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Poland starts to explore eco-innovation



Poland may still be a beginner when it comes to delivering eco-innovations that benefit economy and environment, but interest and support is on the up according to a recent report.

Despite opportunities to save costs and cut pollution, interest in eco-innovation remains unsatisfactory in Poland, according to a profile of the country by the European Eco-Innovation Observatory (EIO). Its eco-innovation index is two times lower than the EU average. Only Romania, Slovakia and Lithuania do worse.

Moreover the assessment is negative for all five EIO eco-innovation indicators:

  • Inputs, such as financial support;
  • Activities, including share of firms involved;
  • Outputs in terms of number of patents;
  • Environmental outcomes, such as water use; and
  • Socio-economic outcomes – for example related employment.

But things are changing. Despite corporate involvement in the environment being the lowest in Europe, some – including small and medium-sized enterprises – are waking up to the opportunity for eco-innovation to cut costs. From 2000 to 2007, the index reflecting the growth of gross domestic product generated from one kg of materials increased by over 30%.

The Community Innovation Survey (CIS) 2006 to 2008 found that over a quarter of industrial companies and 16% of service companies in Poland had introduced eco-innovations. They were largely production- rather than use-based and most often cut pollution to soil, water and air rather than CO2 emissions.

Polish Government support has come in forms such as the GreenEvo project, which helps Polish green technology companies promote products on international markets. Within this framework, the environment ministry has identified 28 top Polish innovations, including wastewater treatment technologies now being implemented in Beijing, China.

The EU is an important driver of eco-innovation in Poland, through its structural funds and through its climate, energy and wider environment policies. Supplementary funding comes from Poland’s public sector, such as support for installation of solar panels through the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management, and private sector but there is no tax relief for eco-innovators.

The top barriers to eco-innovation in Poland appear to be, first, a lack of belief in eco-innovation and therefore inadequate government support. Obsolete industries also back the status quo. Second, there are too few well-qualified staff – a fault of the education system. And, third, there is a lack of upfront capital to take eco-innovations to commercial viability.

To turn this around, the EIO suggests creating more concentrated and competitive funding schemes, investing in expertise and creating incentives for businesses, universities and public bodies to work more together. Entrepreneurs should be motivated by a simplified legal system and tax relief. The state should consider establishing a guarantee fund for eco-innovation bank loans and the private sector should be more involved in R&D policy. Finally, a public awareness campaign is needed to demonstrate why it all makes sense.

At the same time, economics will also continue to be a driver of eco-innovation for efficiency: almost half of Polish companies questioned for the Eurobarometer 2011 survey said material costs presented at least 50% of their total production costs, and over 80% said these material costs had increased moderately or dramatically over the last five years.

More information

Related information on the EcoAP Website