Poland’s appeal – turning the global crisis into a local triumph.

By Aleksander Libera,

First Secretary, Embassy of the Republic of Poland, Trade & Investment Promotion Section.

Poland has an interesting way of managing through crisis situations. In 2009, amidst a financial global meltdown, it was the only EU member to boast GDP growth. Not burdened by participation in the subprime mortgage market and with a stable well-balanced economy, the country managed to avoid any financial or political instability. The second quarter of 2011 saw Poland’s GDP grow by 4.3% year-on-year. The growth is higher than expected by economists.

Despite the current uncertain economic situation which tends to affect negatively the development of companies around the world, Poland’s investment-connected attractiveness and the professional investment care it offers have effectively contributed to the fact that PAIiIZ (Polish Information and Foreign Investment Agency) has currently more investment projects in the pipeline during than in the same period of 2010. The value of projects successfully closed by the agency within the first eight months of the year rose by 64% – from €585.5 million in 2010 to €961.8 million in 2011. Also the average value of a single closed project rose substantially – now it is €27.5m vs. €15.8m in 2010. The number of jobs created by projects supported by PAIiIZ rose by 2% (from 8,158 in 2010 to 8,296 in 2011).

The growth in the number of jobs may not be that impressive, but one has to keep in mind that it has much to do with the change in the character of investment projects located in the country. Poland attracts more and more projects from the knowledge intensive sectors like – BPO (Business Process Offshoring), ICT and R&D (Research & Development) where jobs tend to be less numerous but create job opportunities for highly-qualified specialists.

With Poland becoming a mature market, companies that have already invested feel confident about adding more complex services to their operations. More stress is being put onto developing IT and R&D activities. Shared service centres (SSCs) are turning into centres of excellence, while manufacturing projects start to develop in-house R&D operations. This is mainly thanks to the high quality of the Polish HR pool. It has become a well-known fact that Polish students are winning major international competitions in such fields like mathematics, IT, R&D, aviation and many others.

The crisis also had another effect on the FDI inflow structure to Poland – a growing number of companies are planning to set up their centres on a smaller scale: projects creating 50-150 jobs are "on the radar" very often. A very good example of this trend is the project implemented by Symantec - a leading global company in development of antivirus and security software.

The company has established a software development centre of excellence in Warsaw employing 50 high-class specialists.

The main reason for choosing Warsaw as a destination for this project was again – the deep, high-quality HR pool within the heart of Poland.

The last two years was also a time for planning and establishing two of the most advanced projects in our country in the advanced business services sector. McKinsey Knowledge Centre and Irevna Centre, both in Wrocław, can be defined as KPO projects – Knowledge Process Offshoring. In its centre in Wroclaw, Irevna is extending its R&D activities in the field of mathematical finance. Working on advanced concepts such as neural networks, kernel methods, k-nearest neighbour algorithm, decision tree, and other such learning methods that form part of artificial intelligence – imparting intelligence to machines.

The numbers speak for themselves – with around 300 advanced business services centres employing more than 50,000 people, and with right attitude of the Polish government in terms of supporting high-value projects coming to Poland, the recipe for success seems perfect – high growth opportunities combined with low investment risks!