With the economic development community stuck at home, fDi is reaching out to professionals on the FDI frontline as they grapple with the biggest global challenge in recent history.
The Czech Republic was one of the first European countries to close its borders, but has slowly begun relaxing measures ahead of plans to lift certain travel restrictions from May 11.
The lockdown has been difficult, admits CzechInvest CEO Patrik Reichl, but he is thankful that digitalisation has allowed his organisation to continue providing services.
Q: How have you been coping during the crisis?
The assignment from the Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade changes from day to day and we have had to work on a lot of new tasks. On top of that, I have had to look after and homeschool my children, at the same time as manage all the tasks from ministers.
Q: How have your daily activities changed?
CzechInvest has been cooperating closely with the government on new projects and programmes. Part of our efforts to support Czech companies has been to encourage cooperation on new technologies to tackle the crisis.
We have launched a website that has helped bring companies, startups and universities together to offer new products, such as respirators, to the market. Another project – Hack the Crisis Czech Republic – seeks to help startups and SMEs develop ideas to tackle current challenges.
Q: What positives have arisen from the crisis?
The acceleration of digitisation, both in the economy and in the many activities we normally carry out face to face. The crisis has also provided time and space for people to reconsider their priorities.
Q: What is your advice to other investment promotion agencies facing similar challenges?
This crisis is not a threat, but an opportunity to launch new projects and rethink our priorities.
We all need to cooperate more, not only in the field of economic development, but also in global planning and give more consideration on the impact investments can have on our environment and general quality of life.
The pandemic has highlighted that on one level there are no borders and we need to work together developing our common home – planet Earth.
Q: What is your outlook for CzechInvest's activities in the short-to-medium term?
In the near to medium term our activities will remain the same: helping established foreign companies in the Czech Republic, assisting Czech SMEs and supporting R&D activities and startups. We’re also assisting regional authorities improve their local business environments.
During the crisis, our services for incoming FDI projects have been temporarily shifted online because new companies are not visiting the country because of the border restrictions. How quickly new FDI projects return to the Czech Republic will depend on how quickly travel restrictions around the world are lifted.
Q: What are the key considerations for IPAs going forward?
In the post-Covid 19 period, services will need to be more digital, and companies will be more aware of local infrastructure and health standards. The economic fallout from the pandemic is going to be significant and impact FDI flows around the world. IPAs will need to adapt their strategies to meet the new challenges many companies will face.
Patrik Reichl is the CEO of CzechInvest.
You can find the full archive of the fDi’s Virus Diaries series at the following link. If you work in economic development or investment promotion and want to share your experience in dealing with the coronavirus, get in touch at fDi@ft.com.