An ‘under-the-radar-economic-star’ is how one international analyst has described Poland. Others have described the country as moving from an “emerging” to a “developed” economy this year. So what’s driving this development?
“People in Poland started to think innovative. That is very optimistic, and I’m very excited about taking part in this process,” Poland’s new minister for entrepreneurship and technology, Jadwiga Emilewicz, told Euronews’ Chris Burns. “Of course in this first period, one of the most important things was to encourage foreign investment and foreign investors to come to Poland and organise the new labour market. Today, when we’ve got some of the lowest unemployment in Europe, this is not a problem anymore.”
One example of early foreign investment in Poland was Nicolas Lapp’s family. His father came from France to the northern port of Gdansk, where dockworkers had fought against Soviet-era communism. It was here, 35 years ago, that they launched a company building luxury catamarans, Sunreef Yachts. “We are French and of course when my father went to Poland for the first time, all the people were saying, ‘What are you doing there?’”, recounted Lapp. “But in the end I think that he made a good choice, because he had a vision that Poland would develop, and I think he felt it in a good way.”
For Nicolas Lapp, now head of the construction company, Poland offered some unique opportunities for the business: “The shipyard of Gdansk is a very historical place, but as well you can find a lot of skilled people here to build a boat – in all fields. If it’s stainless steel, it can be for the woodwork, for the composite, for the sailing people who will know about the sails, the engineer about the engine.”
Jadwiga Emilewicz admits that Poland’s economy still looks more imitative than innovative but claims it has changed tremendously, and not just its growing cities which boast impressive new skyscrapers but in the facilities they offer: “We are famous for IT, for biotech, and that is why the global biotech companies decided to locate here. R&D sectors, but also the Polish companies are catching up. Smart geeks are developing innovative solutions for the banking sector, for the fintech sector. And IT is something which is doing very well in Poland.”
As this entrepreneurial innovation in Poland grows, more and more local start-ups are taking their ideas international. One of those companies is NUADU, an educational platform for children that uses positive enforcement to engage learning. “We’re using AI and very advanced data algorithms to be able to adjust the path each student is taking through their learner progression,” explained NUADU Vice-President Pawel Czech. The company, which began in a small house in Poland now works with schools across Europe, Asia and South Africa.
Another Polish success story is that of Dr Irena Eris, a cosmetics company named after its founder. Irena Eris and her husband began the company with just the two of them; it has now grown to include more than 1000 employees. What was once small tubes of face creams has turned into a network of spas and hotels. The firm has even become a member of Comite Colbert, the exclusive French club of luxury products. The company’s ambition does not end there, “In the future we want to double our production,” says Irena Eris. “We want to expand in the world and to have success there. And it’s my dream and I believe we will do it.”