What Makes Poland a Hub for Talent and Innovation
Before the pandemic hit, most companies were already in the midst of a digital shift, such as moving applications to cloud, experimenting with automation, AI, AR/VR, RPA etc. As we emerge from the pandemic, many organizations have accelerated their digital transformation efforts to stay relevant and resilient. Industries ranging from retail to healthcare to BFSI are looking towards digitization to rebuild their businesses in the new normal.
With global enterprises reconfiguring their existing systems to go digital, the demand for tech talent is outpacing supply. Tapping into the global pool of skilled professionals by setting up Global Capability Centers (GCCs) has become the go-to strategy for most companies to meet their talent needs. This has also contributed to the growth of newer offshore locations along with the more mature Asian destinations. For several years now, Poland has been one of the most attractive markets for foreign direct investment and a hot-spot for tech talent and innovation. Let’s look at the key factors driving this exponential growth.
A strong and diverse economy
For years, Poland has been at the forefront of economic growth in the EU. Entering the EU in 2004, Poland's GDP in Purchasing Power Standards was more or less at the level of 50% of the EU average. Poland was the only economy in the EU to avoid recession during the 2008 global financial crisis. In fact, Poland's economy today is 25% larger than before the crisis, while the EU economy grew by just 0.7%.
During the pandemic, Poland managed to avoid the same level of economic damage experienced in other European countries. In 2020, Poland’s GDP contracted by “only” 3.5%, significantly less than the OECD average of 5.5%. In the UK, this figure stood at a staggering 9.9%. While unemployment rates have soared across Europe, the official Polish figures have hardly budged, and are the lowest in the EU according to the latest Eurostat figures.
As per the 2021 Bloomberg Innovation Index, Poland is the 23rd most innovative economy in the world – ahead of countries such as New Zealand, Hong Kong and Iceland. Poland's allure as a top business destination is reinforced by the fact that two of its leading cities were ranked among the top 25 future cities of the world. Wroclaw was ranked 15th, and Warsaw 20th in fDi's Global Cities of the Future 2021/22 overall winners list.
Fast-growing business services sector
Poland has become a world-class technology and business services hub. One of the most important branches of the Polish economy is the business services sector. The industry’s impressive growth in recent years has enabled Poland to strengthen its position among the world’s most important locations for investments in (BPO, SSC/GBS, IT, and R&D) business services centers.
According to ABSL data, over 1,600 Polish and foreign business services centers are operating in Poland, including BPO, SSC/GBS, IT, and R&D entities. They employ a total of 355,300 people (3.9% more than in the previous year).
With one of the largest pools of tech talent in Europe, Poland has attracted global giants such as Google, Intel and Microsoft. Google this year launched a new cloud data hub in Warsaw -- its first in Central and Eastern Europe -- with an investment of nearly $2.0 billion (1.7 billion euros). Intel recently opened a research and development centre in Gdansk, and Microsoft announced a US$1 billion investment on a digital transformation plan last year.
McKinsey predicts that with the right mix of initiatives and policy enhancements, the sector could expand to 450,000 to 600,000 jobs by 2025, and 90,000 to 150,000 in related support services.
Highly educated workforce
Poland ranks fifth in Harvard Business Review’s list of the most tech-skilled labor markets in the world. Poland provides around 40,000 IT graduates per year which constitute 10% of all of them in the whole EU. Poland makes high-quality education a priority. Starting in elementary school, students study mathematics, sciences, technology and the basics of programming. Rigorous academics continue through post-secondary education at more than 500 universities, two of which have ranked in the top 10 universities from emerging Europe and Central Asia.
Although Polish is the national language, English is widely spoken. Poland is one of the most US-friendly countries in that region of Europe. Today, almost 30% of Poles speak English, and it is the first foreign language learned and spoken in the country.
“With more global companies looking to set up in Poland, the demand for tech talent has continued to rise. Cybersecurity, data science, AI, machine learning and cloud computing are the hottest skills and companies are battling to secure the best talent,” says Agnieszka Cieslok, Executive Search Director at Morgan Philips
Robust IT and startup ecosystem
Polish startup environment, with its 3000+ startups, 300+ coworking spaces, 130+ VCs, plenty of acceleration programmes and tech conferences, is one of the most developed in the CEE region. Poland has gained international prominence in areas such as intelligent transport; games industry; IoT, telemedicine and medical equipment. In 2020, NimbleFins recognized Poland as one of the most startup-friendly countries in Europe. Poland is seeing a large increase in VC spending, including a record 477M euros raised in 2020. Startup Poland, the largest independent technology think tank in the CEE, says the startup scene in the country is vibrant despite the pandemic.
Krakow and Warsaw are the country’s confirmed tech and startup hot spots, but Gdansk is quickly emerging as the next big destination in Poland.
According to Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper, “Now is the perfect time to look into investing in Poland. The region has always had great technology but now they are starting to connect it to the marketplace. Poland is a generation ahead of other countries in the region in understanding the market system.”
The future of Poland as a hub for technological advancement looks promising, with a robust framework which is able to support itself. Workable time zone, low hiring cost, and strict data privacy standards in Poland are added advantages. Long story short, Poland is poised to become the European Silicon Valley in the coming future.