European Commission helping low-income Polish regions play catch up

Lanckorona, Podkarpackie, Poland (annaspies, CC BY-NC-ND)

The European Commission plans to increase its support for low-growth and low-income EU regions in Poland via the EU Cohesion Policy funds.

This after a one-year pilot initiative showing promising results in Poland. European Commission and World Bank experts – alongside Polish central and local authorities – have been working over the past year identifying solutions to boost economic development in the low-income regions of Podkarpackie and Świętokrzyskie, in eastern Poland.

“Globalisation brings as many opportunities as challenges, and no territory in the EU should be left behind,” Regional Policy Commissioner Corina Creţu said. “To this end, the results of this pilot initiative in two Polish low-income regions show the need to move beyond one-size-fits-all and top-down policies. Regions should be treated as partners and given the means to succeed in their economic transition with custom-made development strategies,” Creţu adds.

EU experts and local authorities said strategic priorities were:

  • Transferring knowledge from academia to the local business sphere

To help Podkarpackie capitalise on its area of excellence – the aerospace industry – and foster more cooperation between businesses and local universities, a Technology Transfer Office is being set up in the region, with EU funding. The office will have a proactive, client-driven approach to understanding the local businesses’ needs and offering them tailored R&D solutions, the EC said.

It will also select the most promising university R&D projects on the basis of their market potential and provide assistance in business strategy, marketing and product development.

  • Upgrading the regional environment for businesses

Setting up a business in Podkarpackie and Świętokrzyskie can take over a month when only a week is needed in some other regions, the EC report noted.

“The initiative focused on promoting the use of online platforms, providing guidance on registration to entrepreneurs and speeding up paper applications,” the EC writes.

An EU-funded scheme will also soon offer easy and fast matching between consultancies and local SMEs in the most disadvantaged areas of both regions, giving them strategic advice and helping them develop new products and enter new markets.

  • Improving the skills of the local labor force

The mismatch between educational supply and labor market demand remains a significant challenge in Poland and especially in Świętokrzyskie, where unemployed people under 25 make up 20% of the population, the report notes.

An EU-funded pilot project will finance the in-firm training of 500 students, based on the region’s smart specialization sectors. The project aims to develop lasting linkages between local schools and industries, while revising and updating school curricula to adapt them to skill demand.

On the basis of these first promising pilot actions, a rollout plan is under preparation to replicate these projects in Polish regions in need of the same competitiveness boost.

In June 2015, the commission launched a broad initiative to examine the factors that hold back growth and investment in low-income and low-growth regions in the EU.

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