“Universities work closely with enterprises in West Pomerania – but we also need more of that”, stated the deputy Marshal Jaroslaw Rzepa in his welcoming words for the iEER delegation. The two-day peer visit started at the Breakthrough Dialogue Center that is an impressively designed museum in Szczecin.

Marta Ciesielska, the senior adviser from the Marshal’s Office of the Westpomeranian Region, welcomes the guests to the Breakthrough Dialogue Center. The building was co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund under the West Pomeranian Regional Operational Programme 2007-2013.

Well-educated region with central location

In West Pomerania there are 18 higher education institutions, including five state universities that breed talented human capital for the regions’ labor market.

Other dominant factor in the area is the central geographic location that attracts both business and tourists. The city and the surrounding areas are situated by the sea, in the middle of central transport routes with an easy access from bigger cities like Berlin and Warsaw.

Like in the video of West Pomerania showed to the peer visit participants, both in life and in business there are many similarities – it’s often about finding the hidden niche. In West Pomerania it’s about the possibility to have it all in balance: Besides the vivid business environment, there is a beautiful nature and a chance to combine the work and quality of life.

Nearly thirty percent of the start-up owners are women

Who is then an entrepreneur in Szczecin? Maciej Jankowski, the founder of StartUp Poland works closely with the start-up scene and hosts the presidency of the Internet Industry Development Foundation Netcamp.

According to Jankowski, the Polish start-ups are specialized in three fields: Big data, analytics and the Internet of things.  According to the Polish start-up report, only 25% of the founders are under 30 years old, so it is not only young people who starts an own business in West Pomerania. Women own 29% of the start-ups. And only twenty percent of the owners are scientists, among of them both men and women.

Mr. Maciej Jankowski knows the Polish start-ups. Besides running his own company Netcamp, he is the leader of StartupWeekend, TEDxSzczecin and the founder of StartupPoland. Ms. Marjo Ruuti from Laurea University of applied sciences represents one of the  iEER project partners. 

There is a comprehensive support and services for the entrepreneurs in the region. However, there are still things that need to be improved:

“Start-up owners need various kind of support. Funding is, of course, crucial, but the ideation and formulation are very important. In general we would need more supporting activities during this pre-acceleration phase”, Jankowski describes.

In the center of innovations

In terms of support to startups, many good forms of support already exist in the area. During the visit, the iEER group was introduced to the Regional Centre for Innovation and Technology Transfer, that operates within the West Pomeranian University of Technology. It supports start-ups, business models and international scientific careers. The center is partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund and it works in collaboration with local community emphasizing the understanding of the customers’ needs. 

Furthermore, the center is co-operating with businesses: for example, co-working space Samsung Labo is a joint venture and facility allowing the young students to learn and develop web applications.

Krzysztof Palczewski and Mateusz Wyczawski are working together with Regional Centre for Innovation and Technology Transfer to launch their webapp.

A web application preliminary named as Coacher is under the work of students Krzysztof Palczewski and Mateusz Wyczawski. Via the application the football coaches and teams can interact and share information. At the moment Palczewski and Wyczawski are setting up the co-operation with the Center of Innovation and Technology Transfer in order to launch the application in about six months.

Unlocking the creative potential

Technopark Pomerania has been based in Szczecin since 2000 and its objective is to support the development of innovative companies. It offers incubation and expansion programs, premises and consulting. However, the work of Technopark is also about being a mentor, understanding and supporting the social aspects of student life and entrepreneurship.

Katarzyna Witkowska, the manager of Technopark gave the iEER group a presentation about the method that is used among Technopark students during their first semester. It is a supporting course that encourages students to form and work in teams. It also enables them to find and unlock their own creative potential.

“The Innovation workshop allows students to bring up their innovative thinking and good project ideas. Similarly it has helped to decrease the amount of school drop-outs and building ones’self-confidence”, Witkowska describes.