It is no coincidence that the ABSL Summit has returned to Krakow: the business services sector has been experiencing rapid growth for several years, and Krakow is a prime example – the industry’s contribution to the city’s GDP now stands at twenty percent. Business leaders, world-renowned experts, academics, and government and media representatives discussed ways to maintain this positive trend and make business more resilient and improve its ability to adapt and anticipate change.
The ABSL Summit is one of the key economic events in Central and Eastern Europe, organised by the Association of Business Service Leaders (ABSL). During the conference, meetings and panel discussions, global trends and their impact on economic and social development are analysed. This year the summit was hosted by Krakow, and the event was held at the ICE Congress Centre (7-8 September). The theme of the event was “Lead the Way, Stay Ahead,” which refers to the ability to forge new paths and anticipate what is to come, so as to operate effectively in the midst of rapid geopolitical, demographic, economic and social changes.
“Eight years on, we meet for the second time in Krakow. We feel at home here. I would like to thank the city for its contribution and the active support it has provided. A lot has happened in recent years, and today we want to think about how to go further and how to stay one step ahead. The subject areas we are addressing centre around development, resilience to our surroundings, and the ability to adapt to change and even anticipate it. For this reason, we invited a number of excellent speakers, including Anders Fogh Rasmussen, former Secretary General of NATO, Anne Applebaum, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, historian and commentator, Mark Brzezinski, US ambassador to Poland, and Beata Javorcik, chief economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in London,” said ABSL President Janusz Dziurzynski at the press conference.
Further development of the modern services sector in Poland was also an important topic of the summit. Krakow is among the leading Polish cities friendly to this industry in particular: almost one in four people working in the Polish BSS sector is employed in centres located in Krakow. New companies are constantly starting up here, and those already operating are employing more staff and expanding their service range.
Jerzy Muzyk, deputy mayor of Krakow for sustainable development, referred to the values and skills that the BSS industry relies on today. “While it is true that the industry is evolving and it needs to be resilient to crises and anticipate all sorts of developments, we can probably all agree that the same must also be true of the city,” he said. “Krakow is the undisputed leader in terms of the number of companies and centres located here. This has now reached over 270, more than forty of which employ over 500 people. The SCC sector’s share in the economic activity in Krakow today is about twenty percent, double the share that the tourism industry contributes to GDP. In addition, Krakow generates more than forty percent of the total GDP of the Małopolskie Voivodeship. It is very important for the Kracow local government authority that economic life in the city be diversified, and we are trying to support this process,” Jerzy Muzyk noted.
In recent years, we have experienced tendencies that have significantly affected the functioning of both the city and business, as well as all spheres of life. The pandemic, the war in Ukraine, high inflation, profound political and social changes, and new legislation. But every crisis also triggers change, and in this case the response has been quicker digitalisation, new work models, and new ways of managing or organising social life.
Polish cities, and business as well, have proven their resilience and ability to transform. Poland’s office space market is one of the fastest-growing and innovative in Central and Eastern Europe and remains in good shape, with nine locations important to the modern services sector (Warsaw, Krakow, Wroclaw, Lodz, Poznan, the Tricity and Katowice) continuing to attract the attention of developers, investors and tenants alike. The Polish BSS sector is an integral and important part of the global KIBS (Knowledge Intensive Business Services) industry.
Studies conducted by ABSL prove that the Polish BSS industry has withstood numerous crises: it is growing both quantitatively (staff levels, number of centres, exports, turnover) and qualitatively (increase in the share of knowledge-intensive processes increasing modernisation and upgrading of skills, development of automation and innovation potential). A gradual increase in the advanced services provided by the centres is evident. The rate of new hires in the BSS sector has far exceeded the rate in the Polish economy.
Of course, the BSS sector is constantly facing challenges that naturally arise due to changes in the economy, legislative developments, or changes in demographics. Among the most important are unfavourable demographic changes (importance of availability on the labour market of the elderly and foreigners), competition in the industry (Poland no longer attracts cheap labour, unlike Romania, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria or the Philippines, but it is still attractive, and needs to compete not with quantity, but with quality), cyber security (cyber-attacks are more frequent, better coordinated and much more technologically advanced than before), quality of the education system (wider access to the talent pool is needed), a need to increase investment potential (e.g. generative and adaptive artificial intelligence, virtualisation), and implementation of sustainable ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) technologies.
Despite the numerous challenges facing the BSS sector, Krakow continues to be a key centre , thanks to the important attributes valued by companies, such as the potential of Krakow’s higher education institutions and scientific and research facilities, which guarantee the availability of qualified personnel along with scientific and research infrastructure (23 universities, 130,000 students, 35,000. graduates); attractive location (Krakow is perfectly connected to the whole world, Krakow Airport ranks first among regional airports in Poland, with connections to more than ninety airports in 28 countries); availability and quality of office space and its location on the city map (city centres are attractive, but Krakow has evenly distributed office buildings; at the end of Q1 2023, Krakow’s office space stock exceeded 1.7 million sq. m., making it the second-largest office space market in the country), the quality of the local environment, the city's sustainability policy, and a high quality of life for its residents (including a rich range of cultural, educational and sports and recreational activities, a high sense of security, and access to services); the comprehensive support the city offers to ventures and investment projects at all stages – realised by the city's Investors and Innovative Economy Support Centre.