Poland Poland: Research and Innovation Market

Author / Editor: Andrzej Ostrowski / Lisa Saller, Lisa Saller

A more than twenty years' period of economic growth seems to indicate that Polish entrepreneurs are competitive enough on the domestic market and well acquainted with the realities of global markets.

Laser Sensing Laboratory in Wroclaw Research Centre EIT+
Laser Sensing Laboratory in Wroclaw Research Centre EIT+
(Photo: EIT+)

The fact is that it was possible to date mostly owing to using the so-called simple resources - in particular low labour costs, the influence of which is markedly diminishing at the current stage of Poland's development. Therefore, opportunities of further GDP growth should be sought mostly in popularising knowledge and information based economy as the most reliable source of competitiveness.

The Polish Science

There are around 960 entities in Poland with various formal and legal statuses that engage in research and development. The vast majority of these entities are classified in the inferior categories B and C by the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education, which means that their creative powers - also concerning solutions that can be profitable - are seriously limited. There are only 45 highest value entities in Poland that are ranked in the category A+, which means they can boast achievements on the European or even global scale.

Therefore, a rather large group of entrepreneurs decided to build their own R+D departments. The number of modern service centres is steadily increasing and most often they are related to foreign companies, many of which also engage in innovation and R&D activities. Experts of the the Polish Information and Foreign Investment Agency (PAIiIZ) estimate that there is more than 500 such centres active in Poland, at least 180 of which implement R+D+I projects, mostly for the information and telecommunications, automotive, chemical, aviation and food sectors.

The Polish Innovation

The Polish economy has entered the path of knowledge and innovation based development to a limited extent only so far, which is confirmed by Poland's rather distant places in world innovation rankings. Of course, there are some explicit positive changes, including, primarily, the increasing expenditure on research and development that amounted to 16.2 billion PLN (around 4 billion EUR) in 2014 which is 11% more compared to the level of 2012 and 2013 and as much as 44% more than in 2009. This resulted in increasing the proportion of such costs in GDP from 0.67 in 2009 to 0.94 in 2014 (while the EU average is 2.01%). Moreover, the greatest proportion of the research and development outlay is the enterprises sector - at the level of 46.5%, whereas the government sector is 24.0% and the higher education sector is 29.2%. According to the latest data of the Central Statistics Office (GUS), only 18.6% of Polish industrial entrepreneurs and 12.3% of the companies operating within the service sector were actively innovative in the years 2012-2014 (while the EU average was more than twice as high).

Science and Business

Various business environment institutions (BEI) have a key role to play in this respect, such as: technology parks (there were 42 of them in 2011), business and technology incubators (94), innovation and technology transfer centres (89), equity funds (107), loan and loan guarantee funds (139), training and advisory centres (207) and business angel networks (7). In spite of the fact that the reserves of BEI (a total of 681 institutions) seems quantitatively rich, they in fact have a low potential and they are rather passive in their operations. Only few of the BEI, including in particular technology parks, have put the EU resources to a good effect and achieved some research infrastructure allowing them to implement advanced R+D+I projects while having access to seed capital allowing to fund the initial stages of such ventures.

Good cooperation between science and business is not common in Poland, yet it's possible - the Wroclaw Research Centre EIT+ is one of the examples of a successful union of science and business. This company established in 2007 and owned by the municipality of Wroclaw and five largest Wroclaw universities supports development of knowledge based economy in the Lower Silesia, with a strong focus on commercialisation of R+D+I activity, combining the characteristics of an advanced technology park, a thematic cluster and a research institute. Construction of modern research and laboratory infrastructure as part of the Lower Silesia Materials and Bio-materials Centre operating in the EIT+ structure was finished in 2015 and is supposed to be one of the strongest innovation centres at the national level.

Nonetheless, one can note an explicit underdevelopment of business environment institutions that would support and encourage the research and development centres to prepare an offer of research and development works attractive for entrepreneurs - and the entrepreneurs themselves to engage in projects related to high technologies and innovation. Science and business environments still make two distanced worlds in Poland. They still can see their shared interest, without which it is difficult to build an effective market of research and innovation, all too seldom. This situation needs to change quickly as development of the knowledge based economy has no positive alternative if the Polish entrepreneurs are to face their foreign competitors elbowing their way also on the domestic market.