Mariusz Sagan, The City of Lublin: We aspire to the top three

Article published in the Kurier Lubelski on 26 May 2015 –  – Lublin 2.0 – IT Report

Piotr Nowak – interview with Mariusz Sagan, Head of the Strategy and Investor Relations Department in the City of Lublin Corporation

There are three priority lines of business covered in the Lublin Development Strategy: grocery industry, IT, BPO. Road infrastructure is being continually developed, new companies move into the economic subzone in Felin district, the number of new warehouses is increasing, and the IT and ICT industries are growing.

It’s true. Lublin is developing rapidly and the employees of the City of Lublin Corporation cooperate closely with businessmen representing each of the priority lines of business. Each company registered in our department is assigned a project manager who is an expert in a specific field and has broad knowledge about a particular industry. The managers demonstrate great competences and foster harmonious and strong relationships in order to support and advise investors.

Our efforts resulted in Panattoni recently moving to the economic subzone. It also proves that local government representatives pursue the long-term development strategy. One of the objectives defined in the Lublin Development Strategy is to stimulate the growth of the logistics industry, which, in order to expand, needs strong developers.  Today, there are four of them. Apart from Panattonii, which builds industrial premises, there are a number of other companies investing in our city, e.g. Raben, MLP that built production facility for ABM, or Goodman that is now completing construction works in a large logistics centre for Stock at Metalurgiczna Street.

Why and when did the city representatives focus on the IT industry?

We noticed its potential already in 2011. This year, Asseco Business Solutions, E-Leader, and a number of other companies and partnerships of smaller size have started to operate in Lublin.  Although we could see the potential, business circles were quite dispersed. Companies did not cooperate with each other; collaboration with universities was also not entirely successful. Besides, there were no incubators available in the city. Startups? Nobody thought about them. There were, however, a considerable number of companies with enormous IT potential. We started our works by creating an ecosystem which I named “Lublin IT Upland”. It was launched in 2012.  It was also the time when an idea was born to base this project on a concept of a ‘triple helix’, i.e. cooperation of public authorities, business representatives, and members of academic circles with the aim to make each of these entities more competitive.

In order to create an ecosystem, it is not enough to make a list of companies from a specific industry. How was Lublin IT Upland created?

Representatives of Lublin Marshall Office came to our aid by supporting incubators.  Nowadays, there are fourteen of them in our city. Another step was the development of Lublin Science and Technology Park. Furthermore, our employees started to integrate the members of this circle by organising various events taking place on regular basis. Every year, there are around one hundred IT events organised, starting from the small ones attended by just a few people, to the famous and great ones hosting over 600 individuals.

We have also started to collaborate actively with higher education institutions located in our city and support them in establishing relations with IT companies as well as launching more IT courses adapted to current market needs. For over a year, we have been organising business breakfast events for representatives of IT companies who meet on a regular basis with representatives of not only competitive companies but also the local government.  We support and cooperate with each other.

What was the greatest challenge?

It was most difficult to arouse interest of IT companies in Lublin, so that it would be possible for our students to pursue their career goals in Lublin.  Our hard work resulted in a greater number of companies opening their branches here. In the last three years, almost thirty new companies opened their offices in our city, not only the Polish and international ones that opened their branch facilities in Lublin but also global corporations that opened their first headquarters in our city, for instance Trimetis.

Actions undertaken as part of LWIT project were of marketing nature and aimed at presenting Lublin to potential investors and creating a group of experts which nowadays consists of one hundred members. It was also important to encourage young people to start their professional career in Lublin and live here permanently.

Apart from actions undertaken as part of Lublin IT Upland, representatives of the City of Lublin Corporation organise also contests for new companies.

That’s right. In cooperation with Lublin Science and Technology Park and business environment institutions located in Lublin, our employees organise contests for young start-uppers. Recently, we administrated and coordinated “Startup Lublin.” The number of participants amounted to 169, twenty-two of which were selected for participation in training courses in opening and running a company as well as introducing their product to the market. The main prize was covering capital costs of PLN 200,000 by Lublin Science and Technology Park.

Start-up movement is starting to develop rapidly in spite of Lublin being a bit behind Cracow, Wrocław, Warsaw, Tricity, and Poznań. The works we have recently carried out in collaboration with Lublin Science and Technology Park as well as with representatives of the entire industry resulted in over fifty new start-ups being opened in Lublin. We are estimating that by 2020 this number will have increased to 500.

These new projects will attract software developers. Even at the moment, there is information that the market is lacking in specialists in this field.

That’s right, but new employees need to be hired to work at new projects. It must be additionally emphasised that the number of software developers will be increasing because more and more young people decide to study computer-related courses offered by higher education institutions in Lublin. Additionally, the number of IT courses is also rising. According to our estimates, this trend will not be a threatening factor to the IT industry in our city.

Nowadays, Lublin is perceived as a key IT hub in Eastern Poland. In this region we leave other companies standing. Of course, we foster this awareness by carrying out various marketing activities. Last month we launched a TV campaign in Subcarpathian Region as well as in Podlasie and Lublin Provinces, which aims at encouraging young people to study and work in Lublin. We aim at strengthening our position and, due to this, we will need to ‘import’ professionals from Eastern Poland.

Can you estimate how many IT professionals work in Lublin?

There are over five thousand individuals employed in small, medium, and large enterprises. In the years 2009-2012, the number of IT companies increased by 50% and it was the most considerable growth in Poland.  At the moment we are observing the second wave.

Will this position mean that new workplaces will be created?

I guess that we will be able to create the next few, or even several thousand IT jobs in Lublin.

As we show job opportunities available in Lublin to secondary school and lower secondary school learners, there is a greater number of well-prepared candidates ready to study at our universities.  It is of great importance for future development of the industry.

We would like further two thousand IT-related workplaces to be created by 2018 in Lublin. And it’s doable.  I believe that 300-400 IT graduates can find a good job here immediately.  That is why we started the campaign in Eastern Poland which aims at making young people aware that we want to offer them good IT jobs.

Lublin is one of the largest ecosystems in Poland.  I think that at the moment we are the sixth largest IT centre in Poland. Our objective is to be one of the first three ecosystems by 2025.

Interview by Piotr Nowak