Commission and World Bank experts, together with Polish national and local authorities, have been working over the past year on identifying solutions to boost economic development in the low-income regions of Podkarpackie and Świętokrzyskie, in Eastern Poland.
Regional Policy Commissioner Corina Creţu said: "Globalisation brings as many opportunities as challenges and no territory in the EU should be left behind. 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."
In line with the findings of the Commission report on investment needs in regions that are lagging behind, EU experts and local authorities have defined strategic priorities and concrete, quickly implementable actions:
- Transferring knowledge from academia to the local business sphere
To help Podkarpackie capitalise further on its area of excellence - the aerospace industry - and foster more cooperation between businesses and local universities, a Technology Transfer Office is currently 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 Office 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 initiative focused on promoting the use of online platforms, providing guidance on registration to entrepreneurs and speeding up paper applications.
In addition, an EU-funded scheme will 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 labour force
The mismatch between educational supply and labour market demand remains a significant challenge in Poland, and especially in Świętokrzyskie, where unemployed people under 25 make up for 20% of the population. An EU-funded pilot project will finance the in-firm training of 500 students, based on the region's smart specialisation 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. A first local pilot initiative was launched in two Polish regions in March 2016, and another one in two Romanian regions shortly afterwards.
In line with the initiative, a report published in April 2017 detailed the investment needs, growth determinants, macro-economic framework and need for structural reforms in these regions.
The initiative is part of the Commission's wider commitment to provide tailored assistance to regions in order to help them improve the way they manage and invest Cohesion Policy funds (see MEMO 15/4654) and foster more ownership, coordination and prioritisation in regional investment and development strategies.
For more information
The Catching-up regions conference
Competitiveness in low-growth and low-income regions – the lagging regions report
Q&A on the report