employees” in five years, thus doubling the current engineering operation installed in a business hub in Matosinhos.
In an interview with ECO, the director of the Vestas Technology Centre Porto (VTCP), Martin Kaasgaard stresses that the new building in Lionesa “is prepared for a third floor, and with the remote working model can accommodate at least a thousand people.”
Despite also having people in other areas, such as procurement, and in support roles, “99%” of the structure is dedicated to developing products and technological services for this Nordic group founded in 1892, which designs, manufactures, installs, develops and maintains wind and hybrid energy projects, adding 157 GW of installed capacity. The Portuguese office, more recent than the Danish and Indian one (opened 15 years ago), is “developing quickly” and is already equivalent to “a third of the company’s brain”.
The VTCP has “hundreds of projects” in different stages of maturity. The largest project in which it is involved is that of the new V236 offshore turbine, which has a “significant portion” of the development in Portugal. And it is mainly in the skills he has established in the offshore area – for example, within the floating offshore, for which he has a dedicated team – that Martin Kaasgaard’s confidence is based. This is also where Vestas’ global portfolio has grown the most.
“Our growth is very much linked to offshore. In forecasts about the growth of this industry, the most pessimistic scenario points to a doubling in size by the end of the decade. If all politicians keep their promises, it will be much bigger. (…) Vestas dominates about 40% of the world market in this area, which means we expect to at least maintain that percentage – and we have the ambition to outgrow the market. That is the basis for the company’s growth in terms of production and people,” he expects.
In office since August 2021, Martin Kaasgaard said the group “has no plans” to move forward with a factory in Portugal but added that “if it wants to establish an industrial base, it will probably do so with partners who have the right skills and mentality”. On the other hand, he identifies and regrets the country’s delay in wind energy.
“If you think about the projects we can have here, it reminds me of what happened in Denmark 20 years ago. The maturity of the wind industry here is probably that. So there is a lot of potential, and we want to help build that industry in Portugal. Of course, there are very talented companies [in the energy sector] in the field, but they are not getting a background in wind energy. We hope to collaborate on that, and we can help to convert to green energies,” he sums up.
No regrets and opportunities
With more than 29,000 employees globally, Vestas is the 98th European company that invests the most in R&D activities, according to the EU R&D Scoreboard 2021. Martin Kaasgaard says it is difficult to calculate the euros already applied in Portugal – “with the salary level in engineering, that is our biggest investment, in people and training” – but he is sure he has no regrets about coming to Portugal. “I am still impressed every day with the level of qualified people we have here, with the commitment and eagerness they have, and with the quality of the engineering work that is carried out here,” he stresses.