When researching topics such as regional development and competitiveness it is highly recommended to stay up-to-date, not only through publications and conferences but also via real practical interactions.

While attending the 11th Economic Forum of Young Leaders alongside the 23rd Economic Forum in Krynyce, I have learnt about another very active European region, Malopolska, the winner of the European Entrepreneurial Region 2016 award given by European Union (EU) Committee of Regions (CoR). This region, along with the Basque Country, is listed in the OECD (2013) publication on “Innovation-driven Growth in Regions: The Role of Smart Specialization”, which offers some important lessons to share.

Moreover, the importance of sharing and learning for policy transfer and unlocking regional path development has been numerously addressed in recent works (e.g. Hassink, 2006; Moodysson, Trippl, & Zukauskaite, 2015).

Malopolska: getting to know the region

The Malopolska region is situated in the south of Poland. Its capital is the second largest polish city, Krakow (around 750,000 inhabitants). The city of Krakow, due to historical and cultural reasons, is one of the most popular touristic destinations in Poland which proves to be one of the central advantages for the region. In Poland the city of Krakow has one of the highest GDP per capital and the lowest unemployment (around 5%) rates.

This region has many advantages, which can be seen in Porter’s diamond (Figure 1 below). For further information on the region I recommend to have a look at Regional Innovation Monitor Plus, OECD LEED Publication and Malopolska Region Application for the European Entrepreneurial Region Award.

Picture 1 Malopolska region competitiveness based on the Porter´s diamond, strengths and weaknesses

p1 b region

Note: the aspects marked with * can be also considered as weaknesses

The Malopolska region has not always been favorable for entrepreneurship and innovation. As per OECD (2013) during the past 20 years the region has passed through four development stages, which contributed in one way or another to its current development. In particular, the stages are: 1) transition (from agro, food industry focus to plastics, cosmetics and life sciences), 2) modernization (modernizing R&D capacities in foundry, steel and mining industries), 3) diversification (allocation parts of the production value chain international enterprises in the region) and 4) radical foundation of the new domains (emergence & growth of ICT). The above setting made me wonder what features have driven and will drive the regional development in the years to come?

What can we learn?

Reviewing the previous findings and having a personal grasp of the region, the successful development of the Malopolska region in recent and forthcoming years can be accounted to the inter-link and supported by roughly three components: (1) research, business and cluster support, (2) institutional coherence and partnership and (3) evaluation and communication channels.

p2 b region

The three components were working towards creating a specific innovation and entrepreneurship attractive environment appealing local and international investment. All these activities are rounded by the consideration of location and culture specific traditions and settings. The boxes below present a selected example of the activities undertaken within the respective components and can serve as a rich basis for learning.

(1) Research, business and cluster support

First of all, the region has constantly maintained a strong entrepreneurship spirit with the support aligned to the business development life-cycle promoting active cooperation between science, business and public administration.

box1 region

Secondly, local authorities promoted the accessibility of funding from various sources (especially within EU cohesion funds) increasing location, national and international investment in the region and companies.

box2 region

Thirdly, the cooperation between business, research and administration has been platform based promoted by close engagement and facilitation of clusters, and in later years aligned with thematic targeting as per regional smart specialization strategy.

box3 region

(2) Institutional coherence and partnership

Implementation of the activities and initiatives has been done via establishment of joint institutional platforms and co-operations leading towards more coherent territorial overview and development.

box4 region

Development of projects in cooperation with local and international stakeholders has been seen as an instrument for effective cooperation and additional resource attraction.

box5 region

(3) Evaluation and Communication channels

The application of the platform based structured and integral evaluation methodologies for monitoring and information sharing has provided a coherent view on regional development.

box6 region

From a communication perspective many events are taking place inside and outside of the region, attracting foreign investors and new businesses.

box7 region

On closing of this small journey into one of the easternmost European regions - Malopolska, I hope to have shared a number of practical growth, innovation and entrepreneurship related lessons, and also motivated you to go out more and get real grasps and inspirations from the field. Buen viaje!