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bright ideas

With strong industrial and international connections and a pool of intellectual talent, Łódź is giving Poland's other academic strongholds a run for their money. Sebastian Shehadi reports.

Łódź is one of Poland’s major academic centres, with almost one in seven of its population a student. The city boasts 19 institutions of higher education – including an internationally renowned film school – as well as 30 R&D centres. It is not hard to find talent in the city, which also has a growing tech and start-up sector. 

Like many of Łódź’s institutions, the University of Technology is internationally oriented, with a strong student exchange programme. The vast majority of young people in Łódź speak English and/or German as a second language.

Due to its strong research focus, the university’s tech transfer centre has produced many spin-off companies – such as Advanced Graphene Products, which makes highly refined carbon materials and is valued at €1m. Other innovations are market-ready but awaiting funding, such as Gust, which produces urban wind turbines. This student project has won the Netherlands' International Small Wind Turbine Contest for three years in a row. Meanwhile, Łódź Solar Team, the biggest student project team in Poland, has prototyped an electric car powered by solar panels. The vehicle is carbon dioxide-free and has a range of 450 kilometres at night. 

“Our university has huge co-operation with industry and business; they train us in their company labs. We have a special business council with Procter & Gamble, Bosch, Airbus Helicopter and others,” says Łukasz Kaczmarek, associate professor at Łódź University of Technology.

Industry links

Łódź’s Medical University is the largest of its type in Poland. The institution is part of a world-class network combining academia and business, and includes EIT Health’s 150 European partners, which is composed of leading universities and global companies such as Thermo Fisher and AstraZeneca.

The university has gained international recognition for its pioneering research on ageing. Łódź expects one-third of the city's population to be over 65 by 2035. The Medical University has responded to this local and global challenge, as have companies who see a local healthcare market for elderly people.

“Łódź has a tradition of collaboration with business – more than 70% of our students train with companies. Our courses are adapted for the businesses in the region,” says Lucyna Wozniak, vice-rector for research and international relations at the Medical University of Łódź. Switzerland’s Roche is one company that recently began researching with the university.

“Companies are looking for educational potential to conduct research here in Łódź. Our university’s transfer of innovation centre is extremely busy. We’re becoming a very interesting market for innovative pharma. What’s important for new investment is the raised awareness about Łódź’s potential,” says Ms Wozniak.

Growing tech scene

Tech research is booming in the city. For example, US electronics company Harman International has expanded from 100 to 400 engineers in Łódź over the past two-and-a-half years.

“The R&D being done at Harman’s centre in Łódź is amazingly innovative thanks to the talent. [We’re very happy with the city’s] proximity and connectivity to Warsaw and major European cities, and Łódź offers the right work-life balance,” says Sanjay Dhawan, president of connected services at Harman, which is a subsidiary of Samsung.

There is also a growing tech and start-up scene in Łódź, which has blossomed in no small part thanks to significant financing for these sectors from the EU and the Polish government. The mix of different universities also provides excellent crossovers for innovation.

These sector opportunities were not in Łódź 20 years ago, according to Rafal Janczyk, CEO and co-founder of Enigma Patterns, an SME focused on big data and machine learning.

“Łódź is a great place to start a company. We have more students than Kraków – the same size as [Łódź] – but fewer companies here and no monolith tech company recruiting everyone. So there’s a lot of talent here. Plus, we spend half as much on rent as we would in Warsaw – and I can [go everywhere] on foot,” says Mr Janczyk.

He notes that Łódź has a good start-up community, albeit less developed than those in Kraków, Warsaw or Poznań.

This article is sourced from fDi Magazine
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