Joana Mendonça holds a PhD in Engineering and Industrial Management at Instituto Superior Tecnico at the Technical University of Lisbon, with a dissertation on "The Impact of Knowledge Creation and Accessibility on Entrepreneurial Activities". She has completed her Master in Engineering Policy and Management of Technology, with the dissertation "Determinants of Innovation in the Portuguese Chemical Industry". She has a Diploma in Chemistry from the Lisbon University. She was Deputy director for the science, technology and higher education statistics in 2010-2012. In 2009-2010 she was an assistant to the secretary of state for Science, Technology and Higher Education, Manuel Heitor.
She has been a researcher at IN+, the Center for Innovation, Technology and Policy Research at IST since 2002. Her research has focused on innovation processes, and new business creation, especially in human capital aspects on innovation and entrepreneurial activities. During her PhD she was awarded a best presentation "Impact of Universities in Entrepreneurial activity" at the Technology Management and Policy Consortium 2008. In 2008 she was a visiting researcher at the ZEW in the "Industrial Economics and International Management" Research Unit.
In 2001-2002 she was a junior researcher at the Instituto Tecnológico e Nuclear where her research focused on Solid State Chemistry. She made her diploma thesis at Bern University, Switzerland on Vitamin B12 Derivatives.