Formation of the Polish BENEFIT Contact Point


Tadeusz GRABOWIECKI and Maria SZYRAJEW

Institute of Electronics, Silesian Technical University in Gliwice
Akademicka 16, 44-100 Gliwice, Poland

tel. +48 32 371665 fax. +48 32 372225
e-mail: tgrab@boss.iele.polsl.gliwice.pl
e-mail: mszyr@boss.iele.polsl.gliwice.pl

Keywords: information dissemination, international cooperation, partner search, contact point.

1. INTRODUCTION.

The changes that took place in Central and Eastern Europe in the last eight years have made it possible for Poland to cooperate with EU countries in an incomparably larger scale than before 1989. Possibilities of the Polish enerprises to participate in the EU research and development as well as industrial programmes have been systematically growing, and so has the EU member countries' interest in cooperation also with our country.

The interest of Polish enterprises in seeking partners for cooperation has been observed since 1994. On the regional level, organizations such as Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise Development Agencies and Business Information Centres have emerged aiming at the enterprise matching and organizing of meetings to encourage cooperation.

However, the knowledge about possible international cooperation, in particular about participation in the research and development projects sponsored by the EU, is insufficient.

One of the projects aiming at rising awareness in Poland of the EU research and development programmes and supporting Polish participation in such programmes is the BENEFIT project being a part of the COPERNICUS '94 programme of cooperation with the Central and Eastern European countries in the field of science and technology. The aim of the project is to form a solid base for cooperation in the field of information technology - particularly in microelectronics and signal processing - between industry and research institutions of Central and Eastern Europe, and EU member countries. To accomplish that aim conferences, workshops, information days, and summer-schools have been organized since 1995, and the Information Distribution Network and BENEFIT Contact Points have been established. The formation and further operation of the latter has become particularly important as a promoter of contacts between R&D institutions and SMEs to seek cooperation partners.

2. SEARCH FOR ADDRESSES

Formation of the Polish BCP has been started by the Institute of Electronics of the Silesian Technical University in Gliwice at the end September 1997 by collecting addresses of SME, scientific and research institutions active in the field of information technologies, and particularly in the area of microelectronics and signal processing from all over Poland. It has turned out that preparing of a solid database in the field of information technologies is fairly difficult.To get the proper addresses the following sources have been:

Direct contacts with institutions like the Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Gliwice and the Upper-Silesian Agency for Promotion and Development in Katowice have been established. The talks with the representatives of Business Information Centres were held there. In The Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Gliwice it was possible to get acquainted with the multi-sector listing of the Polish enterprises in the Internet (TELEADRESON). In the Upper-Silesian Agency for Promotion and Development the database of cooperating companies has been searched through.

The basic problem in finding appropriate addresses is that neither information technologies, nor microelectronics nor signal processing category appeared in no of the above-mentioned sources. The most popular is the category of electronics and computer science as the general notion for all kinds of computer usage. That is why in those categories there were enterprises whose activities are generally not considered as the information technologies. The choice of branches in the classification was often limited to trade activity or the categories were too general and contained addresses of companies not very suitable for BENEFIT Contact Point database. It often happened that addresses were repeated in various lines of business.

Taking into account the above-mentioned problems the addresses have been selected according to the following keywords:

The choice of the above keywords was a result of a compromise. On one hand some of the categories were apparently too broad, on the other hand we realize that still a number of enterprises working in the field of information technologies were left out of our search.

As a result a SME database has been established. A separate databases have been established for research and development institutes and universities.

3. QUESTIONNAIRES

In parallel with the search for addresses the questionnaires were developed. Three kinds of them were prepared separately for enterprises, R&D institutes and universities.

The questionnaire for enterprises provided the following questions:

1. Full company name
2. Address, phone and fax number, e-mail, WWW page and contact person,
3. Ownership,
4. Type of activity, the choice was between:
- research and development
- education
- design
- production
- distribution
- technology transfer
- implementation
- consultancy
- others (please specify)
5. Number of employees, the options to choose were : < 50, 50-500 and > 500
6. Company structure - departments; groups; management, marketing, research and
development units
7. History of the company
- establishment date
- first product
- first design
- first implementation
8. Subject sector classification of products and services - SIC or NACE
9. Competitive advantages of the organization
10. Areas of cooperation with other European companies or institutions the enterprise is interested in
11. Whether the company participated in joint European projects
12. Company development - current investments, projects, developments, researches and others
13. Whether the company owns property rights - patents, copyrights, licences
14. Market applications - market areas in which the companies' findings are applied or could be applied.

The questionnaires for universities and R&D institutes consisted of two parts. First part contained general information on an organisation while the second was addresses to the units involved in information technologies and was similar to the questionaire for enterprises. The stress was put on participation of universities and R&D institutes in different EU programmes.

4. MAILING

The database of addresses of SMEs, R&D institutes and universities became the main source for seeking partners for the BENEFIT Contact Point.

Having developed the questionnaires and an information leaflet on EU programmes in the field of Information Technologies, they were systematically posted together with the BENEFIT flyer and the BENEFIT Scientific Coordinator's letter presenting the BENEFIT aims and inviting to participate in the BCP to the selected SMEs, R&D institutes and universities.

So far the questionnaires were sent to 830 institutions; among them there were 45 universities and 15 R&D institutes. The mailing action is still continued. The letters and questionnaires will be posted to some 200 other institutions according to our database of addresses.

5. DIRECT CONTACTS

On the days September 30th to October 3rd International Software Fair (SOFTARG '97) took place in Katowice, the capital of the most industrialized region of Poland. Every year it arouses great interest and attracts various companies and institutions.

This year, 242 companies presented their proposals and achievements in the fields of IT, electronics, and particularly their own developed software in response to the needs of continuously growing market.

All the exhibiting companies were interviewed to obtain information on their structure, developments, innovations, implementations and features distinguishing them in their fields of activity. Special emphasis was put on company activities in the field of information technologies and their interest in international co-operation. As a result representatives of 67 companies were handed in the questionaires and accompanying documents and asked to consider joining the BCP.

The direct contacts with enterprises during the 3rd International Software Fair SOFTARG'97 resulted in some interesting observations. The companies offering their services for Polish customers only were obviously not interested in international cooperation. The same applied to very small ones - with only two or three employees - which considered themselves to be too small and weak for international co-operation. There exist a number of companies which have already established direct contacts with foreign partners and at this stage of development do not plan any further extension of cooperation.

About 28% of exhibiting companies were interested in international co-operation. About 22% of participants were interested in it although so far they have not established any contacts with foreign partners.

6. RESULTS.

So far the questionnaires posted to 830 institutions (including 48 universities and 15 R&D institutes)have been replied by 14 enterprises, 2 R&D institutiones and 7 universities. Eight letters have been returned with notes: „Addressee nonexistent" and „Company in liquidation".

Out of 67 companies who had been handed in the questionnairies at the 3rd International Software Fair (SOFTARG '97), 15 have sent us their filled in questionnaires and 8 refused to do so after consulting us.

Futhermore 87 phone talks were held with companies which addresses were obtained from the Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Gliwice and the Upper-Silesian Agency for Promotion and Development and by individual contacts. The talks resulted in 7 negative responses, 6 companies filled in questionnaires, replies from the remaining companies are expected.

7. CURRENT AND FUTURE ACTIVITIES

The mailing action is still continued. The letters and questionnaires will be sent to some 200 more institutions acording to our address database. It is planned to use personal contacts to find more institutions which addresses are not in the database yet.

The information in the received questionaires is processed and made uniform so that it could be presented on the BENEFIT WWW page. Each company, university and R&D institute involved in information will have its separate entry on BENEFIT WWW. The same database will be also created at the Silesian Technical University (STU) server.

8. CONCLUSIONS

Since the work is in progress, it is not possible to formulate final conclusions.

Our activities resulted in obtaining 44 filled in questionnaires what makes 4.5% of all already made contacts (830 mailed questionnaires, 67 questionnaires left at Software Fair SOFTARG'97 and 87 additional contact by phone, fax and e-mail). It ts not an impressive result but it is not surprising considering that formation of the Polish BENEFIT Contact Point has been started only two months ago.

So far, after analyzing 44 questionnaires it seems obvious that best prepared for cooperation and the most interested in it are universities and R&D institutes and companies from Warsaw region as well as those which had already been involved in some UE projects and those looking for cooperation partners.

From direct contacts with companies taking part in 3rd International Software Fair SOFTARG'97 it was concluded that majority of small and medium enterprises are not interested in international co-operation nor in participation in UE projects. It happens very often that enterprises consider themselves to be too small or too weak to take part in such projects or they are so narrow specialized that they are able to find customers for their services for long time ahead and thus do not feel a need for cooperation.

There were also some companies whose lack of interest in BENEFIT Contact Point resulted from having established their own contacts with foreign partners. Some of them whose specific and original developments are very popular on Polish market are obviously not willing to share their knowledge and achievements with others.


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