Wroclaw—Driven by Knowledge

Ewa Kaucz

Wroclaw Agglomeration Development Agency (ARAW)

Ewa Kaucz is the CEO of the Wroclaw Agglomeration Development Agency (ARAW) since 2017. She initiated and supported personally over 200 companies that invested in Lower Silesia region creating more than 100 thousand new workplaces (e.g. Google, IBM, 3M, Credit Suisse, LG, Nokia, BASF, UBS or 3M). She is responsible for the strategic management of key areas of the company’s activities, with special focus on foreign direct investment projects, and support dedicated to startup ecosystems and business development. She is a graduate of Philological Faculty of the University of Wroclaw. Her studies were enriched by post-graduate studies and courses from the fields of law, finance, and public relations. She holds an MBA in Executive Studies.

Wroclaw is home to companies such as 3M, Amazon, Credit Suisse, BASF, Google, Volvo, Whirlpool and IBM. More than 250 multinational corporations have created over 100,000 new jobs and the unemployment rate has fallen from over 13% to 1.7%. All this in less than two decades. Today, Wroclaw is one of the most attractive business destinations in Central and Eastern Europe. How did the city go from a little-known centre to an economic tiger, rewarded for its strategy of attracting investors?

Wroclaw’s economic success is largely connected with the influx of foreign investors. In 2004, Poland entered the European Union and multinational corporations started to express interest in conducting business activities in the country. The Mayor of Wroclaw, Rafał Dutkiewicz, took a chance and the city adopted a consistent strategy of increasing investment attractiveness and was the first in Poland to establish a specialised unit in 2005—the Wroclaw Agglomeration Development Agency (ARAW), whose main objective was to attract international corporations, as well as cooperation with Polish and foreign entrepreneurs who were already active in the region. ARAW offers one-stop-shop assistance and post-investment care support for investors as well as providing companies with a wide range of consultancy services, which are free of charge. Thanks to this, the investment process is facilitated and soft landing for new companies in the region is guaranteed.

Number One in the European Union

As a result, the Wroclaw agglomeration became the most dynamically operating economic centre in Poland, and companies such as UBS, BNY Mellon, HPE, BSH, Toyota, Nokia or LG have located their headquarters here. It is estimated that since 2006, over 250 international corporations have invested in Wroclaw, creating over 100 thousand new jobs. Considering that one new job generates between three and six jobs in the business surroundings (with subcontractors, suppliers, and service providers), Wroclaw has become the number one in the entire European Union (according to Eurostat data, the employment rate in Lower Silesia over the last decade grew the fastest among all 276 EU regions, and in the Wroclaw agglomeration, the number of employed people increased by about 300 thousand).

Wroclaw as the “Silicon Valley” of Central and Eastern Europe

Today, Wroclaw is in a completely different place than it was at the beginning of the 2000s. We are not talking just about macroeconomic indicators, although these are also impressive—I mentioned the unemployment rate in the introduction, GDP per capita has increased by 80% and the average wage is now 2.5 times higher than it was in 2000.[1]

Most importantly, however, the perception of Wroclaw has changed, not only in Poland but also in the international arena. The city went from a little-known centre to an economic tiger, rewarded for its strategy of attracting investors[2] and a friendly investment climate.[3] Today, Wroclaw is competing for investment projects with well-known centres such as Barcelona, Zurich, and Manchester. The profile of companies operating in the city has changed—in 2006—2006 traditional production companies dominated, for whom the key factor of conducting business activity was cost effectiveness.

Currently, there are more and more companies in Wroclaw introducing solutions in the area of industry 4.0, with nearly 50 thousand people employed in 170 companies working in the modern business services sector.[4] The city is sometimes referred to as the “Silicon Valley” of Central and Eastern Europe and boasts the largest number of IT and R&D centres in the country.

Wroclaw is Betting on Startups

What is important, thanks to the influx of foreign investments and the resulting maturity of the labour market, a startup ecosystem has also started to develop—today, Wroclaw is the second largest startup hub in Poland (after Warsaw)[5] and 33rd in Europe, achieving a growth rate higher than that of Munich, Paris or Milan.[6] The city has become the seat of technology companies such as XTPL, Saule, and Data Walk, which successfully operate in the international arena.

An attractive Place to Live

The diversity of the labour market and career development opportunities has made the city an attractive place to live for young people. Among the 115 thousand students of Wroclaw universities, more than 60% are from outside Wroclaw, and among those employed in the modern business services sector, this indicator is even higher and amounts to over 75%. In a situation in which we are dealing with the problem of an ageing population in Poland and more and more urban centres suffer from depopulation, Wroclaw can boast one of the highest positive migration balances in the country. It is also becoming increasingly international—more than 120 thousand foreigners, mainly Ukrainians, are part of the local labour market. And although official statistics show that Wroclaw has 640 thousand residents, it is estimated that there are about one million people living in the city every day. 

The Best City in Poland for Relocation

The attractiveness of Wroclaw as a place to locate business and a place to live translates directly into a tax base. Between 2000 and 2017, the city’s per capita expenditure increased from 590 euros to 1500 euros, while the annual municipal budget currently exceeds 1 billion euros. This, in turn, enables local authorities to implement investments that gradually improve the quality of life, which means that Wroclaw is considered the best city in Poland for relocation. The influx of new residents makes the labour market deep and employers are able to grow on the basis of existing resources. Demographic and business developments drive the growth of the commercial real estate market—and so in 2018, modern office spaces exceeded 1 million square metres (in 2006, less than 100 thousand square metres of office space was available in the city), and another 300 thousand square metres of office space is under construction, while the residential market is one of the fastest growing in the country.

Conclusion: A Knowledge-based Economy

Maintaining the pace of economic development is extremely important for the future functioning of Wroclaw. This will be possible when the innovative potential is strengthened, and measures aimed at building a knowledge-based economy are supported. That is why the city is consistently building an innovative space, focusing on culture (the level of funds allocated to culture is one of the highest in Poland, and the city held the title of European Capital of Culture in 2016), openness (Wroclaw was the first city in the country to implement a strategy of intercultural dialogue, believing that the exchange of ideas is creative only when it is open to intercultural dialogue) and modern entrepreneurship (investments in new sectors of the economy, supporting the development of startups and the establishment of R&D centres). Thanks to these activities, the city will not only maintain its leading position in Poland but will also become a leading economic centre in Central and Eastern Europe.

doi: 10.18278/aia.4.2.8


[1] National Statistical Office, Local Data Bank. <https://bdl.stat.gov.pl/BDL/dane/podgrup/tablica> (Accessed 19 September 2019).

[2] Europe’s Leading Lights. fDi European Cities and Regions of the Future 2016/2017 Rankings. fDi Magazine. <https://www.fdiintelligence.com/Rankings/European-Cities-and-Regions-of-the-Future-2016-17> (Accessed 19 September 2019).

[3] The most business-friendly City in Poland 2019. Forbes. <https://www.forbes.pl/gospodarka/ranking-miasta-przyjazne-dla-biznesu-x-kongres-regionow-2019/0n7jskp> (Accessed 19 September 2019).

[4] Business Service Sector in Poland 2019. ABSL report. < https://absl.pl/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/raport_absl_2019_EN_190602_epub.pdf> (Accessed 19 September 2019).

[5] Polish Startups 2018. Startup Poland foundation report 2018. <http://www.citibank.pl/poland/kronenberg/polish/files/raport_startup_poland_2018.pdf> (Accessed 19 September 2019).

[6] StartupCity Hubs in Europe 2018, Mind the Bridge Report. <https://mindthebridge.com/startupcity-hubs-in-europe/> (Accessed 19 September 2019).