Introducing a short history and experience of the Upper Silesian Agency for Entrepreneurship and Development Ltd. there should be said that the Agency has been established in 1998 as Local Development Agency Ltd. (ARL) in Gliwice and started its operation in 1999. Its main purpose and mission was to encourage economy development of the communes that founded the Agency, to promote entrepreneurship approaches in their society and to support SMEs development.
The name of the Local Development Agency was changed into the Upper Silesian Agency for Entrepreneurship and Development Ltd. on 31th December 2013 along with the merger of GAPP S.A. Moreover, along with the merger of GAPP S.A. Upper Silesian Agency for Entrepreneurship and Development Ltd. added to its history and experience activities carried and gained by GAPP S.A. in the previous years. Since the beginning of its operation the Agency has managed the first Entrepreneurship Incubator that was started in Gliwice.Since 2008 it has enlarged its activities by managing and currently becoming an owner of the industrial zone of “Nowe Gliwice” (New Gliwice) Business and Education Centre within which the second Entrepreneurship Incubator was founded.
Since the Polish accession to the European Union the most important goals for our Agency are to support societal development and increasing the regions competitiveness, and we achieve it by the following:
Upper Silesian Agency for Entrepreneurship and Development Ltd. is also an intermediary organization experienced in emerging industries consulting, cross-cluster cooperation and networking. Agency is cooperating with logistic, tourist, medical, rail, transport, ICT and other clusters in Silesia Region. Among other activities, the Agency focuses on clusters’ development and their promotion in the region, technology transfer, and providing innovative services.
From 2005 to March 2008, GAPR Ltd. implemented the project "Creation of sectoral networks and support structures in the Silesian province." As a result of a series of individual meetings with network animator and thematic seminars with experts, the project decided to sign the agreement on the establishment of the Network of the Silesian Medical Devices called MedSilesia. The agreement was signed on April 6, 2007 by the companies and R & D organizations and institutions related to the sector of medical devices in Silesia Voivodeship (17 signatories). Silesian Medical Devices Network – MedSilesia Cluster, was created for the implementation of joint projects by companies with Polish capital from the medical industry (sector equipment and medical devices) in the region, which goes beyond their individual capabilities.
The formalization of the structure and cluster creation was to enable members of the network's future common goals to achieve improvement of the quality of their services and products, or joint marketing and promotion. So to build cooperative relationships and strengthen the sector strong relationships within the cluster were established, resulting in strengthening the competitive position of cluster to the outside. The first joint activities were joint ventures in the field of marketing, promotion and representation of the sector to the services’ recipients. Since its establishment MedSilesia Cluster has been one of the most active clusters in Silesia which now plans to focus on internationalization and optimization of its activity.
In 2012 recognizing the significance of the sector of transport, shipping and logistics within the territory of Silesia Metropolis for the development of the economy of the Province of Silesia, the founders of the Cluster, together with GAPR Ltd. acting as the Cluster coordinator, decided to act jointly for the benefit of creating a strategic intermodal logistics hub in the European logistic space – Silesia Logistic Cluster. The mission of the Cluster is to promote the potential of the Cluster among domestic and foreign investors, to support the integration of the Cluster participants in the scope of creating and implementing investment and business projects, as well as to aim at constant development of competence and implementation of the most advanced techniques in the sector.
The vision of the Cluster is to establish, on the foundation of the potential of the sector of transport, shipping and logistics within the territory of Silesia Metropolis, a logistics hub as a system of entities forming an integrated intermodal system, recognized throughout the whole European Union. For several years, Agency has been involved in creating favourable conditions for the emergence of new and development of existing enterprises, including those from creative industries. The company encourages the increased competitiveness of local enterprises, promoting innovation and supporting the transfer of know-how and technology. Day-to-day cooperation and the strategy of the “Made in Śląsk” cluster (creative cluster) fits naturally with the profile of our Agency.
Our cooperation with the cluster enables us to be aware of and responsive to the needs and expectations of local entrepreneurs from creative industries. Crucially, we are aware of practical benefits of this collaboration on a daily basis, not to mention the fact that it contributes in general to increased business awareness in institutions which are under GAPR’s supervision. Since 2011 the Agency has been a Work Package Leader in CluStrat – Boosting innovation through new cluster concepts in support of emerging issues and cross-sectoral themes – Strategic project within Central Europe Programme, responsible for mapping procceses of emerging industries and cross-cutting issues in clusters among Central Europe. CluStrat aims at maintaining and improving the competitiveness of clusters.Partners of the project have joined forces to develop and test new policy approaches to upgrade the innovation capacity of clusters. As a result, a joint strategy for CENTRAL EUROPE will be adopted on: promoting the anticipation and exploitation of changing market demands as a consequence of societal challenges such as climate or demographic change through clusters (Emerging Industries), and fostering the inclusion of cross-cutting issues such as internationalization, technology transfer and gender in innovation in clusters (Cross-Cutting Issues).
In order to feed the strategy development process, CluStrat partners have initiated a systematic Policy Dialogue at regional, national and transnational level. The Policy Dialogue is an ongoing process of exchange, discussion and learning which involves cluster policy makers at all levels in the development of new policy approaches and strategy elements. Policy Dialogues, especially on regional and national levels, organized by GAPR occurred to fulfill the needs of Polish clusters and become such successful that the Agency decided to continue organization of similar meetings and workshops also after the end of project duration.
The second project implemented by GAPR which met with high level of interest in clusters’ environment is V4Clusters - Boosting V4 Cooperation through Strategic Cluster Identification, Networking and Informatisation (project duration: 10/2013 – 12/2015) co-financed by International Visegrad Fund which aim is to open the potential hidden in clusters and their cooperation across strong and emerging sectors of the V4 by their identification and informatisation in the digital depository and portal interfaced with the V4 integrated information platform. The project consists of three main activities, such as:
As a result of the project and to ensure full support for clusters and cluster policies within Visegrad countries GAPR and Project Partners in cooperation with V4 Coordinators on behalf of Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Visegrad Countries decided to establish V4Clusters Board which acts as a non-institutionalised expert platform of private and public actors engaged in fostering the Visegrad competitiveness via boosting the strategic cluster cooperation, creating adequate framework conditions for cluster development and capitalising the results of the V4 clusters internationalisation.
The V4Clusters Board has the advisory, implementary and supervisory roles. The execution of its function is materialised through the adoption and implementation of annual action plans, annual meetings, protocols of the proceedings and the reports on activities of the V4Clusters Board members. The reports of the V4Clusters Board activities and issues are further communicated to the policy-makers via the represented V4 Coordinators on behalf of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the Visegrad Group.
The V4Clusters Board aims to be the main tool of the governing bodies towards the issues of sustainability and further development of clusters, enhancement of their cooperation capacity and generation of relevant synergies. V4Clusters Board with GAPR as its member starts its operation from November 4th, 2014. II.
During its operation, Agency has also completed and is still pursuing a number of EU projects, many focused on entrepreneurship, competitiveness, innovation and clusters, such as for example:
• In the years 2005 – 2011 in the frames of Business Support Organizations consortium the Agency has completed two regional projects titled “Regional Network for Promotion and Technology Transfer” which aimed to create a set of mechanisms enabling more effective communication and cooperation between enterprises and the R&D institutions.
• In the years 2009-2013 there were realized three projects providing advisory services of pro-innovative character for enterprises around the country: Audit of Marketing Needs, Marketing Audit of a Young Company and the Strategic Audit of an Enterprise have been elaborated, standardized and applied.
• Since 2012 the Agency has been implementing a project concerning the formulation of regional policy to support the development of the concept of corporate social responsibility in the SME sector. The project is being implemented by 14 partner institutions across the European Union. It aims to raise awareness of the companies on CSR and promotion of good practices identified by the Partners.
• Since 2012 GAPR has been implementing COGITA (Corporate Social and Environmental Responsibility through Public Policy) is an interregional project, bringing together 13 regions covering the whole of Europe and a budget of over €2.5M, which promotes social and environmental responsibility within SMEs across Europe within INTERREG IVC Programme.
• Since 2009 till 2012 the Agency had implemented following projects within Central Europe Programme:
• Since 2012 GAPR has been implementing e-Create – Cultural Routes, Entrepreneurship and Technologies Enhancement project within INTERREG IVC Programme, which aim is to identify shortcomings in public policies which promote tourism along cultural and historical routes and to bundle resources to increase the competitiveness of enterprises in rural areas.