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The Warsaw Voice » Other » September 30, 2009
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Digging for New Ideas
September 30, 2009   
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The Silesian Industrial and Technological Park in the southern city of Ruda ¦l±ska is the only business cluster in Poland that specializes in architecture.

The park is home to the "Architecture and Construction" Incubator of Innovation in Technology and Services and the Architecture-Construction-Surveying Service Cluster.

The Silesian Industrial and Technological Park was established in 2004 as the Silesia Industry Park and its primary goal was to take care of the redevelopment of areas and facilities left behind by defunct coal mines-Polska-Wirek in ¦więtochłowice and Walenty-Wawel in Ruda ¦l±ska.

The park was founded by the cities of Ruda ¦l±ska (96.03 percent of the initial capital) and ¦więtochłowice and three large industrial companies operating in these cities. The main idea was to breathe fresh air into business and social life in the area, officials say.

The park benefited from funds for new infrastructure and redevelopment projects available under the European Union's Improved Competitiveness of Enterprises Sector Operational Program.

The funds were used to convert dilapidated industrial space into elegant office buildings and modern production facilities-with an area of around 15,000 square meters. In the first stage of its operations, the park attracted 30-odd small and medium-sized enterprises.

New technology, new direction
In 2008, the park managers started working with the Silesian University of Technology in Gliwice and the AGH University of Science and Technology in Cracow, a collaboration that resulted in new ideas for the future of the park and its transformation into the Silesian Industrial and Technological Park. The main focus shifted to new technology and innovation, especially because many of the EU funds set aside for 2007-2013 were earmarked for innovative projects.

"This was a very interesting transition from an industry park to a technology park," said Roman Trzaskalik, chairman of the Polish Forum of Industry and Technology Parks. "Such transformations of existing parks are rare, but very beneficial, because they testify to well-considered development strategies."

Architecture, surveying and construction technology are the key focus of the park. Scientific support for the park is provided by the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning of the Silesian University of Technology. The park also works with the University of Science and Technology in Cracow, specifically its Faculty of Mining Surveying and Environmental Engineering based in Ruda ¦l±ska-Kochłowice.

Construction first
The "Architecture and Construction" Incubator of Innovation in Technology and Services opened at the Silesian Industrial and Technological Park last fall. It uses facilities formerly occupied by the defunct Walenty-Wawel coal mine in Ruda ¦l±ska. The incubator offers modern office space for rent, including space intended for service and design companies and specialist space for large design teams. Conferences and trade fairs are also held there.

The "Architecture and Construction" Incubator of Innovation in Technology and Services occupies a total of 5,800 sq m of space. The incubator's goal is to help young architects and construction experts start their own businesses. Benefiting from preferential terms, graduates of the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning of the Silesian University of Technology can launch their businesses as part of the incubator.

Last year, the Architecture-Construction-Surveying Service Cluster was established as an initiative by small companies specialized in surveying and architecture. At present, the cluster brings together 14 companies.

The park has applied for around zl.4 million in EU funds for modern land surveying and architectural equipment complete with appropriate technology. Companies operating in the cluster hope they can become more competitive on the market thanks to modern equipment, training and cooperation with universities.

Last fall also saw the opening of another new building at the Silesian Industrial and Technological Park, a production and storage hall in Ruda ¦l±ska. Sized over 8,000 sq m, the new facility comes with a stacking yard of 11,200 sq m. The complex has been adapted for the production of steel structures, an operation that was launched in April this year.

The Silesian Industrial and Technological Park currently has over 1,000 hectares of land ready for development, located in the heart of the Silesia conurbation and offering convenient access. Thanks to a modern freeway, getting to Katowice, the main city of the Silesia conurbation, takes only 15 minutes, park managers say.

The more the merrier
Work on a new Park Development Strategy was recently completed. "In the strategy, we precisely define our mission and goals for the coming years," says Paweł Błażyca, chairman of the park's management board. The strategy focuses on the redevelopment of post-industrial areas, the primary goal of the community.

The mayor of ¦więtochłowice has promised to contribute more land and buildings to the Silesian Industrial and Technological Park, including buildings left behind by the former Polska coal mine and a historical building that used to house the offices of the community authorities.

"We will continue adapting new land, seek investors and support them in what they do," said Błażyca.

The park aims to use EU funds assigned for innovation in architecture and surveying. The park's managers have submitted two large projects for co-funding. One involves the Architecture-Construction-Surveying Service Cluster and the other is concerned with business plans and feasibility studies for 10 large companies.

By 2014, the park aspires to have 200-250 companies operating within its premises, Błażyca said.

Supporting culture
The Silesian Industrial and Technological Park plans to combine business with culture. After all, architecture is a form of art, the park's managers say, and therefore they want to help promote architecture-related arts such as painting. The park has already hosted several exhibitions of paintings and photographs by Silesian artists. It has also staged a large exhibition of paintings from the Silesian Collection of Contemporary Art, courtesy of the Foundation for Silesia.

The Silesian Industrial and Technological Park aspires to become a major center and meeting place for the local business community. It holds Christmas Eve meetings for entrepreneurs and charity balls. As part of its regular activities, the park organizes business breakfasts for entrepreneurs in Ruda ¦l±ska and ¦więtochłowice.

The park's managers hope the cluster will raise its profile as a center of creativity and innovation by supporting art, inspiring and fostering partnerships between technology-related companies and institutions, and organizing business and cultural events.

Last year the park was singled out for praise in a local competition for launching the "Architecture and Construction" Incubator of Innovation and for opening modern production and storage facilities in Ruda ¦l±ska.

Ewa Dereń
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