Given the poor performance of UK firms in benefiting from EU-funded projects in the 2007-2013 EU budget perspective, winning only 13p worth of project work for every pound the UK taxpayer paid into Poland via the EU budget, the BPCC along with PAIiIZ, UKTI, PwC, HSBC and law firm Wierzbowski Eversheds, decided to explain to British business how to be more successful in winning project work in the current perspective.
The major event held at the Polish Embassy in London on 13 November was a chance for British businesses to learn about the size and scope of the project opportunities across Central and Eastern Europe, with particular reference to the largest market, Poland. Nearly twice as many participants registered for the event as was originally planned; they came to learn how EU cohesion funds for CEE countries are to be divided – by country, by region, by sector and by project type, how to find out about and bid for projects, how to find Polish partners for a project consortium and how to find co-financing for projects
After a welcome and introduction by Jerzy Bartosik, counsellor-minister in the Trade and Investment Promotion Section of the Polish Embassy in London, Julia Patorska, manager, PwC in Poland, outlined in detail the EU's 2014-2020 €351.8 billion financial perspective, and how it would impact the economies of the CEE region. She explained how money from the European Regional Development Fund, the Cohesion Fund and European Social Fund would be spent, with a focus on innovation, low-carbon, ICT, competitiveness, public administration, employee mobility, social inclusion and better education. Poland alone would be receiving €82 billion in the years to 2020 to spend in these areas, she said.
Paul Taylor, head of the UKTI for Central and Eastern Europe explained the EU's financial budget perspective in the context of the entire CEE region – 110 million consumers – and pointed out the opportunities for UK business in the region. He focused on how UK companies can bid for and win work for EU-funded projects.
Tomasz Zalewski, partner, Wierzbowski Eversheds, and Chris Pickens, partner, Eversheds covered the thorny issue of public procurement. Their presentation was based on a unique case, the selection of a UK contractor to rebuild and fit out the new Polish consulate in London – according to Polish public procurement law. The two lawyers demonstrated how public procurement differed in practice between the UK and Poland – despite being rooted in the same EU Directive. The key point to winning public tenders in Poland, they concluded, was to get your mindset adjusted to the formalistic, letter-of-the-law approach used there.
John Rendall, CEO of HSBC Polska, gave an overview of the banking sector in the CEE region, highlighting the robust state of banks in Poland in particular. Mr Rendall also explained how to access bank finance when looking for project match-funding alongside EU grants.
The business mixer offered participants the opportunity for informal discussions with speakers and with one another – and as is often the case at the Polish Embassy, renowned for its generous hospitality and fine buffet – the networking continued until late in the evening.