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The Warsaw Voice » Other » July 9, 2008
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Innovation Cluster in Southeastern Poland
July 9, 2008   
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Local governments in southeastern Poland have teamed up with universities and businesses to set up an interregional cluster for innovative technology. The cluster's commercial partners are counting on increased competitiveness, higher profits and faster development thanks to collaboration with scientific researchers.

The project, known as the Minatech Interregional Cluster for Innovative Technology, was launched in February by the authorities of the Małopolska, Podkarpacie, Silesia and Świętokrzyskie provinces, together with universities and businesses in southeastern Poland. The agreement establishing Minatech was signed in Cracow.

Minatech's aim is to improve the quality of life in this part of the country via the development and use of new technology, particularly micro- and nanotechnology and biomedical engineering, and the introduction of innovation to existing technology. The project is designed to increase the market competitiveness of the four provinces, to make full use of the intellectual and material resources of all Minatech partners, and to create conditions for them to work together.

Minatech's partners include the governments of the Małopolska, Podkarpacie, Silesia and Świętokrzyskie provinces, Cracow's Jagiellonian University, the AGH University of Science and Technology in Cracow, the Cracow University of Technology, the Cracow University of Agriculture, the University School of Physical Education in Cracow, the Cracow University of Economics, the Kielce University of Technology, the Silesian University of Technology, the Rzeszów University of Technology, the Polish Academy of Sciences' Institute of Nuclear Physics in Cracow, and the Institute for Sustainable Technologies in Radom. Among Minatech's business partners are Zakład Innowacyjno Wdrożeniowy Barosz Gwimet in Wodzisław Śląski, the Tarnów Agency for Regional Development, the Energocontrol company in Cracow, the Cracow Foundation for Orthopedics and Traumatology Development, the Polish Foundry Research Institute in Cracow, and the Cracow Technology Park.

Where did the idea for Minatech originate?
The Minatech initiative is the result of the Małopolska region's earlier participation in Europe-wide research into micro- and nanotechnology and biomedical engineering. The wealth of experience garnered in this way and its value to the economy forged a strong argument to unite strengths and resources to hasten the development of modern sectors of the economy, Minatech executives say. "The Małopolska region stands a chance to become a European region for knowledge, in line with the goals of the Lisbon Strategy," said Marek Nawara, chief executive of the Małopolska region's local government assembly, as he signed the agreement establishing Minatech. "If academia, the corporate sector, research institutes and local governments join forces, Małopolska will be able to become a major center for knowledge not only in Poland but in all of Europe."

How will Minatech work in practice?
Minatech will develop its operations in six stages. The first stage, the planning of research infrastructure development, has already started. This involves the identification of existing research resources and supplementing them to enable the Minatech partners to carry out complex projects. One such project, originating from the Cracow University of Technology, will involve medical engineering and micro-technology. The second stage will build up teams of people to carry out scientific research in key sectors in the regions and the country as a whole. The other four stages will involve the design and implementation of new technology and the preparation of diagnostic equipment for biomedical engineering and micro- and nanotechnology. Minatech will contribute to Poland's National Development Plan by creating Sector Operational Programs for the regions involved. These programs are designed to bolster economic growth based on knowledge and to increase commercial competitiveness in line with the government's Knowledge/Innovation/Competitiveness program.

The Cracow University of Technology, headed by Józef Gawlik, is Minatech's coordinator. The Minatech partners have established a council made up of their representatives who are tasked with overseeing Minatech's goals and choosing research projects and teaching programs. They are also supposed to identify sources of funding and develop a long-term strategy for the cluster.

Minatech is financed from funds set aside by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education and from earnings derived from commercial contracts. It also benefits from European Union structural funds and other EU programs. All profits are reinvested as part of Minatech.

All Minatech partners retain their intellectual-property ownership rights, including industrial ownership rights if the know-how was originally theirs. Minatech partners provide the knowledge required for each project for free. This growing body of knowledge is one of Minatech's assets. If many partners are involved in a project and the contribution of each is impossible to ascertain, all have the right to mutual ownership of the resulting intellectual property. Each partner's share is directly proportional to their contribution of human, financial and intellectual resources to the project.

In business clusters, both large and small businesses can achieve significantly more than if they worked on their own. This is thanks to the chain of suppliers, service providers, academic institutions and producers from the same area. Such a concentration of know-how helps create new businesses, products and well-paid jobs for highly qualified people. In developed economies, business clusters such as Minatech are testament to the strength of a state, nation, region, or a metropolitan area.

Jacek Filipek
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