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Science and Technology Parks Thrive: Report
August 26, 2010   
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A growing number of science and technology parks are springing up across Poland to benefit from a wealth of European Union funds set aside for innovation and new technology.

At the end of last year, there were 47 science and technology parks in Poland, with a total of 583 businesses and a combined work force of more than 17,000; compared with 2007, the number of businesses grew by 61 percent, and employment soared by 86 percent, according to the Business and Innovation Centers in Poland report published by the Polish Business and Innovation Centers Association in conjunction with the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development.

Some zl.650 million was invested in the development of science and technology parks nationwide through the end of last year, with most of the funds coming from EU coffers, according to the report.

Bridging science and business

According to experts, science and technology parks are designed to support the establishment of new innovative technology firms and stimulate the transfer of technology to small and medium-sized businesses. These projects also aim to improve the use of EU funds and promote research projects through fostering ties between science and business.

Most of Poland’s science and technology parks operate as either limited-liability companies (52.2 percent) or public-private joint-stock companies (34.8 percent), the report says. In most cases, the shareholders are municipalities, regional governments and universities. Several parks operate in the form of foundations or local government agencies. A few others are parts of universities.

According to the Polish Business and Innovation Centers Association, the average Polish science and technology park is 56 hectares in area and has an annual budget of zl.4.7 million.

Many science and technology parks run business incubators that offer preferential treatment to start-ups in modern business sectors. Each business incubator contributed to starting up seven businesses on average last year, according to the report. Many of the businesses were set up by graduate and postgraduate students.

Some of the businesses and institutions operating as part of science and technology parks have patented their work domestically and Europe-wide. Ten businesses have won awards at international trade fairs and competitions and 43 have grabbed prizes at exhibitions and competitions in Poland, the report says.

Innovation disparities

The report shows that science and technology parks are developing the fastest in large cities in regions such as Silesia, Mazovia, Wielkopolska and Małopolska. There are few innovation centers in rural areas and small towns, a trend that may lead to wider disparities in development between local areas, according to the report. Another potential threat, the report says, is that some of the parks are only interested in developing infrastructure for the needs of businesses operating there, while neglecting technology transfer and ties with the science sector.

In addition to science and technology parks, there are also other kinds of business and innovation centers in Poland, the report says. These include academic business incubators, technology transfer centers, seed capital funds, business angel networks, local and regional loan funds, credit guarantee funds, and training, advisory and information centers. Training and advisory centers account for around 45 percent of the total number of business and innovation centers nationwide, according to the report. This is because such centers are the easiest to launch, with relatively low financial outlays required, the report says.

Bright future

Poland’s science and technology parks can expect to receive more funds to develop their operations in the next few years, according to the report. The European Union has set aside a total of 150 million euros for investment in such projects by 2013 under its Innovative Economy Operational Program. Most of the money will be spent on infrastructure such as buildings, roads and utilities, according to experts. Additionally, hundreds of millions of euros will be invested in each of Poland’s 16 provinces to establish new science and technology parks and business incubators and expand existing facilities under Regional Operational Programs.

Another available source of funding is the EU’s Human Capital Operational Program for 2007-2013. Funds from this source will be used to develop training services offered by science and technology parks and to support the launch of innovative businesses, the report says.
Ewa Dereń
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