Financing innovations, on the way to meet entrepreneurs’ needs

What we talked about? The new philosophy followed by public institutions while granting financial support, the ways to motivate entrepreneurial environment, ongoing problems of the R&D centres’, which were created thanks to the EU funds, and the access of the innovative industry to the modern research infrastructure. The listed subjects, as well as other related to financing innovations in Poland, were discussed during the techBrainers R&D Club’s thematic breakfast.

On 21st of June, at the Warsaw University Centre of New Technologies, we have organised a meeting between enterpreneuers and the experts from the National Centre for Research and Development (NCBiR), the Mazovian Unit of EU Programmes Implementation (MJWPU) and the Centre of New Technologies (CeNT). During the event, the participants were able to exchange opinions, learn new things and gather information concerning the public funding opportunities for innovative solutions.

The meeting took the form of a breakfast. That, in turn, has created perfect conditions for open communication during the networking sessions and roundtables with experts. The atmosphere was quite comfortable, enabling forging new relationships and cooperation.

In between the introductory session and the expert roundtables, the organisers held a debate between the representatives from NCBiR, MJWPU and CeNT. The participating institutions were represented by: Małgorzata Skibska-Zielińska, the expert from the CeNT Director’s Office, Krzysztof Wocial, the Manager of MJWPU, and Dr. Robert Dwiliński, the CeNT’s Deputy Director of Implementations and the Director of the University’s Centre of Technology Transfer (UOTT). The debate was hosted by Magdalena Jackowska-Rejman, the CEO of techBrainers.

During the discussion panel, the experts talked about the kinds of mechanisms NCBiR and MJWPU offer for entrepreneurs and how prospective these options are, as well as to what extent do they enable Poland to rank higher on the innovations market within the EU. Additionally, the participants considered which key growth directions does Poland follow and what sector projects are being created, which industries’ growth do these subsequently enable, and what are the market tools for financing innovations and what are their benefits. Furthermore, the CeNT’s Director talked about the role of R&D programmes led by the consortia driven by science and industry in stimulating the cooperation between science and business.

The last topic elicited a strong reaction among gathered guests, who agreed that there is a problem relating to the use of Science-Technology Centres and their capabilities, which is the result of the lack of factual knowledge concerning the actual infrastructure of the Centres and services they offer. On the other hand, Director Dwiliński has pointed out the difficult situation of the facilities build with the use of European funding, as they cannot earn their own keep since one of the EU’s requirements does not allow for the commercial use of those facilities for 5 years. At the same time, this year’s expenditures on such Centres amounts to several dozen millions of PLN spent on energy alone (electricity and heating).

“Hence, it is difficult to talk about opportunities for fast and vast growth related to the Polish innovation development while we are facing such obstacles”, said Robert Dwiliński.

The representatives of Cos such as: PKN Orlen, Ponar, Engineo, PPPT, UWRC, ICRA, and CRiDO , who were present during the panel, suggested that the good change they would expect from the Science-Technology Facilities, is for the Centres to come forward with their offer and start talking with companies using the language of business, not science, and that the best solution would be to create the Services Promoting Centre.

They also said that through such organisation they would learn what services can be commissioned and how could a given Science-Tech Centre be helpful in the matters of innovative growth. Moreover, they believe that they would finally gain access to the database of the Centres’ research results that could be implemented in their businesses.

At this point Małgorzata Skibska-Zielińska has assured the participants that the progress and change for the better are ongoing. She mentioned that NCBiR’s philosophy concerning public funding has changed and that the institution has stepped in the direction of entrepreneurs and projects with best chances for commercialisation.

Ms. Skibińska-Zielińska added that we still ought to remember that Poland, compared to other technologically developed countries, has a completely different innovation financing structure. She pointed out that most innovations in Poland are publically funded, whereas, for example in Sweden, the money comes mostly from the private sector. In her opinion, our goal should be to at least balance this situation.

Moreover, she called attention to the fact that CeNT is taking up a number of actions meant to allow for the better use of current scientific infrastructure and the opportunities companies are given by Venture Capital funds.

Krzysztof Wocial has, in turn, presented the support which MJWPU offers for companies and he presented financing tools available for those, who wish to implement already existing research results.

The dynamic discussion between the experts was continuously enriched by listeners’ remarks, who were indicating loopholes in the system of distributing public funds and suggesting possible solutions.

After the debate there was time for individual talks with the experts from the invited institutions, during which important ongoing issues were discussed.

“Interesting event and great atmosphere”, said entrepreneurs while asking about future techBrainers events organised as a part of R&D Club’s initiative.

During the next event, which is happening very soon – on   August, 4th , the R&D Club’s experts will talk about “How to prepare a research agenda”, while on  September, 29th they will discuss the changes in industrial property law.