The Katowice conference is a 4 day event for SMEs of all sizes and there are numerous seminars running concurrently so it is difficult to attend all the discussions.
However it is always interesting to learn about progress and development and so I chose the debate on 10 years without boarders which looked at the economy of Poland since it joined the European Union.
The previous week I had attended and spoken at a University in Warsaw to 300 students and also to Poland’s female entrepreneur Ambassadors. While speaking to the students I had been struck by the rapid rise in technology developments, by the unique ideas but the real enthusiasm for business and entrepreneurship. During lunch with the Female Ambassadors the rise, investment and qualifications levels for Polish Information Technology sectors had again been accredited to the growth in Poland .
However on the panel I was slightly shocked by the panellist’s negativity in relation to the growth in Poland. Several speakers, using Polish and EU statistics highlighted the slow growth in the Polish economy, the lack of entrepreneurial spirit and business support , and particularly pointed out that in comparison to the other EU countries which joined the EU at the same time as Poland , both innovation and productivity were particularly low. In the case of innovation, Poland was one of the least innovative countries in the EU. In the case of productivity it was 5 times worse than the US. A range of statistics were given out , all extremely negative.
The bank representative spoke on the fact that investment was slightly stronger as Poland was not able to work with the European Investment Bank , but that access to finance for SMEs and businesses was a major issue to growth and investment in new toolings and technologies to improve innovation and productivity . Whilst the debate was focussed on internationalisation , there were few references to opportunities for Polish businesses in the international markets . Little was said on TTIP, nothing on the technology centres in India and China.
Several speakers did try to highlight the positive growth, but there was also a strong feeling from the audience that the Government needed to listen much more to businesses and business organisations. European instruments especially Horizon 2020 were also mentioned as valuable incentives and strategies for Poland to utilise going forward. Overall there was a sense of optimism, but I found it difficult to compare the feeling in the room with the one I had experienced in Warsaw.
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