- Many of these solutions improve the quality of life of the citizens of Wroclaw, and it is crucial for us that business in the artificial intelligence sector is useful for the local community - emphasizes Ewa Sondej from the Wroclaw Agglomeration Development Agency (ARAW). The only problem is the access to qualified specialists, although launching new AI studies is supposed to help in this matter.
According to the Startup Poland Foundation report "The Polish Tech Scene. 5 years", Wroclaw has the highest concentration of technology entrepreneurs in Poland. One start-up per 4.5 thousand Lower Silesians, which proves the exceptional number of entrepreneurial talents from the technology sector in this region. Wroclaw is the base for 17 percent of AI start-ups in Poland, second only to Warsaw (23 percent).
- We hope that Wroclaw will be called the Polish Silicon Valley. We all work hard for this, both the city and representatives of business and science. This is our goal and we do everything to make it happen - assures Ewa Sondej in the interview with the Newseria Business Agency.
A survey conducted in June this year by ARAW among 74 local IT companies indicated that 46 of them are already developing artificial intelligence solutions and 21 of them intend to do so within the next three years. Only seven companies have no plans related to AI. More than half of the companies surveyed provide AI solutions in the form of products, and nearly 80 percent of those surveyed plan to increase their investment in this area in the future. Most of them meet the criteria of SMEs, including software houses and start-ups. The data also showed that companies are largely established locally (report "AI sector in the Wroclaw agglomeration 2021" prepared by ARAW).
- The portfolio of companies is very broad and services are addressed to many different industries and sectors. For example, NeuroSYS has created software to identify, detect and classify microbial colonies on Petri dishes, while Spyrosoft has created a predictive model to predict the movement of public transport passengers and the travel time between specific stops. These are often very useful solutions - emphasizes an expert from the Wroclaw Agglomeration Development Agency.
As she adds, the development of the sector is driven mainly by the benefits resulting from the application of technologies from the area of artificial intelligence, e.g. faster diagnostics, better adjustment of products and services to customers' needs, improvement of logistics and production processes in the broadly understood industry.
- And all this can translate into competitive advantage of business, so companies follow this trend as digitalization of business becomes the norm - notes Ewa Sondej. - We have a very active role of local government here, which is exemplified by a series of AI seminars organized by the city of Wroclaw to raise public awareness of the benefits of using artificial intelligence solutions.
85% of local IT companies admit that they are satisfied with their decision to invest in Wroclaw. A similar percentage plans further investments in this city, and 79 percent want to expand their offer of AI solutions. The key reasons for locating here include good access to skilled workers, high-quality business infrastructure and the presence of numerous universities that offer AI courses and majors.
- Wroclaw on the map of artificial intelligence in Poland is a very significant point. This is indicated by many facts, first of all by the high quality of education at universities that offer courses related to artificial intelligence. A good example is the Wroclaw University of Technology, which is one of five universities in Poland to offer majors strictly related to AI: trusted artificial intelligence systems and artificial intelligence - said the ARAW representative.
On average, two out of three companies are partnering or planning to partner with local higher education institutions. This most often involves organizing internships and courses for students, which is a frequently used method of talent acquisition. Despite the growing number of tech graduates, recruitment in the tech industry is still problematic, and finding qualified IT professionals in a new location can be challenging for many companies. That's why it's important for companies to partner with academic centers and even with schools lower in the education system - primary and secondary schools. Another way to supplement the lack of staff and to fill the competence gaps is to create joint projects by IT companies, which also shows the maturity of the market.
- Cooperation, exchange of knowledge and local know-how translates later into the success of the entire region - Ewa Sondej points out.
Most AI teams in local companies consist of eight people. However, almost all companies intend to expand their teams within the next year. The ARAW survey indicates that mid-level and senior specialists are the most sought-after on the market. Most companies describe the process of obtaining such employees as difficult or very difficult. Juniors are sought by only one in four companies, although they are much easier to find. The problem is that training them is time- and cost-consuming.
As ARAW's representative stresses, the fact that the survey did not include responses from Polish AI companies headquartered in another city suggests that Wroclaw-based technology companies are expanding their operations to other regions of the country, and not the other way round. On the other hand, IT companies from all over the world often come to Wroclaw, and a special unit - Wroclaw Agglomeration Development Agency - is responsible for attracting and serving foreign investors. The Agency has developed a whole strategy for attracting investors. Each new entity receives a dedicated assistant who is with them from the beginning of the investment process. ARAW prepares various types of data, presentations, information, and organizes meetings with representatives of local government, business and science, with representatives of the real estate market or HR companies. Then it helps to go through the whole process until the business decision is made to settle in Wroclaw.