The idea of the meeting was to bring together UK manufacturers with an interest in Poland, to discuss the opportunities that could arise from cooperation between the two countries.
Michael Dembinski, the BPCC’s chief advisor, gave an overview of Polish-UK relations, pointing out the growing trade inbalance in Poland’s favour, and how British manufacturers have not made the most of the potential that Poland’s EU accession offered them. However, he gave examples of UK manufacturers that were doing good business in Poland, and from their example, more should follow, he said.
The ‘how-to’ guide to entering the Polish market was provided by law firm Roedl & Partner, which has a Birmingham office. Jan Eberhardt spoke about the key differences in doing business in the UK and Poland. After a presentation covering the EU funds available for R&D activities in Poland from Leszek Banaszak from the Polish Embassy’s Trade & Investment section, Anna Smagowicz-Tokarz from Roedl & Partner explained how Special Economic Zones function in Poland, and what incentives are available for manufacturers.
A coffee break ensured effective networking, which was followed by the practititioners’ part of the event. A panel featuring Jim Ferguson, director, global operations, Johnson Matthey Battery Systems; Roman Dziuba, vice-president operations Europe, GKN Driveline; Piotr Hunik, construction programme manager, Rolls-Royce; Con Murphy – director of advanced manufacturing at PM Group and Bartłomiej Łepkowski, partner at Knight Frank talked about their businesses in Poland. Skills, cultural differences in the workplace, R&D, cooperation with universities and supply-chain models were discussed.
There were questions from the audience about the two ‘elephants in the room’ – the possibility of Brexit and the current direction of Poland’s government. The panelists concurred that politics is politics, but business is business, and given Poland’s strong economic performance, the logic for further investment and trade will remain come what may.
Bill Treddenick, operations director of Lorien UK (part of GP Strategies) gave a case study of his company’s work in Poland, focused around the food-processing industry. Lorien UK, with its roots in brewing, has helped install production lines in many of the largest investments in food processing in Poland.
There was more time for networking as the senior executives from manufacturing industry had the opportunity to compare notes, share experiences and swap business cards.
Feedback from the meeting was positive, with a determination to return to Britain’s manufacturing heartlands for further meetings on the subject of Polish opportunities.