An ambitious event – blending online speakers and audience with live presentations, a roomful of guests and remotely-moderated live panel discussion – the third British-Polish IT Forum proved how much can achieved at a distance.
With around a hundred attendees in person and online, the Forum brought together Polish and British IT firms, tech buyers, investors and scale-ups to discuss outsourcing, international cooperation and the UK’s role as a springboard to global markets.
The previous evening, those who could make it in person attended a cocktail reception at the Polish Embassy in London, which gave speakers and attendees of the forum the chance to network before the event.
As in previous years, the event was jointly organised by the Polish Embassy in London, the Polish Investment and Trade Agency (PAIH), PB Link, the preeminent networking organisation for Polish business owners in the UK, and the British Polish Chamber of Commerce.
Andrzej Krężel, head of the embassy’s Economic Section, opened the event, introducing Łukasz Grabowski, the deputy director of the Centre for Exports at PAIH who outlined current trends in Poland’s IT market. Poland’s biggest strength, he said, was its large and well-educated workforce, with Polish secondary schools being in the global Top Ten in maths, according to the latest PISA report by the OECD.
Marc Burrage, the managing director of Hays Poland set out the state of the Polish job market for tech talents and how this shapes the country’s attractiveness as a location for IT investment. He mentioned the trend for ‘full-remote working’, whereby IT engineers were working on projects for US or UK firms while sitting in Poland, and contrasted how lockdown affected the sector in Poland with less positive experiences of companies who outsourced to locations in Asia.
Graham Fell, vice-president US and EMEA for FlexDev explained why Next, the UK’s largest fashion retailer, chose Poland as the location for developing its mission-critical IT centre. Mr Fell praised Polish IT workers, saying they ranked among the very best in the world.
The first panel discussion saw British managers describe their experience of working with the tech sector in Poland. The panellists were Andrew Ingle-Finch from Red Compass Labs; Chris Jones from PSE Consulting Ltd; Bob Poole from TenderHut UK; Andrew Radcliffe from Spyrosoft UK; Kieron Scrutton from GSK Tech and Matthew Weaver from Objectivity Ltd. Among the issues raised included Polish tech’s growing reputation in the UK, with Poland is seen as a location culturally and geographically similar to the UK, communication is easy. Sales into the UK is done more effectively with a British sales team on the ground. Wage arbitrage. however, is shrinking as tech salaries rapidly catch up with those in the UK, but are still some two to three times lower even though the earnings of Poland’s very best tech talents are approaching UK and US levels.
While participants had the chance to mingle over coffee, viewers watching online could watch a live interview with Graham Fell chatting with PB Link’s Bart Kowalczyk about the morning’s discussions.
Connecting tech businesses globally through the UK was the theme of the next two presentations, from Dr Peter Dirken, programme manager - Global Missions at Innovate UK, and Dr Chris Moore, technology specialist, Technology, Entrepreneurship & Mobility, Global Trade & Investment, at the Department for International Trade. Both spelt out the benefits to Polish firms for plugging into the UK’s tech ecosystem and using it as a springboard for global expansion. Dr Moore also made it clear that Polish firms were more than welcome to bid for public-sector projects put out to tender in the UK.
The second panel discussion saw representatives of Poland’s tech growth champions describe their experience of working with/in the UK. Andrzej Wytyczak-Partyka from Codewave and Robert Strzelecki from TenderHut were live in London, while Wiktor Rybicki from ShopRank and Wojciech Wencel from Summ-IT joined them online from Poland. The discussion ranged from the differences in finding finance for growth between Poland and the UK, and the advantages that Polish firms can gain from relocating their HQ to Britain. The UK and Poland working together in tech can produce significant win-win effects.
Andrzej Krężel gave the closing remarks, summing up the salient insights that emerged from the day’s event, which ended with lunch and business networking .