On the occasion of Porto Social Summit, EIB President Werner Hoyer, accompanied by Vice-President Felix Mourinho, visited Portugal’s first regional social innovation incubator, IRIS, to see how the EIB Institute  is supporting regional development through social innovation and helping Portuguese impact start-ups to expand.

Based in Porto and headed by Liliana Ribeiro, this pilot European project is a major player in the development of the ecosystem for social innovation in Portugal. Some 30 start-ups have already benefited from the incubator’s services. In addition, every year, 10 to 12 high-impact initiatives are selected for a six-month competitive Acceleration Programme.

During the visit, President Hoyer and VP Mourinho Félix listened to four interesting and inspiring presentations from the representatives of start-ups benefiting from the services offered by IRIS. These companies provide innovative social services and solutions to neglected problems, like upgrading abandoned urban areas, supporting unpaid caregivers as well as connecting young people with older generations.

“IRIS experience shows the potential for regional development through social innovation”, says Liliana Ribeiro. “Our work can be replicated in other European areas suffering from desindustrialisation, where social innovation, is fundamental for economic development and social cohesion but would not emerge naturally without a nudge”.

IRIS offers existing and new social entrepreneurs and social innovators the tools to drive and scale their impact with incubation and acceleration activities Innovation (Grow Innovation). It also contributes to the establishment and development of the regional ecosystem of social innovation both in the short run,  with a Community programme called Start Innovation, and in the long run with an Education programme called Begin Innovation. IRIS also provides synergies and complementarities with the growing community of social entrepreneurs supported by the Institute, the Social Innovation Tournament Alumni.

The Porto Social Summit is hosted by the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the European Union and aimed at setting the European agenda for the next decade, facing the challenges of the present and the future leaving no one behind.