Perfect place for hi-tech investors

Many industry and technology parks have sprung up in Poland in recent years. They offer modern office, conference and exhibition buildings and other services to small and medium-sized businesses operating in various hi-tech sectors. Some of these facilities-like the Euro-Centrum Science and Technology Park in Katowice-specialize in supporting the development of specific sectors, while others rent out space to all interested businesses regardless of the sector.

Combining scientific research with business, the Euro-Centrum Science and Technology Park is one of three projects carried out by the Euro-Centrum Group with the aim of developing energy-efficient technologies and energy conservation in buildings.

The other two projects are the Euro-Centrum Industrial Park and the Euro-Centrum Cluster of Energy-Efficient Technologies. The two parks and the cluster are intended for organizations that want to develop and launch innovative products and systems associated with the use of renewable energy and its effective management in buildings.

The parks and the cluster are located on the site of a former chemical apparatus factory in Ligota district, Katowice. The facilities have been partially funded by the European Union, which is “generous when it comes to funding projects designed to redevelop degraded post-industrial sites, especially those located in city centers,” says Roman Trzaskalik, chairman of the Euro-Centrum Science and Technology Park.

According to Trzaskalik, building the park from scratch on a greenfield site outside the City would have been much cheaper than converting the old degraded factory site to the new use.

“When the decision was made to build an industrial park on the site we were determined not to limit ourselves to building and then renting out office space. We decided to build a full-fledged science and technology park and a cluster for energy-efficient construction technologies,” Trzaskalik said.

Testing ground
Experts highlight the importance of energy efficiency in today’s world. However, Poland is still a novice in this field, they say. All the buildings in the Euro-Centrum complex were constructed with the use of energy-efficient technologies.

Euro-Centrum, together with its partners-who include the Silesian University of Technology, the University of Silesia, the AGH University of Science and Technology, and the School of Information Technologies in Katowice-plans to perform tests on the park’s buildings and modify their energy management systems.

The researchers involved in the project hope their findings will show how energy-efficient buildings should be constructed on a mass scale in the future. The project, the first of its kind in Poland, is mainly focused on the quality of electricity. It is expected to help determine the causes of disturbances in the quality of electricity and help improve power generation and transmission systems. The research will involve regular measurements in all electricity systems in the Euro-Centrum complex. Additionally, the researchers will be testing devices in a bid to minimize disturbances and check the durability of electrical devices depending on the quality of electricity supplied.

Data from the Euro-Centrum buildings will be sent online to the AGH University of Science and Technology where they will be analyzed by researchers in laboratories.

Most of the Euro-Centrum Science and Technology Park’s 10 buildings are intended for rent to small and medium-sized businesses operating in the energy-efficient technology and IT sectors. Around 80 businesses will ultimately be based in the park. Approx. 60 have already moved in since the park opened in January last year. This past January Euro-Centrum launched its second Industrial Park complex in Chełm Śląski. The aim is to enhance the competitiveness of businesses by providing them with modern and professional office space and technical facilities.

Linking science with business
The main goal of the Euro-Centrum Science and Technology Park is to link science and business. Most of the largest universities and research centers in the region and beyond are Euro-Centrum’s research partners. They include the Silesian University of Technology in Gliwice, the Częstochowa University of Technology, the AGH University of Science and Technology in Cracow, the Institute of Electron Technology in Warsaw, the Institute for Chemical Processing of Coal in Zabrze, the School of Information Technologies in Katowice, the University of Economics in Katowice, and the Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice.

The newest partner is the University of Silesia, which signed a cooperation agreement with Euro-Centrum on Feb. 9, 2009.

Prof. Wiesław Banyś, rector of the University of Silesia, says technology parks provide an excellent opportunity for applying scientific research findings. According to Banyś, Euro-Centrum will help “commercially exploit the university’s research potential.” Joint projects planned under the agreement include building a laboratory for research on renewable energy, particularly solar and geothermal energy, and developing systems for controlling and managing what intelligent buildings.

Euro-Centrum began working with the University of Silesia a few months before the agreement was officially signed. A weather station with instruments and equipment for taking basic meteorological measurements, such as those involving total radiation, insolation, air temperature and humidity, wind speed and wind direction, was built within the Euro-Centrum compound under a deal with the university’s Department of Climatology. The measurements will help define meteorological conditions on the site where the researchers want to install devices collecting and converting solar energy.

The weather station will eventually become part of a laboratory operating within the Science and Technology Park. The data collected will be made available to manufacturers and fitters of solar devices in the Cluster of Energy-Efficient Technologies.

The Euro-Centrum group has more than a dozen business partners, including companies such as BMK Solar, Blumenbecker Polska, Hoval, Proximus Sp. z o.o., Proekoterm, Projekt Grupa, Viessmann, Vattenfall, Sygnity, and Rehau.

The Science and Technology Park coordinates the work of the Cluster of Energy-Efficient Technologies. The cluster brings together businesses, research and development centers and foundations operating in the sector and associated with the use of renewable energy and its conservation in buildings. The cluster aims to carry out joint projects, integrate the sector in the region, promote its further development, and represent it on foreign markets. The cluster organizes seminars, conferences, joint trade missions and visits to trade fairs at home and abroad.

Four types of services
The Euro-Centrum Science and Technology Park offers four types of services: infrastructure, training, specialist advice, and financial assistance. Facilities are being built here that will make it possible to perform tests on devices using renewable energy resources and promoting energy efficiency and conservation. These facilities include measurement, implementation and certification laboratories with equipment for measurement and technical approval, specialist software and computer hardware as well as exhibition space, conference and training rooms, and administration and technical facilities.

Specialist advice is targeted at businesses, research and development center and foundations operating in the energy-efficient technology sector. These services focus on issues such as new technologies for energy-saving businesses, technology audits, starting up innovative businesses, protection of intellectual property and assistance in drawing up projects and applications for funding from the European Union and other sources.

Training courses organized by Euro-Centrum focus on issues such as the transfer of modern technology to the marketplace, technology transfer management, innovative enterprise, intellectual property law, project management, and business negotiations.

Euro-Centrum offers financial support to those who plan to bring their inventions and research findings in the area of renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies to the marketplace. Funding may be provided both at the research stage and at the stage of starting up an innovative business with the aim of using the research findings in a practical way.

The park also conducts educational activities for children and young people. In the first half of this year, Euro-Centrum staged the Energy-Efficient Home exhibition to teach young people how to use household appliances and save energy. In the future more exhibitions are planned to showcase new technologies.

Looking up to Silicon Valley
In January, Euro-Centrum signed a cooperation agreement with the U.S.-Polish Trade Council (USPTC) based in Silicon Valley, California. Piotr Moncarz, a Stanford University professor and president of the USPTC, paid a visit to Euro-Centrum on this occasion.

Says Trzaskalik, “Prof. Moncarz’s career at a reputable American university is an example of a success story involving a Polish professor who is also vice-chairman of a company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. This market success means that his theoretical knowledge has been translated into practice, something that in America is the best recommendation for a scientist and his university. In Poland, the relationship between research and business is still underestimated. Changing this state of affairs is one of our goals.”

The agreement with the USPTC is expected to facilitate contacts and an exchange of information and experience between scientists and businesses in Upper Silesia and Silicon Valley. Polish and American businesspeople and scientists will be offered training courses, conferences and specialist services to help them use innovative technology. This especially applies to energy-efficient technologies. The USPTC has its Polish headquarters in Warsaw. It opened a new office at the Euro-Centrum Science and Technology Park in Katowice in the last days of October.

27 Parks and Counting
Roman Trzaskalik, chief executive officer of the Euro-Centrum Science and Technology Park in Katowice and chairman of the National Forum of Industrial and Technology Parks association:

The National Forum of Industrial and Technology Parks aims to be a platform for cooperation between industrial and technology parks across Poland. There are now 27 industrial and technology parks in the country. The association brings together 21 parks, but I think all of them will eventually become members. The 21 parks cover a total of 2,300 hectares and provide employment to 13,000 people, premises for 600 businesses, and 2.5 million square meters of office and production space.

The most important thing is that the park teams, which are already well established, have experience in looking for funds and attracting innovative businesses. This is a huge potential, which can be exploited to carry out various kinds of pilot programs. The forum aims to create opportunities for sharing experience and ideas, inspiring one another, and holding conferences and workshops. We also have a program of study visits to similar parks abroad-in Malaga and Helsinki-because we believe that one should never stop learning new things.

Four parks, including the two Euro-Centrum parks, are privately owned. The remaining ones have been set up as an initiative by the state and local governments as well as local enterprise development agencies.

Only a few parks have decided to specialize in a specific field. These include the park in Ruda Śląska with an architectural cluster, the park in Jaworzno, which focuses on welding technologies, and the park in Piekary Śląskie, which is now under development and wants to specialize in recycling.

Specializing is more difficult for an industrial or technology park than merely renting out space to interested businesses. By limiting itself to businesses operating in a specific sector, a specialized park often has to resist the temptation to make a fast buck and turn down businesses that would like to enter the park, but do not fit into its profile. If a park wants to specialize in specific technologies it has to focus exclusively on them. However, in the long run this approach is definitely beneficial for the park, also in financial terms.

Energy-Efficient Buildings
The Euro-Centrum Science and Technology Park in Katowice is where one of Poland’s first energy-efficient office buildings opened its doors in April. The building combines a range of energy-efficient technologies in an innovative way. It was built in a pilot project to provide experimental opportunities to scientists, architects and specialists in various fields. It is designed to facilitate research into upgrading energy-efficient technologies and be a starting point for another project involving the construction of Poland’s first zero-energy office building.

A zero-energy building (ZEB) is a general term applied to a building with zero net energy consumption and zero carbon emissions annually. Zero-energy buildings are autonomous from the energy grid supply; energy is produced on site. This design principle is gaining considerable interest as renewable energy is a means of cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Although zero energy buildings remain uncommon in developed countries, they are gaining importance and popularity. The zero-energy approach is promoted as a potential solution to a range of issues, including reducing carbon emissions and reducing dependence on fossil fuels.

source: The Warsaw Voice

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