Information and communication technology (ICT) is behind many of the services and products which make modern life easier and more efficient. A cluster of business and technology experts in Poland joined together to promote their region's expertise in ICT and the research and products its institutions produce.
© Fotolia, 2012
The story begins in 2006. Two front runners in ICT research in Poland – Poznan University of Technology and Poznan Supercomputing and Networking Centre – decided to join together to create a new European-class R&D centre called Wielkopolska Province Centre of Advanced Information Technologies (WCZTI).
The following year, Wielkopolska's government authorities brought together local ICT entrepreneurs and research leaders to discuss how co-operation and partnerships between the WCZTI consortium and the regional IT sector could be supported and promoted. The result of those discussions was a new association – the ICT Wielkopolska Cluster, supported by the European Commission's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).
The cluster, made up of companies with commercial interests in promoting Wielkopolska's ICT sector, also created a brand – ICT Wielkopolska – which could convey positive messages about the region as a competitive, flexible, skilled and co-operative community working at the forefront of ICT developments.
From strength to strength
Harnessing the power of ICT and supporting the R&D behind new technologies is at the heart of FP7's focus on improving the competitiveness of European industry and meeting the demands of Europe's society and economy.
The Wielkopolska ICT Cluster is certainly doing its part to achieve this. It has grown throughout the project's lifespan and beyond, according to Adam Olszewski, the cluster coordinator, and now boasts the City of Poznan itself as a supporting member. "The city gets professional consulting from the ICT companies in the cluster as one of the benefits of membership. Cluster members have helped the city develop its Poznan 2020 ICT strategy in line with the Digital Agenda goals set out in the Europe 2020 strategy," he notes.
The cluster has succeeded in raising the profile of the region and the ICT businesses in Wielkopolska, according to Mr Olszewski, and two years after the project was officially completed in 2010, the consortium was recognised as the leading cluster in Poland by Deloitte Consulting Services and the Polish Agency for Entrepreneurship Development. "This sets us on the right path towards the exclusive group of European world-class clusters," he comments.
The cluster has also been able to share its experiences with other industries in other cities across Poland. There are now around seven new cluster initiatives in various sectors in the Wielkopolska region alone. "We have held meetings with a food cluster, the automotive, glass and construction industries, and we are working with them to establish connections which could lead to the future transfer of ICT knowledge to their sectors," confirms Mr Olszewski.
The ICT Wielkopolska project has since supported Wielkopolska ICT Cluster through the deployment of technologies developed by ICT projects at home in Poland and abroad, the development of an ICT-based knowledge society, and by improving the information exchange between research and business throughout Poland and the European Research Area. With the cluster's assistance, technologies are being created within WCZTI with the aim of efficiently meeting the needs of the regional IT business community and international industry as a whole.
"By participating in projects such as BSR Stars, we have already established B2B and one-to-one partnerships with companies in Sweden and Finland, with ENoLL and R&D institutes in Germany, Denmark and Lithuania," Mr Olszewski reveals. "We are also actively exploring relations with institutes and companies in Silicon Valley, aiming to acquire collaboration methods and ease mutual understanding on both sides."