A debate in the Open Dialog Forum series, entitled “Entrepreneurial and innovative Poland”, took place in the Hotel Bristol in Warsaw on February 29.The main theme of the debate was innovation.
The following representatives of business participated in this heated discussion: Ph. D. Adam Czyżewski, Chief Economist of PKN ORLEN, M.D.Ph.D. Dorota Hryniewiecka-Firlej, President of the Management Board of Pfizer Polska, Adam Leszkiewicz, President of the Management Board of Grupa Azoty Zakłady Azotowe Kędzierzyn, and Piotr Paszczyk, President of the Management Board of APN Promise, and a representative of the government administration, Krzysztof Szubert, Strategic Advisor to the Minister of Digitization, Anna Streżyńska.
Before the beginning of the debate itself, an opening speech was given by professor Witold Orłowski, pointing to the dangers associated with functioning conveniently at a moderate level of economic development. Using the technological achievements of other countries and purchasing ready-made solutions is often referred to as the middle income trap. Why? Because in such a model the use of slightly worse and less expensive technologies is compensated for by lower labor costs. The possibilities of increasing remunerations are limited and reaching a higher level of development is not certain. The countries that managed to reach the highest level are the ones that had the ambition to keep up with the best – such a leap was taken by South Korea and, previously, Japan.
Later on, other representatives of business presented the innovations that they implemented as well as their own approaches to innovation. According to Piotr Paszczyk, the key to innovation is finding the right people. Moreover, in order for innovation to occur, we need to stop getting in its way as well as simplify the procedures and economic legislation. Adam Czyżewski said that PKN Orlen is currently implementing 18 innovative projects, including the most famous one, known as the heat up innovation, which is aimed at finding applications for low-temperature heat.
Adam Leszkiewicz said that innovation is often based on the “carrot and stick” approach. In the case of Grupa Azoty and its facilities in Kędzierzyn-Koźłe, the REACH European regulation was the stick. It almost caused the elimination of one of their key products, a plasticizer from the Kędzierzyn facilities. This pressure, in turn, led to the creation of a new, safe plasticizer.
M.D.Ph.D. Dorota Hryniewiecka-Firlej pointed out that the name “innovation” is sometimes misused. It is important to verify what we are actually spending our money on. It is also key whether a given innovation is necessary and repeatable, and, therefore, whether it is possible to commercialize it.
In the end, Krzysztof Szubert emphasized that Poland pales in comparison to other countries when it comes to the resources devoted to innovation. In a report by Cornell University, Poland was assessed negatively in terms of the effectiveness of using resources for innovation and ended up near the end of the list of the first one hundred countries.
The role of the state
A significant part of the debate was also devoted to the role of the state in the process of innovation.
Ph. D. Adam Czyżewski was in favor of the statement that many innovations would not have been created if it had not been for the involvement of the state. He used the example of the American economy to support his thesis. Innovation is especially important for highly developed economies, which have nothing to copy in order to develop further and without innovation their GDP per capita growth would drop to zero – according to A. Czyżewski. The role of the state is key, at least at the beginning. The private sector does not have enough money to put it at such risk – he added. He also reminded that for many innovations, for example in electronics, the arms industry served as the main driving force.
“After 25 years of free-market economy, it may be time for innovation. We have to build innovative company DNA or we will stagnate – urged A. Leszkiewicz. The state should create a strategy for innovation as well as provide a favorable fiscal and tax environment and institutional support, but not in its current form, where there are too many institutions supporting innovation with too many different goals (BGK, PARP, NCBiR, etc.) – he added.
According to Piotr Paszczyk, the state could significantly facilitate innovation by directing education towards a more innovative route. “Give me people, invest in young people, let people learn programming and algorithms, then we will not just have 200-300 thousand IT specialists in Poland, we will have 1 million IT specialists” – he said.
M.D.Ph.D. Dorota Hryniewiecka-Firlej emphasized the fundamental importance of the implementation of innovations in order not to waste their potential, so that a culture of innovation may arise.
In conclusion, professor Orłowski summarized the debate and agreed that significant educational effort is required. He added that the involvement of the state in innovation is justified, as the private sector is often unwilling or incapable of taking the risks that may be taken by the state.
The debate was moderated by Wojciech Surmacz, Editor in Chief of Gazeta Bankowa.
Partners: Grupa Azoty Kędzierzyn, Nord Partner, PKN Orlen, Grupa APN Promise
Supporting Partner: Martis Consulting
Educational Partner: LAB Education: Laboratory
Media Patronage: Dziennik Gazeta Prawna, Gazeta Bankowa, Law Business Quality, Manager, Polish Market, Warsaw Business Journal
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