Cisco Systems Boosting Local Know-How

Everyone in Krakow knows the big names that have invested in this city. People quite happily reel off names like IBM, Motorola, and more recently Google, yet not a lot of talk about Cisco, another huge multinational currently present in Poland. In fact, the firm has been in Poland since 2000.

Cisco has just stepped up its activity at a grass-roots level, which may be a result of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy. Some very interesting initiatives have come out of a three-way agreement on co-operation, signed between Cisco, the Malopolska Province, and three leading academic institutions in the city, the Jagiellonian University, the AGH University of Science and Technology, and the Politechnika Krakowska (PK), with its high-brow English translation, the Cracow University of Technology.

The agreement is to get IT (information technologies) start-ups off the ground with a view of making Krakow something like a Polish Silicon Valley. Cisco is to provide their extensive business experience, the universities are to train the IT wizards, and the Province, well, I’ll get to that later.

Ramon Tancinco, a Cisco executive based in Krakow, explains that the agreement is two-fold: to find out where the city and province want to be headed, and then apply global experience on a local scale. All very honourable, but talking to Doctor Piotr Dudek from the PK, a lot of work as far as funding is concerned still needs to be done. Money is always tight in universities, yet Dr. Dudek hopes that Cisco will help improve the quality of teaching as a result of the agreement.

I had the great pleasure to meet Mr. Tancinco over a coffee, and we spoke of local life. Our conversation turned to how, in reality, such an agreement might work in Poland. The answer, filled with facts and figures, was an assuring one, and indeed very optimistic. In general, a small start-up company has a 50 percent chance of surviving. That’s in Poland, as well as in the US, my informant told me. By increasing that number to 60 or even 70 percent, there is a possibility to “move GDP.” That phrase put me in awe of the whole situation. How a single multinational can change an entire country’s economic indices is incredible. We’ve all heard tales of Microsoft having a higher turnover than the Republic of Poland. Well, it might be like that, but on a slightly more humane scale. And with a model of co-operation that is “top-down, bottom-up,” there indeed is scope for changing the way that new technologies are managed in Krakow and Malopolska.

On the provincial level, the IT sector is already making headway. What is interesting is that no public money is going into the three-way co-operation. The province is to promote the co-operation in Poland, and in this day of inter-regional competition within the European Union, the province has a real chance of getting off the ground, especially with such big names already in the vicinity. Cisco does, however, have 30 million euros for IT start-ups in Central and Eastern Europe. Let’s hope that some of that will be coming here.

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