The government wants Poland to be a technological leader. But in the rankings we are still in the tail.
We occupy the 27th place on the list of the most innovative countries out of 35 respondents – results from the research of the German Industry Union. This means that we have only been promoted by one point compared to 2015. Switzerland, Singapore and Belgium are on the podium. Poland is followed by: Russia, Greece, South Africa, Brazil, Indonesia, India, Mexico and – last in the ranking – Turkey. Interestingly, we found ourselves just behind China. But this 27th position is hardly a success.
Our country also performs poorly in other global rankings. In the Global Innovation Index Poland ranks 39th out of 127 analyzed countries. We are overtaken by Czechs, Slovaks, Lithuanians and Estonians. Polish spending on research and development is about 1 percent. GDP, while the EU average is twice as high.
Education, cooperation, support
– It is obviously depressing that we do poorly in global rankings, but it should be borne in mind that innovation is a process that takes time. NCBR programs or financing innovation in the venture capital model are fields that look promising. However, you have to wait for the effects – says Marek Lachowicz, chief analyst at the Jagiellonian Institute.
Szymon Ostrowski, an expert at Haitong Bank, also indicates the necessary time. – On the one hand, Poland is at the end of the rank in global innovation rankings, but it should be remembered that innovation is a complex process that takes time. We've been building capitalism for only 30 years – says Szymon Ostrowski. He adds that when it comes to perspectives for innovation, three elements are key. First: expenditure on education should be increased in those areas that bring added value from the point of view of competitiveness, innovation and patents. The cooperation between business and science also needs to be improved, in other words – commercializing inventions.
– The third area – and it has been happening for several years – is supporting innovation through various types of programs, concessions and subsidies. If these foundations are solid, then over time the Polish economy will become more innovative – the expert believes.
The need for changes in education is highlighted by Krzysztof Inglot, president of Personnel Service. – In the ranking of the 100 most innovative European universities there is only one from Poland: the Jagiellonian University – indicates. He points out that the problem, however, begins earlier than at the university level.
– Instead of focusing on the transfer of knowledge at school, we must educate young people in their creative skills and imagination, but also in entrepreneurship. The combination of these competences is a base of innovation – Inglot believes.
The slow pace of innovation development in our economy also results from the ownership structure of enterprises. Most of the large companies that should drive technology development in our country are either state-owned or foreign-owned companies. – The former often have such a strong market position that they do not feel pressure on innovation. The second is expected to achieve sales or production goals – says Marcin Wojsa, president of Abile Consulting. In the case of the latter group, innovations are the domain of foreign headquarters, which with a few years' slide implement innovations in regional companies, e.g. in Poland.
How to improve the situation
– The key is to support the administration, which – using the legislation – should encourage business to innovative activities – believes in turn Sławomir Kuźniak, a manager from the BPSC company. It points to the results of research of the Polish Economic Institute, which show that almost every third company positively assesses the possibility of deducting expenditure on research and development. Is this a satisfactory result? – It's hard to get a definite answer. We might as well risk saying that as many as two-thirds of companies do not have a positive opinion about R&D relief – says a representative of BPSC.
In his opinion, only 12 percent. Polish companies have benefited from it. – And this is clear information that there should be other activities that will encourage investment in innovation – believes Sławomir Kuźniak.
However, there is also an opinion that the creation of innovation should be done by enterprises, not by governments. And the task of the state is to create conditions conducive to the emergence of innovative solutions so that companies can develop freely in this ecosystem. – Meanwhile, there is still a bad business climate in Poland, and being an entrepreneur is not something to brag about – sums up Radosław Nawrocki, president of PayPo fintech.
According to the Startup Poland report, among all young companies obtaining funding approx. 69 percent. receives state support, and just over 30 percent. – from venture capital funds. – This means that government support can be obtained twice as easily. And this is very interesting statistics. Apparently, state funds are much more willing to take risks. Judging by the results, this risk is probably too great – emphasizes Iwo Rybacki from the Management Board of the Assay Group. He adds that the amount of funding is another problem.
About half of the companies receive public grants of less than 125,000. euro. It is not much better in the case of startups supported by private funds. Just 10 percent innovative companies can count on more than 2.5 million euros. These funds are often sufficient to support specific projects. However, it is very difficult to obtain financing from Polish institutions to develop world-class projects.
A significant conservatism in adapting new technologies in Poland is also a barrier. – Banking in terms of digitization is at a really high level, but many public institutions are in the European tail. Young technology companies in Poland need appropriate system support at the start, but how do they get them if public institutions sometimes do not understand themselves what they would support – says Stanisław Bochnak, a strategist at VMware Polska.
Practice shows that Poland's weak position in innovation rankings is indeed affected by the relatively low level of implementation of the latest technologies. Although, paradoxically, when it comes to technological infrastructure, we look pretty good. – In other words: we have a nice infrastructure, but we are not able to fully use its capabilities – explains Przemysław Kania, CEO of Cisco Poland. He points out that the increase in innovation often does not immediately translate into an increase in the productivity of economies or individual industries.
Organizational culture is often a barrier to innovation. – If employees expect continuous success, tasks are assigned from above and the question “why” is not welcome, innovation will remain an empty slogan in the director's presentation slides – Wojciech Chojnacki, Strategy Director at Symetria UX, says.